Restaurant Review: Johann Lafer at The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Beau St in Bath
German Michelin starred chef, Johann Lafer, lends his name to the restaurant at The Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel, which serves up technique packed dishes, which showcase top quality ingredients, artfully presented.
Dan Moon is the resident head chef and is described as passionate by the manager, serving up seasonal dishes in the sleek restaurant. Nick and I enjoyed a very good meal here after a bespoke cocktail The Gainsborough Bar – a small bar offering a huge range of drinks including delightful cocktails (some 200) made just for you after a brief chat with a member of the bar staff.
The restaurant reflects the same style as the rest of the hotel with dark wood tables sitting on a dark floor, a wine wall and other partitions breaking up the space. The walls are painted a lovely teal blue and original artwork sits on those walls with mustard, tan, black and leather seats finishing the contemporary restaurant. The place is sophisticated but not at all stuffy – we enjoyed a conversations with our neighbouring diners towards the end of the evening after we had all been truly spoiled for the night.
Nick and I were offered the tasting menu, which was a selection of sweet and savoury, meat and vegetarian, while being inspired by dishes all over. Before our first course arrived we were handed a small wooden box containing a selection of three mini loafs each. Each were warm, soft and gorgeous, consisting of a white with rosemary, cheddar and seeded brown. We were also brought a bottle of Pinot Noir from Sussex (The Bolney Estate, Foxhole Vineyard, 2014), chosen by Matt, to complement our dishes. It was delicious and paired very well with our first course of goat’s cheese panna cotta topped with sun blushed cherry tomatoes and parmesan crumb. Presented in a small jar, the cheese was creamy and full of flavour, complemented well with the sweet tomato and strong crispy crumb. There were peppercorns, which I’m not a fan of and could have done without but the rest was perfect, very well presented and it was a great start to the meal.
Course two was a smoked ballontine of salmon accompanied with a horseradish mousseline, asparagus, pickled clams and yuzu. A lid kept some smoked trapped inside, which was released with a flourish. The chunk of salmon was thick, juicy and gently smoked, while the mousse was refreshing and creamy with a bit of heat to complement the smoky flavour. Some crisps offered a change in texture while the pickled flavours and yuzu lifted the stronger flavours found in the main elements. There were many elements to this dish, all of which were put to good use to make a delicious fish course.
Our third offering was a wild mushroom risotto with a garlic purée and roasted morels. On arrival the food smelled delightful and there was a little poached egg on top of the risotto as well as some parmesan shortbread pieces. I was afraid Nick wouldn’t like this as he’s not usually a fan of risotto or meat free dishes (God forbid you take his meat away) but he liked this with its rich, earthy, salty, garlicky flavours and creamy textures. The wine was well suited here and the serving of food was generous as was every other course so far.
Onto course four of Creedy Carver duck served with a confit leg spring roll, plum purée and sesame. The impact of the multicoloured dish was accentuated by the array of ingredients being served on a black dish. The duck was served pink and there was lots of it; the smooth, velvety textures and plump juicy pieces were paired well with a light and tasty reduction and the sweet purée. The crispy, salty spring roll was packed with flavour and was possibly my favourite part and the sesame seeds, on top of the tower of duck and vegetables, added a warming flavour.
The savoury dishes had nearly finished us off but we still had one more course to go – a dark chocolate ganache with banana ice cream, salted caramel popcorn and vanilla. The ganache was smooth and velvety and, thankfully, not too overpowering. The sweet, crunchy popcorn added an opposing texture but is not my favourite ingredient as I find it chewy and bitty. Chocolate is my favourite dessert and, paired with the light banana flavour and sweet, crispy elements, was a lovely dish. After a selection of chocolate and marshmallow petit fours and a chat with our neighbouring table, we headed to The Canvas Room for a drink to end a glorious evening.
In a nutshell
Johann Lafer at The Gainsborough is no doubt en route to picking up some culinary awards. The relaxing, stylish restaurant serves up a great selection of foods cooked with care and presented with precision. I had a great evening here and would return in a heartbeat to this hotel.
Address: Beau St, Bath BA1 1QY / 01225 358888