Restaurants: Where shall we meet ... in Bath?

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The Independent Culture
BATH: nookie capital of the South. Classier than Brighton, less heaving than Oxford, it is the Number One weekend destination for honeymoon- period couples who do not want to leave the country. Everyone goes to Bath at some point: those Regency terraces and verdant surroundings contain more hotels per square foot than London's Bloomsbury.

Few people leave the city disappointed. Bath has everything you would want in a country town - space, grace and plenty of places to contemplate your navel - combined with something that many rural areas do not offer. Bath is the place where urbanites who are tired of the Big Smoke, but cannot quite face the paucity of shopping opportunities in Lesser-Dittering- on-the-Wold, tend to settle. The services are of a much higher standard than one tends to expect. All the chain stores have glitzy outlets here, as well as half the designers - this is an area of high disposable income - and a huge number of furniture importers, craftspeople and hippie candlemakers.

And with all that comes a good choice of places to eat, drink and pass your time, from chain brasseries to well-regarded one-offs.

The Moon and Sixpence proclaims itself in its advertising as "Bath's favourite meeting place for 17 years": one of the less imaginative blurbs I have come across but - judging by the fact that we could only get a table at 9.30pm, and that even when we arrived the place was packed - it is probably quite accurate. Set back from the street up an alleyway, nestling in its own courtyard, this is a most attractive place: large and low-ceilinged, with a long bar and small number of tables for drinkers on either side of the front door.

The main attraction is the generous stone courtyard out at the back, sturdily tented so that the only vagary of the British weather to which it is exposed is frost. The bar offers an impressive range of wines by the glass, covering most of the New World as well as the old.

Service was a tad dizzy but the food made up for it in spades. A Cornish crab and sweet potato cake was pulpy and sweet, polenta came in a slab- like cake slice with ricotta, stilton and walnut-stuffed mushrooms and red pesto. Aubergine and mushroom risotto cakes were juicy and light. Fillet steak was accompanied by an imaginative anchovy, chilli and parsley butter.

Robust stuff, with little subtlety, but excellent mixes of flavours and all lovingly presented. It was definitely worth it at roughly pounds 25 a head.

The Moon and Sixpence, 6a Broad St, Bath (01225 460962).

BATH BITES

Pump Room (above)

Abbey Church Yard, Bath (01225 444 477)

Good for tea at a price, or a glass of hideous sulphurated spa water.

The Raincheck Bar

34 Monmouth St, Bath (01225 444770)

Pleasant wine bar near the Theatre Royal: street tables, delightful square of banquettes at the back.

Pack Horse Inn

Southstoke, Bath (01225 832060)

Lovely old village pub: cool inside, large garden outside. Food is school meal-ish, but all under pounds 5.

ALL BAR ONE

11-12 High St, Bath (01225 324021)

Food comes in girly low-fat, grilled style, but in massive portions to satisfy the boys.

The Hole in the Wall

16 George St, Bath (01225 425242)

Leading-edge restaurant: modern British with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flourishes.

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