Hotels with Outdoor Swimming Pools and a Michelin Starred Restaurant!? – The Bath Priory
All this complaining about the lack of summer and here it is. It turns up when all hope is lost. When emigrating abroad starts to become a real possibility. When you can stand it no more in the grey, freezing, miserable weather. 30 degrees, even 31. They say its going to be a loooong , hot summer now. Well, at least the next few weeks are going to be balmy. What has happened to our good old English weather. It’s become moodier than a teenager!
So, it’s officially the Summer Holidays and for once we are lucky enough for both the ‘summer’ and the ‘holiday’ element to coincide! It’s a good job then that I’m continuing to review hotels with swimming pools. Not that there are many up to my exacting standards in a country whose climate generally gives no call for an outdoor pool for more than a handful of days a year but when there is call, a hotel with an outdoor pool in England is a jewel in a crown!
I travelled south-west last review and so this next one took family Pregnantcitygirl west instead. To the wonderful city of Bath in Somerset, that oh so laid-back county. I have always loved Bath with its beautiful sandstone buildings and classical Georgian architecture, its natural hot springs (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site). For me, it’s a place characterized by a surround of rolling green hills with stylish shops and amazing food all rolled into one. The City is truly ‘small but perfectly formed’ and ideal for a short break.
We have visited Bath many a time in the past, back when we were just the two of us. We had in fact stayed at this very hotel but a very long time ago. My only memory of it being a perfect champagne cream tea in the shade of the 150 year old cedar by their very own meadow in the award-winning gardens – and what stunning gardens they are; the outdoor heated pool nestled in one corner, three acres of lawn including a croquet lawn, a kitchen garden and a vast array of different plants and flowers all lovingly tended by Head Gardener Jane Moore (a Chelsea medal winner), it’s no wonder that the garden itself has won numerous accolades and is RHS-recommended – it truly is gorgeous and a reason in itself to visit the Hotel.
But what of the other reasons? The hotel itself is supremely elegant and luxurious, the building dating back to 1835 gives a country-house feel. The drawing room and library furnished with deep sofas, the walls hanging with historic oil paintings and french belle epoque chandeliers hanging from the ceilings all add to the opulence.
When we arrived I didn’t even see our bags being whisked off to the Camden Suite – our home for the night – situated in the Crescent Suites, newly opened in 2012. Here, in a separate adjoining house there is more space and privacy than the main hotel. Do not fear, everything just as luxurious but our two bedroom suite with its own separate super-luxurious full-sized sitting room overlooking the garden (perfect for the babysitter!) perfect for our little family with the cot a changing mat, an elephant made of towels and a handy box full of toys all there and waiting for our little one in the second bedroom.
There is everything you need at the Bath Priory to keep you from ever moving beyond its exterior walls and this time we relented and relaxed. I had a wonderful massage in the Garden Spa- they have those brilliant beds with super thick cushioning and maximum movement so that you can bend your legs at the knee for optimum comfort! Within the spa is a gorgeous black tiled pool with sauna and steam pod too. In the searing heat however, we took refuge by the outdoor heated pool, perfect for the weather.
The other accolade that cannot be ignored at The Bath Priory and something close to my heart is the Michelin star. In a restaurant under the direction of executive chef Sam Moody eating is a serious business and the service and food are almost faultless. Mr PCG and I left Alexander in the capable hands of our babysitter ( OFSTED registered nursery school teacher no less) and gorged ourselves on the tasting menu with wine flight. Even in the remnants of the heat of a 30 degree day, the staff were outstanding and the food, course after course with thoughtful wine picked to our preferences accompanying was truly delicious. From the sauteed duck liver apricot and caraway chutney, walnut and ginger crunch, five spice jus accompanied by a Rivesaltes- Ambre, Domaine Cazes 1999 to an unusual cooked cheese course of Tunworth heritage tomatoes with Maury Blanc Mas Amiel 2011 to the dark chocolate delice, macerated cherries, milk sorbet this time with the Maury Rouge, Mas Amiel 2009. In every course a little surprise touch or flavour and each wine enhancing the experience not just adding to it.
The thing that interests me most about the Bath Priory is its future. With a new General Manager, Andrew Foulkes, no newcomer to the industry having trained as a chef at the Fat Duck through to being GM at sister property Gidleigh Park, another jewel in the crown of the group with its own two Michelin starred restaurant under Michael Caines, the future looks very bright indeed. Promising to give it a more relaxed and younger feel but with all the luxury and the high standards, I can’t wait to see him work his magic. Au revoir The Bath Priory. See you soon.