The Olive Tree at The Queensberry Hotel, Bath
The finest food in Bath – it's official, the restaurant holds the city's only Michelin star – and a stay at the luxe and quirky Georgian townhouse hotel won't break the bank.
Rubbing shoulders with The Circus and The Royal Crescent, amongst a terrace of golden Bath Stone Georgian townhouses on Russell Street, it’s archetypal Bath World Heritage Site.
Originally commissioned as a house for the 8th Marquess of Queensberry, the hotel now spreads across four townhouses. In keeping with its Georgian heritage, the interiors are elegantly luxurious, tasteful, with rich velvets and muted colours but there are some zingy wallpapers, modern furnishings and plenty of quirky touches – palm leaves pressed between sheets of glass, cartoons, original artworks and their own version of The Queensberry’s Rules. Owners Laurence and Helen Beere came from Claridges, Clivedon and The Savoy, so service is paramount: staff will valet park your car, bring you tea in bed and polish your shoes while you sleep.
The Drawing Room, The Old Q Bar and Lower Bar are on the ground floor and then it just goes up and up and up, with 29 individually decorated bedrooms above.
Pick a drink, any drink. The Old Q Bar’s got the lot, including 12 different Champagnes, endless cocktails and a spirits list as long as your arm, plus an enticing bar menu.
By day the Lower Bar is light-filled and calm. By night, lights are romantically low.
The Olive Tree restaurant is on the lower ground floor: softly lit with subtle colours, tables for two and four, leather banquettes and it’s very relaxed. No starched tablecloths or obsequious waiters here.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Olive Tree is Bath’s only Michelin star restaurant, headed up by Chris Cleghorn who earned his chops (and how to cook them) under Heston Blumenthal, Micheal Caines and Adam Simmonds.
Menus are British with a Mediterranean influence and use top notch West Country produce (natch), with two and three course lunches and five and seven course tasting menus, including vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free versions, though you can select individual courses in you wish, with accompanying wine flights. Hic.
We’d chosen the Fives menu and wine flight but first, a couple of appetisers: profiteroles with something deliciously cheesy inside and little balls of pork belly and quince. Down in one!
Bread, black treacle and rye bread with clotted cream butter at the ready, and onto the first of the five courses: a melt-in-the-mouth smoked eel with golden beetroot, Cox’s apple and lovage in a creamy sauce. Wine: Leon Beyer Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France 2018.
Eel doesn’t appeal? How about these Orkney scallops from the Sevens menu, served with a pink grapefruit granita, horseradish and dill. Each dish is brought to the table by one of the chefs – a young, dynamic and international team – who explain what you’re about to devour and pour over the jus or sauce. Sounds pretentious but was actually rather good.
Second course: a nicely seasoned Longhorn beef tartar topped with a crisp, light potato lattice and little dollops of sour cream and basil. That’s Exmoor caviar in the middle. Wine: Didier Chopin Rose, Champagne, France, NV.
Third course: monkfish with barbequed cauliflower, onion, and a mussel in a creamy sauce – with green coriander oil poured over at the last minute. Wine: Godello Crego e Monaguillo, Monterrei, Spain, 2018.
Fourth: perfectly pink Woolley Park Farm duck with barbequed beetroot, sea beet and kumquat with light-as-whipped-cream duck parfait on the side. Wine: Domaine de la Terra Rouge, Sierra Foothills, California, USA, 2012. The low light and my camera skills don’t do this dish justice.
Fifth: a choice of two desserts and we both chose the fruity one over the chocolate. These raspberries with pistachios, tarragon, buttermilk ice cream and a rich raspberry juice sprinkled with lime zest were sublime. Wine: Botrytis Semillion, Berton Vineyard, Australia, 2017.
Just enough room for deux petit fours – white chocolate and bergamot and a salted caramel – and coffee.
As each course arrived, so did a new, perfectly matched wine. I’ve never had a wine flight before but it was a real treat to have a wine that’s been chosen to complement each dish. All I can say is, they know their onions, or rather reds, whites and roses – they’ve been in the AA’s top 100 wine lists for over 14 years.
The service is excellent, staff are attentive without being obtrusive, knowledgeable and unpretentious despite the fact you’re in a Michelin star restaurant.
Each of the 29 bedrooms has been individually decorated by Eatons of Bath, interior designers who are experts in the Georgian period. They’ve gone bold with statement wallpapers and comfortable but stylish furnishings and it works. We were right at the top – former servants’ quarters most likely – with views over the rooftops of Bath but we couldn’t see any dancing chimney sweeps. Time to lie back on the super comfy bed with smooth, crisp bedlinen and tune into the Bluetooth DAB digital radio or the flat screen TV.
You don’t have to lie on the bed, there are armchairs. The full-length mirror’s a thoughtful addition.
No tea or coffee making gubbins in the rooms – why would you want to make your own when the hotel offers a 24-hour room service? Smoked salmon sandwiches at midnight anyone? Though if you do want to DIY, there are handy drink-making stations – real coffee, chilled fresh milk – hidden away on some of the landings.
The bathroom was magnificent, large and glam with a powerful shower big enough for two and a fancy free-standing bath. The White Company Lime & Bay products and the fluffiest of white towels and bath robes, all add to the luxe feel.
Continental breakfast in your room or a full continental buffet – salamis, hams, all sorts of cheeses, breads – cereals, granola, juices, smoothies and a full cooked breakfast menu, down in the restaurant.
Eschewing the Full English (meat or veggie), the three-egg omelette, French toast, grilled kippers and smoked salmon, here’s my smoked haddock with whole grain mustard sauce, perfectly shaped and poached egg on spinach.
This place feels like it’s for grown ups but it’s very relaxed, they have highchairs, a children’s menu in the Olive Tree and a babysitting listening service for hotel guests – so, perhaps surprisingly, yes.
OUT AND ABOUT
Bath in all its glory awaits in one direction; Bath racecourse and the countryside in the other.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone wanting the finest food in Bath (it’s official) and without any pomp; a cossetted night or weekend away. As it’s not hyper expensive, you don’t have to wait for that really special birthday.
Not for: Not for a quick in and out – you’ll want to linger and savour the experience.
The damage: Very good value, given that you’re in a Michelin star restaurant. Fri to Suns, two and three-course set lunch £27.50 and £34. Set Fives Menu £70 (or select starters £16.50; mains £29; desserts £10.50), with accompanying wine flight £47.50. Sevens menu £87.50 (or select starters £20; mains £32.50; desserts £12.50). They do lots of inviting deals all year-round. The Gourmet Getaway, which includes an overnight stay Tues, Weds, Thurs or Sun in a Superior double room, five-course menu and full English breakfast for two, is £320.
The Queensberry Hotel, 4–7 Russell Street, Bath BA1 2QF. Tel 01225 447928. thequeensberry.co.uk