Ad­mi­ra­tion for grand de­signs in brick and brioche

Step­ping back in time, Nil­ima Mar­shall soaks up the visual and edi­ble de­lights of one of Eng­land’s most el­e­gant ci­ties

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S I Ibite into my af­ter­noon treat, ev­ery fork­ful is pure plea­sure. I am so en­grossed in rel­ish­ing what’s on my plate, slightly re­sent the waiter for in­ter­rupt­ing, even though he is help­fully re­fill­ing my cup with tea.

I am not at a Miche­lin-star restau­rant eat­ing a fancy meal, but am tuck­ing into a hum­ble bun at a tiny tea room in Bath.

But this is no or­di­nary café. I am at the fa­mous Sally Lunn’s tea room sam­pling the cream buns that are part of its High Tea menu.

And the bun I have or­dered is a mini moun­tain of doughy good­ness, topped with de­li­cious cin­na­mon but­ter and served with oo­dles of clot­ted cream.

Sally Lunn’s, which fea­tured in The Great Bri­tish Bake Off last year, is well known for its buns, and it’s no sur­prise that this ‘world-fa­mous eat­ing house’ is a mag­net for tourists.

The story goes that a young Huguenot refugee called Solange Luyon found her way to Bath after es­cap­ing per­se­cu­tion in France in the 17th cen­tury.

After find­ing work in a lo­cal bak­ery, she be­came known as Sally Lunn and be­gan bak­ing the rich brioche de­light that is still served to­day.

My part­ner and I are spend­ing a week­end in this beau­ti­ful Ro­man city and th­ese de­li­cious buns are a great start to our short get­away.

But we’re not here purely to learn the his­tory of a lo­cal del­i­cacy. We’ve come to look at Bath’s Ge­or­gian links, 300 years after an era that was re­spon­si­ble for some of the UK’s most el­e­gant ar­chi­tec­ture as a high so­ci­ety flour­ished.

We have checked into Villa Mag­dala, a beau­ti­ful Vic­to­rian house not far from the town cen­tre, which has been con­verted into a con­tem­po­rary but cosy B&B with 23 stylish and taste­fully dec­o­rated rooms.

To be­gin our ex­plo­ration of 18th-cen­tury Bath, we head to the Royal Cres­cent, a row of 30 ter­raced houses that in­cludes a five-star ho­tel and mu­seum, and is of­ten used as a lo­ca­tion for films and TV shows. We find it bustling with tourists ad­mir­ing the mighty Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture that stands out among the lush green lawns.

The cres­cent-shape theme con­tin­ues at the Cir­cus which, like the Royal Cres­cent, was de­signed by Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tects John Wood the Younger and his fa­ther, John Wood the Elder. Ap­par­ently, they drew in­spi­ra­tion for the ring of town houses from the Colos­seum in Rome.

Around the cor­ner from the Cir­cus is the Jane Austen Cen­tre, where I learn more about the life and fam­ily of the fa­mous 18th-cen­tury nov­el­ist.

All the staff at the cen­tre (a Re­gency town­house that has been re­pur­posed), are dressed in ap­pro­pri­ate his­tor­i­cal cos­tumes and it feels like I’ve en­tered a pe­riod drama.

The cen­tre also has a range of Re­gency-style dresses for tourists to try on, sim­i­lar to what Austen would have worn when she went out with her sis­ter Cas­san­dra to visit the dress­maker, or call on friends.

With my in­ter­est in Ge­or­gian fash­ion stirred, we head to the nearby Fash­ion Mu­seum to find out more.

At the en­trance, there are cos­tumes worn by char­ac­ters from the ITV hit drama Downton Abbey – Lady Mary, Matthew Craw­ley and Lord Gran­tham.

The mu­seum also has a huge va­ri­ety of Ge­or­gian cloth­ing worn by the fash­ion­able so­ci­ety of that time.

We ad­mire the dra­matic, em­bel­lished ladies’ gowns and the fit­ted em­broi­dered waist­coats worn by style­con­scious gen­tle­men.

As with the ar­chi­tec­ture, the Ge­or­gians also seem to have had a last­ing ef­fect on the Bri­tish fash­ion in­dus­try. De­signer Vivi­enne West­wood took in­spi­ra­tion from the Re­gency era to cre­ate her Les Femmes col­lec­tion S/S back in 1996. Her fa­mous dra­matic evening dress with over­sized black bows is proudly dis­played at the mu­seum.

Many mem­bers of the higher ech­e­lons of so­ci­ety through­out his­tory would have vis­ited Bath to bathe in its spa wa­ter. We de­cide to follow suit.

The Ther­mae Bath Spa has a range of treat­ments on of­fer, but we opt for a two-hour re­lax­ing bath ses­sion.

I feel my trou­bles melt away as I sink into a Jacuzzi in the open-air rooftop pool, as we take in clear views of the city. We also try out the re­fresh­ing Min­erva bath and com­plete our full ses­sion of re­lax­ation in the fra­granced steam rooms.

Rejuvenated, we stop for lunch at Ro­man Bath Kitchen (another Ge­or­gian town­house that has been trans­formed into a con­tem­po­rary restau­rant).

While ad­mir­ing the views of the Abbey, we sam­ple the chef’s gaz­pa­cho soup with basil sor­bet, which is the tasti­est starter I’ve ever had.

For my main course, I tuck into a grilled aubergine sand­wich, while my part­ner opts for the char­grilled steak, and we fin­ish off our three-course meal with melt-in-the-mouth ice-cream waf­fles.

Fol­low­ing our food ex­trav­a­ganza, we ex­plore the Ro­man Baths, one of the busiest places in city with more than a mil­lion vis­i­tors each year.

Much of the bath house built by the Ro­mans does not ex­ist to­day, and the orig­i­nal main spring is now housed in build­ings de­signed and re­stored by John Wood the Elder and his son.

We head back to London after our amaz­ing week­end, feel­ing re­freshed and en­light­ened – and, of course, with a box of Sally Lunn’s buns.

The Royal Cres­cent is con­sid­ered to be one of the best ex­am­ples of Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture

The rooftop pool at the Ther­mae Bath Spa of­fers stun­ning views of the pic­turesque city at an un­typ­i­cal level

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