Over The Moon At Gainsborough Restaurant
The Romans were well-known for their pursuit of pleasure. In 60 AD, they discovered the curative properties of the geothermal spring water in the Avon Valley. They called it Aqua Sulis or “the waters of Sulis” after their deity Sulis Minerva.
The Romans knew a good thing when they see one. They established the settlement as a spa town purely for rest and recreation building an elaborate Roman Bath which today is a major tourist attraction in Bath. And so, Bath a spa town was born and continued to be a well-being centre till the present day.
Bath is one of the most iconic cities in Britain graced with elegant honey-coloured Georgian architecture in Palladian style surrounded by stunning landscape nestled by the River Avon. Steeped in genteel Georgian history and ancient Roman legacy, it is one of the most affluent and most visited cities in Britain attracting both regional as well as international visitors. Its plethora of historical and cultural attractions earned its place on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Due to its popularity as a major tourist destination, its hospitality industry grew exponentially with hundreds of hotels and restaurants in and around the city.
Among them is the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel, a restored 19th century heritage building whose previous incarnations include a hospital and an alms house built over a Roman antiquity. It was named after Thomas Gainsborough, a famous 18th century portrait and landscape artist and a local resident of Bath. It was left derelict for a number of years until it was acquired by YTL Hotels, Malaysia’s leading hospitality company in luxury brand hotels and resorts. It was faithfully restored to its former glory without compromising its period features, complemented with modern aesthetic and facilities as a bespoke 99-room boutique hotel. It includes an award-winning restaurant and a Spa Village with the privilege of the only spa in Britain to have direct access to the natural geothermal spring water. Just a stone’s throw from the hotel is the newly renovated Thermae Bath Spa, the hotel’s sister public spa and wellness centre with fabulous facilities and the opportunity to swim in a thermal pool on the rooftop.
I have featured the Gainsborough Bath Spa when it first opened in 2015. It was recently awarded the AA Hospitality Awards (England) in 2017, a top accolade for hospitality service across the country. We revisited the hotel to check out the Gainsborough Restaurant which has been relaunched under the consultancy of a new chef, Dan Moon. The restaurant was also commended a three AA Rosettes, claiming its place as one of the finest restaurants in England.
The Gainsborough Restaurant at Gainsborough Bath Spa has been given a culinary make-over when Dan Moon joined as head chef more than 18 months ago. London-born but West Country trained in Devon, Moon is one of the many young chefs today who are bucking the trend and taking their culinary prowess to new heights. Cooking has always been in his blood ever since he started as a 14-year old kitchen help in a local restaurant in Exmouth. His passion in cooking soon began to gain dividend as he climbed up the culinary chart quite rapidly to become head chef of Hunstrete House near Bath in 2002 and followed by tenure in various high-end hotel restaurants. His natural talent and vision in his work has earned him prestigious accolades including three AA Rosettes, the Caterer’s Acorn Award and Bath Life Award for Restaurant of the Year.
Since taking over the helm at Gainsborough Restaurant, Moon has put the restaurant on the culinary map of Bath and enhanced its position as one of the most popular dining outlets in the city. He said, “My cuisine is of classical flavours with modern British and European twist with good punchy flavours. I don’t try to change classical dishes but I elevate them with my own take. I am a huge supporter of local farmers and I try to use as much local produce as possible.” He discusses and involves his menu development with local suppliers as a way to show his support. Being an innovative chef and always pushing the boundaries, Moon uses pioneering cooking techniques and is an advocate of using micro-cresses, blossoms and edible flowers which give his food styling an artistic flair and in trend. As a way to integrate with the local community, Moon has introduced the British’s favourite meal, the Sunday lunch and two-for-one offer for lunch time which has proved to be very popular (offer excluding Saturday and Sunday).
Art On A Plate
The proof in the pudding is in the eating as they say, so we dined there one night and chose the Tasting Menu, another of Moon’s creative idea. It was a six-course menu that would allow us to sample multiple dishes to showcase the culinary repertoire.
It started with a Chicken Liver Parfait with rhubarb sorbet, granola and red vein sorrel, a very attractive dish to whet the appetite. This was followed by Jerusalem Artichoke Veloute accompanied by panéed quail egg, hazelnut puree flavoured with sherry vinegar gel and truffle that delicately balanced the taste. The Smoked Loin of confit rabbit with foie gras terrine and pickled radish and sweetcorn immersed in an onion and chicken consommé was another winner.
Next came my two favourite dishes of Sautéed Scallop on a bed of creamy lobster and crab risotto and textures of fennel cooked to perfection, a sophisticated flavoursome dish. The Roast Creedy Carver Duck with slices of plum and a sprinkle of sesame seeds paired with confit spring roll is a nod towards the Chinese roast duck, a hint of Asian flavour. The grand finale was the Lemon Mousse topped with Cranberry Sorbet, lemon balm and burnt meringue that gave the dessert a lift and added a splash of colour with the cranberry pink, a sweet finish to a marvellous dinner.
The Tasting Menu was an edible art on a plate that demonstrated the skill and innovative creation of Dan Moon, a chef who has the depth of knowledge of the culinary art and one who places substance and style in his presentation of the menu. The complement of miniature loaves of Smoked Godminister Cheddar and Red Onion Brioche, Seeded Brown Loaf and Rosemary and Sea Salt Milk Bun, not only looked twee but absolutely delicious when eaten with Rosemary and Sea Salt Cultured Butter and Roasted Black Garlic Butter. These little touches, not to mention homemade chocolate mints, are the hallmarks of a brilliant chef. The 6 Course Tasting Menu is £60 per person with an Optional Wine Flight (wine pairing) at extra £32.50.
Dan Moon has many more culinary treats up his sleeves as he declared, “My focus is creating new flavour combinations and giving dishes a depth of flavours that surprise and excite guests. Every single meal of the day should be a celebration. I want my diners to feel special with every bite they take. I feel proud that this has been reflected in the popularity of the restaurant and its establishment in both local and tourist market.” As a parting remark, he said, “I am aiming for a Michelin star.” From what we have tasted and experienced – an excellent meal and amazing service in the hotel and restaurant- there is no doubt that there is a great Moon on the rise. Watch this space.