PUBLISHED: 16:15 28 May 2013 | UPDATED: 16:15 28 May 2013
It is said by detective novelists that the best place to hide a clue is in full view; hence the pool of water beside the victim’s corpse (turns out he was stabbed with a dagger made of ice…).
By the same token, I am delighted this month to be able to reveal to readers that right in the very centre of Bath, ‘concealed’ behind the Abbey and a under the very nose of the Roman ruins, is what I regard as unequivocally the city’s finest restaurant.
It is called Allium Brasserie, and if you have passed it a hundred times without noticing (as I had), that is because it is tucked inside the Bath Abbey Hotel, North Parade, run by the Best Western group.
That may not sound particularly promising, but good for them: Allium means business.
My companion and I opted for lunch.
The décor is easy-going (apparently further improvements in the pipeline) and there was a pleasant buzz – more business people than tourists.
The set price lunch (available from noon to 7pm) is £14.95 for two courses, £19 for three; eating à la carte comes out at roughly double the price.
While we mixed and matched from the menu, snacks arrived in the form of Scotch eggs (made with quails’ eggs) and Serrano Ham ‘Croquetas’.
Biting into the latter, I almost fell off my chair. A burst of salty, hammy juiciness exploded in my mouth. Wow!
Lizzie’s first course was cream of white onion soup with Welsh rarebit, confit partridge and pickled onions. Complicated on paper, but on arrival, sublime. The soup was a pure, clean, sweet homage to ‘onioniness’, and the rarebit rich and beguiling.
I opted for a toothsome beef brisket with celeriac remoulade.
It is rare to find yourself in the presence of such fine cooking that you can totally relax, but I found myself sitting back, smiling and ordering a glass of Picpoul (Languedoc’s best kept secret - £6.30 for 175ml) for myself and an Argentinian Malbec (£5.25) for Lizzie.
Our main courses (one chicken dish from the set menu, one from the à la carte) demonstrated the same imagination, finesse and attention to detail as the rest of the meal.
I can only imagine how many hours of painstaking simmering and reduction must go on behind the scenes to make every mouthful so deeply and vibrantly flavourful.
The Chef Patron is Chris Staines, who already won Best Newcomer at last year’s Bath Good Food Awards. I don’t think Allium is going to remain a secret for long.
To celebrate its first anniversary, Allium is delighted to offer readers a free glass of wine with their meal, throughout June 2013.
Simply mention Somerset Life when booking. Allium Brasserie, www.abbeyhotelbath.co.uk, 01225 461603.