As Bath’s chief foodie experts, we consider it a solemn duty to keep up with all of the city’s most fabulous and unmissable restaurant highlights – it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. And with a recent Michelin star topping off a very long list of prestigious awards, The Olive Tree at The Queensberry Hotel is most certainly one of those highlights. So in preparation for another fabulous Taste of Bath giveaway (we’re giving you the chance to WIN a five course tasting menu experience for two at The Olive Tree – click here for more details), Taste of Bath founder Helen Rich visited recently, to sample their exquisite menu and make the rest of the TOB team extremely jealous…
The first order of business was to check in to one of The Queensberry’s stunning rooms, a delicate balance between modern luxury and Georgian elegance, with a sinfully comfy bed and a bathtub big enough to wallow in. Bags dropped, it was time to descend to the Old Q Bar, for a local tipple – Six o’Clock Gin – and a selection of tasty olives and nuts to whet the appetite. The Old Q Bar (named in honour of the Marquess of Queensberry, who built the hotel – originally a townhouse, of course – in 1771) sums up everything that’s fun, fresh and original about The Queensberry Hotel, which aims to combine outstanding service with a fabulously cheeky personality. Recently redesigned by local interiors experts Jane Clayton & Co, expect quirky detailing, luxurious and colourful fabrics and wallpapers, local artwork and a snug, cosy atmosphere. Plus, of course, there’s the New Queensberry Rules (a nod to the original Marquess’s Queensberry Rules for the sport of boxing) – our favourite of which is ‘Anyone attempting to secure bar staff’s attention by clicking their fingers will be scowled at, perhaps even ignored.’ Quite right.
They might not take any nonsense, but service is absolutely paramount at this establishment, and was one of the details that most stood out for Helen on her visit. The seven-course tasting menu and wine flight brings together the expertise of chef Chris Cleghorn, a man with a wealth of experience and a commitment to the best seasonal British sourcing, and the dedication to detail of owner Laurence Beere, an expert in tipples of all types. Throughout, the meal is presented by staff members able to answer any question and passionate about sharing the stories behind the menu – which really heightens the experience.
Things got off to a great start with a beautiful appetiser, starring local goat’s cheese foam in a delicate choux bun, with chives and Madeira gel – a soft, decadent, melting mouthful. The first dish on the menu proper, meanwhile, is a raw Orkney Scallop with pink grapefruit, served with horseradish cream and dill oil which really made the dish, counteracting the grapefruit’s sharpness and bringing a gorgeous depth to the whole thing. A light, velvety white wine made the perfect partner.
Next was Burford Brown Egg, scrambled with white Wiltshire truffle and 36-month aged Parmesan – Helen was a bit hesitant about this one, but one mouthful and it became one of her favourite dishes of the night, with complex flavours and a gorgeous indulgent richness, beautifully paired with a full-bodied white wine from Uruguay. For balance, a very light and delicate dish followed – poached brill, with roe pearls which popped on the tongue to provide the perfect seasoning. Mr Taste of Bath, who was Helen’s dining companion (lucky blighter) says this was his favourite course of the evening.
The next course came with a choice of grouse or fallow deer, so naturally they had to try both, each served with bitter chocolate, celeriac and pickled elderberries – ‘autumn on a plate’, in Helen’s words. The deer was served pink and beautifully tender, but it was the grouse that won the day, cooked to absolute perfection, with the chocolate playing a starring role in bringing the whole dish – and the rich Italian red served alongside – together.
A shift now, to the dessert courses of the meal, with punchy Sleight Farm goat’s cheese, juicy golden sultanas, and a honied sunflower seed snap, all washed down with a beautiful dessert wine – Helen described it as ‘cheese and biscuits on steroids’ and a dish that, although simple, held its own against the other highlights of the meal.
The first of two sweet courses combined a dark chocolate mousse, yoghurt sorbet and olive oil – a surprisingly addition, but one that cut just so through the richness of the chocolate. A big full-bodied red paired with this dish for the ultimate indulgent dessert experience. And the final course was the ideal palate cleanser – a fresh, light coconut ice cream with pineapple, tarragon and lime.
The cherry on top of the evening was a few gorgeous malt whiskeys to finish – they might take their food seriously at The Olive Tree, but they lavish just as much time and care on the drinks menu, with every single bottle carefully chosen. It’s a point of pride with owner Laurence not to use a bulk hospitality provider, but rather to work directly with different suppliers to find truly unusual and intriguing wines and spirits. It’s this attention to detail which epitomises The Olive Tree and The Queensberry Hotel too – a commitment to doing everything properly, from providing gold-standard service, to sourcing only the very best ingredients, to presenting each dish as an exquisite work of art. Whether you fancy treating yourselves to a fabulous meal over the festive season, or need somewhere utterly luxurious for visiting relatives to stay, we highly recommend both the restaurant and the hotel itself.
Have we got your tastebuds tingling yet? If you’re keen to try The Olive Tree for yourself – and frankly, it’s utterly unmissable for all serious foodies – then don’t forget we’re offering you the chance to win a five-course tasting menu experience for two. Visit our competition page for all the details!