Muddy eats: The Circus, Bath
Situated between Bath's iconic Circus and Royal Crescent, the location of this buzzy independent restaurant is pretty perfect. Can the same be said about the food? Read on and find out.
With the iconic Circus a minute (or less) in one direction and the Royal Crescent a couple of minutes in the other, you’re in the very heart of Georgian Bath. The Circus, a ring of 18th century townhouses designed by John Wood the Elder, and The Royal Crescent, a sweeping row of the same overlooking the Royal Victoria Park designed by John Wood the Younger, are amongst the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the UK. It’s a gorgeous area of residential houses dotted with historical attractions, interesting indie businesses and cool places to eat – like The Circus restaurant.
The family-run restaurant, a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike, is something of a Bath institution. Set over two floors of a lovely Georgian building, with high ceilings, wooden parquet flooring and a roomy basement, the decor is unpretentious and the atmos buzzing: this is pure neighbourhood restaurant.
Sit inside, outside or if you’re a big party, you can book the basement.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Circus was taken over in 2021 by the Lisanti brothers, one of whom was the former head chef, who now oversees the modern European menu, continuing the tradition of championing seasonal, local ingredients and delivering beautiful plates of food with love and passion. This translates all the way through from the kitchen to the plate and customer satisfaction – while we were there, a couple who had arrived for lunch checked themselves in again for dinner!
First up, a Kir Royale and a Pogo from the Wild Beer Co in Bristol whilst perusing the menu.
To start, we had the signature Circus mezze – beetroot hummus, muhammara (a walnut and roasted red pepper dip) and tzatziki – each deliciously spiced and served with an unusual chickpea flatbread. A great combo.
The carpaccio of chalk stream trout was a delicate mix of flavours with the guacamole, cucumber, chilli and tangy sea purslane working in harmony with the delicate fish. Beautifully presented too.
For mains, we had a well-seasoned braised rabbit and pancetta pie served with colcannon, mushrooms and wild garlic in a chicken jus – ideal comfort food!
Fish of the day was sea bass, which had been grilled then oven-baked to keep it moist, and served with fennel, pea puree, capers and perfectly cooked homemade chunky chips.
Choose desserts from a cute red pudding menu (nice touch). The mango and passion fruit crème brûlée was an absolute knock-out; a well-judged twist on the classic with the tropical flavours singing through the cream and a cracking thin brittle top.
The stem ginger sorbet with a Yorkshire forced rhubarb compote was the perfect balance of creamy and sharp/sweet.
From the good selection of Old World wines from independent growers, we chose a half bottle of Talmard Macon Chardonnay, a delicious white burgundy. Several wines are available in half bottles – good news if you don’t want to overdo it for lunch or if you and your dining companion fancy different wines.
OUT & ABOUT
St Margaret’s Buildings, a pedestrianised street of interesting indie businesses, is around the corner. Some of the city’s famous attractions – No 1 Royal Crescent (a restored Georgian townhouse), Fashion Museum, The Bath Assembly Rooms and the landscaped Royal Victoria Park – are all within a few minutes’ walk. Just strolling around the Georgian streets is a joy. The rest of Bath is on your doorstep. See our Insider Guide to Bath.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Unpretentious lunches and dinners without compromising on the quality of the food. The relaxed vibe is great for couples, friends and work pit stops. Enjoy a pre-theatre set menu from 5pm, Mon to Fri (the Theatre Royal is 5-10 mins walk). Book the stylish basement for groups of 30.
Not for: Young children or people wanting fast food, this is more of an adult dining experience.
The damage: Reasonable. Starters £7-8; mains £18-22; desserts £7-8, local cheese selection £9.
Photos © Rick Foulsham