Boutique comfort at Hotel Indigo Bath with excellent food at The Elder Restaurant. A second winner for the Hotel Indigo/Mike Robinson pairing
We recently heard about the opening of the latest Hotel Indigo in Bath. We’ve loved the way that this quirky line of hotels has evolved and we’ve already visited a few, in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Chester and Manchester. Each has its own character, each respects the city or town where it is placed and each has a particularly strong culinary offering. In the case of Stratford-upon-Avon that happens to be The Woodsman, a restaurant from Mike Robinson who is the co-owner of what was, at one time, my ‘local’ – the only Michelin-starred pub in London – The Harwood Arms. When I learned that The Elder, the restaurant attached to Hotel Indigo Bath, came from the same family, I knew I wanted to visit!
The hotel itself is a series of Georgian townhouses built in the 18th century. With 166 rooms, the Grade I Listed building has plenty of history – it’s already hosted a number of famous figures – Sir Walter Scott, William Wilberforce and the Duke of York. Originally five separate townhouses, more recently the buildings housed two hotels – Pratt’s Hotel and The Halcyon Hotel. Now, Hotel Indigo bears all the quirky hallmarks of the group.
There are five room types, each with a connection to the heritage of Bath. I stayed in a ‘Romance and Mischief’ room which was warm and cosy with lots of velvet, dark wood and a bit of a gambling theme going on. My bathroom came with a pretty clawfoot bath, a waterfall shower and window frosting in the form of a map of Bath. Plenty of fluffy towels, robes and slippers, a Hypnos bed with luxury Egyptian cotton linen and a great supply of toiletries made this a home from home.
I had a chance to see a few of the other rooms and when I get a chance to go back I’ll definitely be channelling my inner Jane Austen and staying in one of the Literary rooms up in the eaves of the hotel. In fact, it would be perfect for an extended break so I could write that novel.
The Georgian Architecture rooms were beautifully restrained and elegant, the kind of place to stay if you want a calm and uncluttered space.
On the ground floor, with wheelchair access through a ramp, the contemporary Garden Rooms are large, stylish and excellent for anyone with mobility problems. They also have their own private courtyard. I learnt that one of the main house hotel rooms is also mobility friendly. If you do have limited mobility, it’s worth letting the hotel know as part of the hotel is not easily accessible by lift.
I didn’t get a chance to see the suites on the lower ground floor in person because they were all occupied but I love the sound of the ‘Underground Vault rooms. Built in the 18th century, they are designed with soft lighting, black timber finish and vaulted bath stone ceilings. Definitely somewhere for a treat!
The rooms are currently all specially adapted to ensure that they comply with the IHG Clean Promise – the soft furnishing have been minimised, there’s sanitiser in every room and the Express check out service means you don’t need to wait for a final invoice to be generated. My own room was spotlessly clean, staff wore masks throughout my stay and there were thoughtful touches throughout the hotel like perspex screens at reception and in certain areas of The Elder.
There’s a stunning lounge area with brilliant jewel-coloured furnishings and under normal circumstances, there’s a gym, which I believe is currently closed to minimise any risks from the pandemic.
Finally, if you want a little more privacy for a group, there’s even a private house, number 5 Pierrepont Street, which has eight en-suite bedrooms, its own lounge and private dining room and a private courtyard. I loved the private dining room which is still fitted out as a traditional kitchen.
Once I’d had a look around the hotel, it was time for dinner. You can reach The Elder from its own street entrance or through the hotel lobby. There’s a massive and well-stocked Victorian-style bar on the way through to a network of distinct dining spaces. The dining rooms are what I’d call elegant country house style, with comfortable velvet or leather seating, wooden tables, quirky ornaments and the odd tribute to the excellent game that is the hallmark of Mike Robinson’s restaurants. In addition to the a la carte dining we enjoyed, there are small plates and cocktails served alongside Somerset ciders in the bar and on the terrace.
First to arrive at our table, while we browsed the menu, was beer bread made using Hook Norton brewery beer. We learnt that this Oxfordshire brewery is the last remaining vertical brewery – a family business that is home to a Victorian tower brewery. I’ve had a quick look at their website and I’m intrigued. Discovering the heritage of British food is, for me, one of the joys of dining in this kind of very special restaurant. With our bread, a tiny beaker of warm, rosemary-infused jus, a bullshot, something you’d more normally find on a game shoot. Delicious!
