Stylist’s acting executive editor Gemma Crisp revisits one of the UK’s most popular cities and finds there’s much more than thermal springs and impressive Georgian architecture
Chances are, you’ve already been to Bath. You may have been wearing a school uniform and rolled your eyes unappreciatively as your history teacher went into raptures over the Abbey that dates from 1499 or you may have been wearing hen’s party paraphernalia as you and your friends joined the queue to soak away the previous night’s excesses in the famous thermal spa.
But on a recent weekend, I unearthed a slew of new reasons to revisit Somerset’s UNESCO World Heritage city – and you can wear whatever you damn well please. Behind the incessant crowds of tourists, a new breed of thoroughly modern cafes, wine bars, design emporiums and boutique hotels has emerged, making Bath feel a little like the English cousin of Stockholm’s hip Södermalm neighbourhood (but with much prettier architecture).
Fresh off the train from London, my friend and I did a quick spin of the sights (Royal Crescent – tick) before searching out Hunter & Sons (hunter-sons.co.uk), a café specialising in coffee, craft beer and smattering of food hidden away in Milsom Place. After downing a pint of Wiper & True’s delicious yet powerful Twin Pines Double India Pale Ale from Bristol (8.5% ABV - hic), it made perfect sense to tipsily browse the shops. Handily, the temple of Scandi design that is Hay is just around the corner and Magallaria (magalleria.co.uk), a niche boutique dedicated to independent magazines from around the world, is a three-minute stumble away. If artisan food is your thing, don’t miss The Thoughtful Bread Company (thethoughtfulbreadcompany.com) which focuses on sustainable baking, Colonna & Smalls (colonnaandsmalls.co.uk) for speciality coffee and chocolate and the eminently Instagrammable cheesemongers Paxton & Whitfield (paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk).
We had to forcibly remove ourselves from Found (foundbath.co.uk), a concept store just over Pulteney Bridge that is stacked with design-centric homeware, clever stationery, statement jewellery and unisex clothing from global brands like Karen Walker and Baum und Pferdgarten, but once we checked into No.15 Great Pulteney, a 22-room townhouse on the best street in Bath, we were rather glad we did. Open since December 2016, the hotel is a cornucopia of curiosities including chandeliers dripping with 1,000 ‘lost’ earrings, a cabinet dedicated to kaleidoscopes and glass-topped tables housing vintage brooches, miniature shoes and snuff boxes. It’s not to everyone’s taste – if you’re a pared-back minimalist, you may run screaming – but it’s charmingly unusual. Our room overlooking the impressively grand Great Pulteney Street had a trompe l’oeil bed canopy, artfully distressed walls and a Nespresso machine hiding in a doll’s house. Downstairs in the pastel bar, the quirk continued with the cocktail menu displayed on a pack of cards – as well as the classics, there’s the intriguing ‘Lobster Fashion’ made with lobster bisque, vodka, pomegranate and basil tonic and champagne (£17). We opted for prosecco instead to pair with the more-ish baba ghanoush and cod brandade fritters in the subterranean restaurant, followed by lamb steak with harissa cous cous and pan-fried Cornish bream.
The next day, we inspected the independent boutiques and cafes on Walcot Street, gazing wistfully at the small plates menu in the window of wine bar Corkage (corkagebath.com) and bespoke stationery and paper shop Meticulous Ink, both of which are sadly closed on Sundays. Happily for us, Sam’s Kitchen (samskitchendeli.co.uk/bath/) was open so we stocked up on train picnic fuel before meandering to the station. It wasn’t our first visit to Bath but neither will it be our last – next time, we may even revisit the Abbey...
Rooms at No.15 Great Pulteney start from £110 per night based on two sharing on a B&B basis; no15greatpulteney.co.uk