There’s something about a small plate that appeals, especially when there’s quite a number of them, and when they are exquisitely beautiful, discovers Emma Clegg when she visits The Gaff in Milsom Place
There is a new restaurant in the city, in Milsom Place, and it has attitude. It’s called The Gaff – after the Irish slang for ‘home’ – and it’s a Bath-based creation of the original Gaff that Danielle Phillips and Dan Saunders set up in Abergavenny four years ago, which has been recognised by The Michelin Guide, The Hardens Guide, and The Good Food Guide. Before this they had both worked in the Michelin Star Walnut Tree Inn in Abergavenny, Danielle as restaurant manager and Dan as head chef, with acclaimed ‘chef’s chef’ Shaun Hill at the helm.
In the calm, neutral-with-edge interior, the walls adorned with the work of artist Pete Bryden and photographs of Bath taken by the chefs, the Michelin influence is marked. The Gaff’s food philosophy is very particular, however, focusing on small plates of stupendous, glowing beauty, dishes with a modern British spin. Dan tells me that there is no big concept behind the small plates specialism – it’s simply a case of being able to try a little of lots of different dishes and not investing all your sating-your-hunger efforts into one main dish. You will not find any formulaic three-course options here; it’s rather a rolling array of sublime, artfully presented, highly Instagrammable mini-plates that arrive (as all the best impressive arrivals) just when they are ready. The only catch is that the selection from the menu does require a fair bit of thought and collaboration, at least for us those new to The Gaff, but the decision-making process is intense, creative and highly charged, and once done you can sit back and watch the gastronomic theatre.
a rolling array of sublime, artfully presented, highly Instagrammable mini-plates
The menu is ever-changing, according to what’s in season, with the majority of produce sourced from independent outlets, and the fish fresh from Brixham Market. For two it was recommended that we order 7–8 dishes, including dessert/s, depending on how hungry we were. After some debate and only small compromise, we had eight in the bag. At which point arrived (with glasses of refreshing Iford cider) a most impressive oval wooden cutlery holder, charged with the number of knives, forks and spoons that we would need (look carefully and you can see my reflection in the spoon).
I was captivated by the serving, which balanced the immaculate artistry of the plating with the ‘serve-it-as-it’s-ready’ brief. This felt like high art (edible) made accessible (less stuffy, more relaxed). There were rules within the loose, staged serving structure – you wouldn’t want your Lemon Meringue with your Iberico Chorizo, for example – and the menu had divisions for light bites, fish, red meat and vegetables, from which we chose broadly, and which arrived in that order.
First up came some plumply shining Gordal Olives and Cheese and Leek Fritters with brioche buns and marmite butter. Then our Hake, Potato, Tartar and Oyster Sauce dish arrived as the fritters plate became redundant. There followed Lamb Shoulder with Crumpet Pickled Cabbage and Roast Hispi, Salsa Verde and Aioli, a delightfully unexpected combination, the to-die-for Roast Hispi crisped at the edges and the aioli covered with pale lilac Butterfly Sorrel (Oxalis) flowers. Roasted Jersey Royals with Egg and Caper (egg-meltingly delightful combination) and Sirloin, Asparagus, Shallots and Peppercorn Sauce was our final savoury. The latter was perhaps the most beautiful (it’s a competitive choice), with the sirloin’s succulent hues of fire brick and Indian red stealing the show complemented by the asparagus bound in a soft curved striped sleeping bag of sauce dotted with chive blossoms. Finally there was a riot of Chocolate Mousse Caramel and candied wild rice, concluding the edibles with sweet aplomb.
Small plated nuggets of beauty and flavour. The Gaff is a soaring food experience. Don’t miss it!
Our meal for two without alcohol totalled £84. The Gaff runs Supper Clubs on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with three courses for £25. 29 Milsom Place, Broad Street, Bath BA1 1BZ | Tel: 01225 984834 | thegaffrestaurant.co.uk/bath