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The Huntsman


Old-school Bath boozer gets modern gastro pub makeover. But does it cut the mustard? MARK TAYLOR finds out


AFTER YEARS OF ups and downs, The Huntsman has recently benefited from a facelift of


Joan Rivers proportions, courtesy of London brewery owners Fullers. Built by architect John Wood the Elder, this handsome


Georgian building stands proud on what locals affectionately refer to as Bog Island (the Bath tourist guides have other ideas). It’s one of three Bath pubs to be refurbished by Fullers – the others are the Crystal Palace (done) and The Boater (soon) – with The Old Fish Market in Bristol next in line for a nip and tuck.


The most striking new development at The Huntsman, though, is the upstairs Elder Room Restaurant, a light and airy space with shutters on the sash windows, parquet floors, roaring fires, squishy sofas and all sorts of country pursuit props (everything from antler chandeliers to wall- mounted riding boots). It has the refined and rural look of a Cotswold village boozer, mixed with the relaxed, shabby chic of a West London gastro pub. Downstairs, the bar continues with the field sports


theme via more antlers, fox and deer prints, and a mix of leather, button-back seating, rugs strewn across wooden boards and a teal blue tiled bar. And, with four Fullers’ ales on tap, TVs showing the racing and a snug area partially obscured by eye-level frosted glass panels, it still feels pubby – a place to hunker down with a copy of the Racing Post and a foaming pint of London Pride. The pub’s new look coincides with the arrival of


new head chef Blaine Miles, who trained at the City of Bristol College before working for Brasserie Blanc and the Radisson Blu hotel in Bristol. He says his aim at The Huntsman is simply to make it a really good place to eat, and his menus in the bar and the first-floor restaurant are certainly appealing on a number of levels. Mindful that this is still very much a city-centre pub a


dropkick from the Rec, the downstairs menu is sensibly no-frills and well-priced, with sandwiches between £6-£7,


a few sharing platters, and a handful of familiar main courses, including fish and chips, burgers, macaroni cheese and sausages and mash – all under £12.50. Climb the winding staircase, though, past the framed


pictures of John Wood, and The Elder Rooms menu is more ambitious and geared towards diners looking for an experience that is more gastro than pub. Here, you could kick off with game terrine wrapped in Prosciutto served with apricot and port chutney and toasted brioche before tucking into a main course of herb-stuffed noisette and roasted neck of lamb with confit fennel, beetroot, lentils and pomegranate. A starter of ‘London Porter’ smoked salmon (£7.25)


was simple but delicious, the fleshy folds of cured fish having a deep, peaty flavour, the richness countered by slices of beetroot, a ruffle of peppery watercress, a nostril- tingling horseradish cream and a wedge of lemon. It was an intelligent plate of food that relied as much on quality ingredients as technical prowess. The slow-braised blade of beef main (£15.95) – one of


the chef’s signature dishes – was not for the faint-hearted. The enormous piece of tender, fibrous meat had nestled into a pile of leafy spinach, which in turn was stemming the flow of rich Madeira and wild mushroom gravy lapping against the pillow of buttery wholegrain mustard mash. It was certainly a dish aimed more at a corpulent Georgian elder than a dainty Regency lady. From a list of comforting and traditional puddings that


would have certainly found favour with the late Clarissa Dickson Wright, Vintage Ale and molasses sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce (£5.50) was as gloriously dark and rib-sticking as it sounds. As I prised myself out of the chair and waddled out of


The Huntsman, I overheard two fish and chips-chomping American tourists on the next table extolling the virtues of what they considered to be a quintessential English pub. When it comes to a captive audience, the new-look Huntsman appears to have hit the bullseye already.


✱ THE HUNTSMAN, 1 Terrace Walk,


North Parade, Bath BA1 1LY; 01225 482900; www.huntsmanbathpub.co.uk


crumbsmag.com


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Afters


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