Menu Gordon Jones, restaurant review: Want to know where next Gordon Ramsay is hiding?

 

Menu Gordon Jones, 2 Wellsway, Bath, Tel: 01225 480 871. £160 for two for tasting menu with accompanying flight of wine

It is hard and getting harder, in Britain's lost decade of wage freezes, austerity and existential angst, to cope with the guilt when people discover that part of my job involves eating at great restaurants and writing about it. Generally, I somehow manage, and I have three crutches on which I lean when trying to give an account of myself in public.

First, fine cuisine is the ultimate hallmark of our civilisation, the best and boldest expression of our journey from a barbarian inheritance, so any tradition of criticism that helps to refine it is worthwhile. Second, it is easy to waste a phenomenal amount of money in fashionable restaurants that, like all fashion, pull in the gullible before spitting them out and sending them the bill – and someone needs to be around to regulate against that. The third is that just occasionally you chance upon a gem that no one else in the mainstream press, for whatever reason, seems to have written about, and you can bring it to deserved attention. Lots of people have had nice things to say about Menu Gordon Jones in Bath – but for the most part, they seem to live in Bath.

Charlie and I are in the city for the Independent Bath Literary Festival, a great celebration of ideas in this most elegant of West Country cities. We're lucky to get a table, partly because we're having lunch. For dinner, this small place is booked up for months.

Everything's a surprise here. You inform them if you have any particular dietary requirements, then you get the following tasting menu (the only option) for £40. First, "espuma": a warm, foamy soup with thyme madeleines and a rich green basil oil, a blast of the Mediterranean before the "full English breakfast course", which is hens' scrambled egg, oyster mushroom, mash potato, Stornaway black pudding and English cherry tomatoes. The black pudding is very rich and salty, and bleeds a marvellous flavour into the buttery mash.

This is how every course seems to come: a bewildering assortment of competing elements, put together with flair. The approach sometimes gives the impression of a recent graduate eager to show mum what he learnt at catering college. But Mr Jones pulls it off.

Next is a "fish tacos" course, with tandoori of dogfish, beetroot tacos, avocado yoghurt, white quinoa and dried cheese. See what I mean? The dogfish is lightly spiced rather than hot, the avocado is velvet-smooth and the beetroot tacos are so strong, pungent and purple that it feels like they are unpickling my liver the minute they get past my gob. A really wonderful plate, presented with panache.

Then comes the best of the lot. Are you ready? OK, here goes. It's the "veal dish", with a delicious rose English veal, pickled cabbage that tastes like the best kimchi this side of Seoul, crispy lotus root that somehow works and purple carrot purée and girolles mushroom – and if this course goes on any longer, my head is going to explode.

Instead, my mouth does. The purée is sublime, rich, smooth and, well, purple; and if it's getting a bit same-y on the mushroom front, this being the third course in four to have the fungi component, that's forgivable by virtue of the spectacular presentation, in which the girolles play a starring role.

Dessert – chervil-root cake with beetroot ice-cream and poached fruits – is a predictably eclectic affair, and brings the accompanying flight of wine to a lovely apogee.

The flight is delivered by Jacek Milczarek, the extremely knowledgeable, charming and Polish restaurant manager. He is one of the best things about this place. Though even better is Mr Jones himself, who is in full view just yards from where we are sat, in a dinky little kitchen, where he jostles for space with two comrades.

From this vantage point, he gives the appearance of being John Terry's better-looking younger brother, replete with the saddest eyes in English football. Watching the intensity with which he personally arranges the last detail of each dish, it is hard not to feel in the presence of a special talent.

In a previous restaurant review I described another, more celebrated Gordon as "at base an extraordinarily competent kitchen hand who knows how to build an exquisite restaurant". If Mr Jones keeps this up, he'll have his own television show and millions in the bank before long, too.

8.5/10

Menu Gordon Jones, 2 Wellsway, Bath, Tel: 01225 480 871. £160 for two for tasting menu with accompanying flight of wine

Four more things I've been eating this week

Goat's cheese camembert

Sainsbury's does an absolute corker in its Taste the Difference range. Smelly and sublime.

Milk Chocolate Digestive

Biscuit of the week is this buttery number from Marks & Sparks – and at just 65 calories a pop.

Eat Natural

The packaging suggests these bars are good for your insides. Doubt it, but they taste good.

Old-fashioned

My favourite cocktail of the moment, expertly done at Berners Tavern in Soho.

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