Five days enjoying the city and countryside
by artslover on October 13, 2010
This restaurant is about 4.5 miles or a 15 minute taxi ride south of Bath. It is set in a former farmhouse but has been a pub, according to the owner, since the 15th century.We started at the bar because the place as you walk in is more a pub than a restaurant or at least that seems to be the approach of the owner who suggested we start at the bar before dinner. We met the locals at the bar. They were very friendly and one gave us a drink of his homemade sloe gin, gin which had been flavoured with sloe plums, some sugar and almonds.The restaurant features local and homemade produce. The breads were very good. I had a venison pie which was garnished with cobnuts, which were like small hazelnuts, and bobby beans, which were green beans. My dinner companion had sirloin steak with chips and English leaves, i.e. lettuce. Our meals were excellent. The owner and one waiter were flying around the place serving both at the dining room in the back and the bar in the front. Despite being thin on servers, our service was excellent and very welcoming.There are rooms at this place also but I'd think you'd have to have a car to stay here since the last mile to the place is down a steep narrow, hedge lined road with no room for pedestrians and no lighting. The drive home was a bit of an adventure every time we encountered another vehicle. Somehow the taxi driver squeezed past oncoming cars but I sure wouldn't have wanted to try it.
We felt in the mood for curry so asked at our hotel for recommendations for an Indian or Thai restaurant. The hotel staff gave us suggestions but also suggested a Nepalese restaurant, a cuisine we had never tried. We were glad we tried it. While reminiscent of Indian food, the Nepalese cuisine is not spicy hot, just spicy flavourful.The restaurant is set in the basement of 3 listed 18th century town houses with a variety of dining areas, a separate bar and 2 courtyard gardens each with its own character. There is even a traditional Nepalese style dining room with low level tables and floor cushions. The rooms are full of curiosities which we couldn’t identify.We had our waiter make suggestions for a couple of curries, with rice and a side vegetable dish. It was a wonderfully flavourful and inexpensive meal.
We've never done a group tour before but to see Stonehenge and the villages around Bath, it seemed like the best option as I did not find any private tour operators in Bath. This one, Mad Max tours, is smaller; it had a 16 person maximum. We started out at 8:45 with 14 other people, most of whom were North American except for a young couple who sounded German and a young couple from France. About an hour drive got us to Stonehenge where there were a fair number of tourists although our driver Dave told us this was hardly any compared to crowds found later in the day. Since it wasn't summer solstice, we were kept fairly far away from the stones.In contrast we went to Avebury where there is a huge, almost mile long stone circle which we could walk up to and touch and where there were very few tourists. The stones aren't as big as Stonehenge but there are many, many more set within a circle circumscribed by a deep ditch and a high wall of dirt, clay and flint which you can walk along the top. The village road runs through the middle of the circle. Like Stonehenge, no one knows why it was built. This sight is a bit of an undiscovered treasure.We drove past the Silbury Hill another man made structure, higher than the pyramids, built for unknown reasons.As we drove the roads in the area, we saw a number of thatched roofed cottages. In the village of Lacock, we had lunch and looked at the streets with crooked houses and walls. The streets were the location for filming Pride and Prejudice and Lacock Abbey was used in the Harry Potter movies.Our last stop was the village of Castle Combe, once voted the prettiest village in Britain. Unfortunately, Steven Spielberg was filming the children's novel, The War Horse, on the High Street in the very tiny place and his security crew and local police hardly allowed us to see the village at all, and were being heavy handed in trying to keep people from taking photographs. We were allowed to march along the High Street then turned around and walked back while shooting took a break. No going along any of the (few) side streets. One of the women on the tour almost had her camera taken because she was photographing the street.Too bad our interesting tour had a sour ending.
This is one of a number of Jamie Oliver restaurants. It promises rustic Italian and that’s what it delivers. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations for groups under 8 people so we just walked there and got a table without waiting on a Monday evening.The place was quite busy with a lot of young people. The decor is what I imagine Italian farmhouse should be like, bare wood and an open room. The servers are friendly and mostly young.We split an appetizer of squid then had spaghetti vongole and bucatini carbonara with a side rocket and radicchio salad. My dining companion thought his pasta was too substantial for the sauce but we found both dishes tasty, but not outstanding.On the other hand, the panna cotta with blackberries was one of the best either of us have ever had.
The downside to this hotel are the small rooms. We had a deluxe double but there was not a lot of floor space. The rooms vary but ours had a rack with hangers in the corner, no closet and no drawers, a small desk and stool, and a shelf with coffee and tea making supplies as well as jars of sweets (which were an additional charge). The bathroom was also small; ours had only a shower with a rainhead shower which we enjoyed along with the generous supply of shampoo and shower gel and the big fluffy towels on a heated towel rack.On the upside, the room was clean and the bed comfortable and we were able to open the windows and enjoy some fresh air.The hotel does not provide internet connection in the rooms but offers free wi-fi in the breakfast room/bar area. Luckily our room was above the bar so we were able to get wi-fi in the room and also when sitting outside on the patio.The included continental breakfast was good and served in the area by the reception which becomes a bar in the evening. When the weather is pleasant, both breakfast and the bar can be enjoyed on the patio in front of the hotel.The location was excellent -- only blocks from the train station, Bath Abbey, the Roman Baths, Thermae Spa and the Theatre Royal.Best of all was the staff, who were very friendly and helpful.
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