Whether it’s a shopping bonanza, spa trip, weekend of fine dining, or all of the above, Bath is certainly up there with the best. Where else can you browse designer goodies a mere minute from glorious warming thermal waters, while a huge selection of eateries are ready and waiting to fill you up with delectable delights? I greedily made a trip to the city to sample the aforementioned delights and, as ever, hugely enjoyed my few days there, returning home relaxed, full of good food and with many a shopping bag to cart back with me.
My base was the 4-star Francis Hotel, a set of Georgian townhouses in Queen Square with Regency style interiors. Located in the centre of town but in a peaceful spot, the 98-bedroom hotel has been welcoming guests since the late 19th century and, despite seeing a portion of the original frontage being destroyed during the ‘Bath Blitz’ in WWII, the elegance of the Georgian time-period was restored and suits the surrounding buildings of Bath beautifully.
I liked the classic interior style, which adorned the reception, lounge, bar and rooms nicely. The reception area offers up walls in rich, deep blues, which are framed with white and a striking monochrome floor, while the lounge (Emily’s Tea Room) serves up a floral elegance – the ideal setting for a vintage-style afternoon tea. Bar service was a little poor in No 10 bar and the bartender was very rude to me, which is unfortunate seeing as every other staff member was a credit to the hotel and restaurant, from the super-friendly waiters and waitresses at Brasserie Blanc to the very helpful reception staff.
My room had been newly refurbished in muted tones against deep green shades and dark wood furniture. It held an, almost, Art Deco feel with gold trimmed shelving and wardrobe fronts and a large feature light above the bed. Mid-green thick curtains framed the window and the back wall held a very pale leaf-patterned wallpaper alongside otherwise light grey walls. The compact bathroom was decorated in greys and monochrome with black and white tiles in a striped pattern and, overall, I thought it was a nicely decorated, comfortable and spacious room with a supremely comfortable bed.
Offering up classic French cuisine, Brasserie Blanc is the restaurant attached to the hotel but equally as welcoming to members of the public with a separate frontage and street access. Breakfast was a buffet of hot and cold items – not bad as they go – with a few items on a kitchen menu to order such as omelette or Eggs Benedict, Royale and Florentine.
I popped along for dinner one evening and really enjoyed the three courses I devoured. I started with a peach Bellini while I perused the menu, which held simple, classic French items such as souffle, ‘Le Grand’ steak frites and duck leg confit. I opted for the BB cheese souffle with Wyke Farm Cheddar sauce to start and it was simple, yet utterly, delightful, and even better washed down with a glass of gorgeous Viognier. Just the souffle and a little sauce on the side to drizzle over, this dish needed nothing else – the crispy outer housed a fluffy, delicate inner and it was mouth-watering.
The slow cooked Barbary duck leg was up next and, served with blackberries, pot-roast carrots, green beans, blackberry liqueur and a red wine sauce, this dish was another winner for me. The gorgeous, meaty texture of the duck was complemented with lovely carrots, fruity blackberry tastes, a little bit of creamy and crisp potato dauphinois and the best crispy duck skin I’ve had.
I’m a certified chocoholic so when I see that a dish is named ‘chocolate indulgence’ I am blind to the other options. Chocolate and orange mousse sat with, you guessed it, chocolate ice cream, chocolate almond crumb, and a chocolate flake to make up this sweet treat. It was dark and rich with differing textures and uplifting orange essences. Yum.
I liked the relaxed brasserie vibe with the upbeat soulful music and chatty staff, though service was hit and miss on the night. The atmosphere and décor were very appealing with dark blue walls in the open plan room, low lighting and I particularly liked our set up for dinner – a brown leather booth with metal table by the bar.
You’ll never be bored in Bath, that’s for sure and, if you have visited, you’ll have, no doubt, spotted the main sights of Pulteney Bridge, the Circle, Royal Crescent, Jane Austen Centre and Roman Baths. But one of the main attractions remains to be the Thermae Bath Spa, and for good reason. With tales of the waters healing visitors for centuries, it is no wonder we all want to experience a little bit of it ourselves and potentially experience a little healing of our own, or even just have a relaxing dip and an hour to ourselves.
I was introduced to the Cross Bath, which I never knew existed – located in a separate smaller building, this open-air bath can be booked out for private groups. It sits on a sacred site within gorgeous stone walls and has its own changing facilities. I was lucky enough to receive an informative tour of the main building’s pools and café before I indulged in the facilities for the recommended hour.
I started with a dip in the rooftop pool and I felt the tensions immediately ease. The views across the rooftops of bath offered a pleasant sight, while bobbing about in the warming waters in the open air certainly had a soothing effect. I’ve had worse Monday mornings! I then made my way down to the Wellness Suite, which held Georgian and Roman steam rooms, experience showers, sauna, ice room and celestial relaxation room, though there was a queue for that one and I didn’t fancy waiting too long. It was quite fun as I could barely see into each room with all the steam, but it was certainly a relaxing experience, especially in both steam rooms and, surprisingly, the ice room. A visit to the café broke up the time nicely and I ended the relaxing morning with a visit to the main pool.
In a nutshell
With plenty of reasons to visit the historic city of Bath, it’s no surprise that the place sees so many visitors. Ancient attractions, warming waters and endless entertainment can all be sought out and Francis Hotel is up there with the finest of places to rest your head at the end of a busy Bath day.
Rooms can be booked from £66 pppn.
Address: Queen Square, Bath, BA1 2HH
Phone: +44 1225 424105