Before our main starters arrived, we were treated to a taster of what must be the prettiest dish on the menu. The tartare of south coast bream with smoked eel & apple
squid ink crackers, cod roe, dashi & lemon was light, piquant and clever. Squid ink crackers can be stickily heavy but here, just a little trace of ink created a pretty, lacy and light mouthful. Garnished with edible flowers and nasturtium leaves it was a refreshing mouthful that left us craving more.
My companion ordered the Berkshire hare faggot for her starter which came topped with shards of crisp carrot and a mushroom fricassee. She was impressed by the meatiness of the dish, no cheapening with breadcrumbs. And, despite an on-paper dislike of faggots that comes from a bad experience as a child I was secretly envious. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to describe a dish of faggots as ‘good looking’ before.
For me, a light and delicate pastry shell filled with warm flakes of Dorset crab and topped with chimichurri. A fragrant lemon mayonnaise holding the tart in place added just the right level of piquancy and moisture.
My companion’s grilled fillet of red mullet came served on a stunning Somerset cider broth with autumn squash and cavatelli. Topped with the last of the summer courgette flowers and with a fragrant selection of vegetables, it was a great transitional Autumn dish.
For me, Bathurst Estate fallow deer with heritage beetroot, cavolo nero and a garnish of blackberries came with a side helping of dirty mash. The wild fallow deer is from their own Cotswold estate and was served beautifully pink here with a deep sauce
I fell in love with ‘dirty mash’ at The Elder’s sister restaurant in Stratford upon Avon and was delighted to see it on the menu here. And, this time it came in a ‘single person’ portion – so I had every excuse to eat the lot!
For dessert, my companion ordered the wild damson soufflé with shortbread & bay leaf ice cream which she was truly impressed by.
My caramelised pear mille-feuille came with Madagascan vanilla ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce poured at the table. Mille-feuille can so often disappoint with nondescript flakes of pastry. Here, every leaf was crisp, buttery and sugary with the soft layers of pear and cream perfectly complementing the caramel.
With our coffee came two tiny Bath buns – a tribute to the neighbourhood – Sally Lunn’s is literally just around the corner.
Our drinks throughout the evening were paired for us by the restaurant. I started with a glass of Domaine Bernard Moreau Bourgogne Blanc 2018, a lovely Burgundy Chardonnay which was nicely rounded and fruity, with a nutty nose. Then moved on to a delicious Chianti Martoccia Tenuta Brunelli, a clean fruity red that paired very well with the venison.
What a great team in the kitchen and front of house. We both thoroughly enjoyed dinner and my friend who lives locally has already planned to take her husband and her son back. For me it’s a real accolade for a hotel restaurant when local visitors see it as their own.
And then to bed where I slept soundly having spend some time on a whistlestop tour of Bath during the afternoon.
For me, one of the joys of this kind of staycation is that everything IS on your doorstep. With just a few hours to spare I managed to revisit a few old favourites – Bath Abbey, the Roman Baths and the Pump Rooms. With longer, I might have indulged in a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa, a luxurious combination of the historic spa and a contemporary building which re-opened in 2006. Or explored more of the museums.
And I’d certainly have popped into Sally Lunn’s if I hadn’t eaten far too much already!
As it was, I could barely manage my breakfast – and skipped trying anything from the stunning buffet selection
Bath is a great place for a short break or to use as a gateway to explore other parts of the West Country. Where better to stay than Hotel Indigo, where you can indulge in some excellent food, relax and find out why, since before Roman times, this place has been so special
Fact Box – about Hotel Indigo Bath
Hotel Indigo Bath has 166 rooms, with a gym, wheelchair accessible accommodation on the ground floor and private dining facilities. The hotel also has a private house with 8 ensuite bedrooms, a private lounge and dining room.
The Elder Restaurant is open to residents and non-residents for lunch, dinner and for bar snacks and light meals.
Bath is around an hour and a half from London Paddington by train and there’s a regular service which runs throughout the day.
Driving to Bath from London will take around two and a half hours.
Hotel Indigo Bath
Disclosure: I stayed at Hotel Indigo Bath as a guest of the hotel.