Bril­liant bot­tles – and not one of them over

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - FOOD -

The Beck­ford Bot­tle Shop is a Bath wine mer­chant, com­plete with restau­rant serv­ing up ‘small plates’, as well as a ‘cu­rated se­lec­tion’ of Bri­tish cheese and char­cu­terie. How achingly on-trend. Throw in some strange, over­priced ‘nat­u­ral’ or­ange wine, a cou­ple of inked and earnest en­thu­si­asts and we could be in Hack­ney. What’s wrong with big plates? And don’t cu­ra­tors be­long in mu­se­ums? But hey-ho, the place comes rec­om­mended by my friend Mark, who spent a very merry evening there the week be­fore. And as I’ve said be­fore, Mark is a man who can sniff out good scran like a Great White scents blood. He never lets me down. And this time, he’s out­done him­self.

Be­cause The Beck­ford Bot­tle Shop is a beauty, no doubt about that. It sits in a hand­some Geor­gian house, with sash win­dows, and a sur­feit of space and light, and com­fort­able leather chairs, and a ceil­ing cov­ered in beaten tin.

Framed corkscrews take the place of bad art, and at night the place is lit by can­dles. For a small cork­age fee, you can drink any of the wines sold in the shop with your lunch or din­ner. Although there’s seems lit­tle point stray­ing off a restau­rant list that is not only im­mac­u­lately se­lected but bril­liantly priced too. There are 39 bot­tles, with noth­ing over £40.

We drink a Greek white that re­minds us quite how ex­cit­ing their booze can be, and eat a plate of Bri­tish char­cu­terie that shows us quite how far our na­tive meat cur­ing has come. Bre­saola made from re­tired dairy beef, smoked pork col­lar and punchy mer­guez from the ex­cel­lent Tem­pus foods, ro­bust Great Glen veni­son salami, and a glo­ri­ous Suf­folk salami chorizo. The menu’s so beguil­ing that we or­der the whole damned lot. And not a dish dis­ap­points.

The qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents is peer­less. Ex­cel­lent an­chovies, Or­tiz at a guess, slyly sweet, mixed with pert pick­led onion and a drib­ble of lemon, served on fingers of toast. Two-bite de­light. And more toast, this time topped with chanterelles, glossy with chicken but­ter. Sim­ple, but beau­ti­fully done. There’s silken whipped cod’s roe (of course there is), and a zingily sen­sa­tional mack­erel tartare, with soft chilli grunt, that pos­sesses the ephemeral sweet­ness of the truly fresh.

Bath Chaps are chopped, lav­ished with mus­tard, then bread­crumbed and deep-fried un­til they re­sem­ble pig’s head nuggets. They come with a tart ap­ple sauce, to cut through all that oink­ing ex­cess. This food re­minds me of Ter­roirs, and Brawn, and No­ble Rot. Sim­ple, straight­for­ward, and joy­ously con­fi­dent. Food you ac­tu­ally want to eat.

There’s a mini rab­bit pie, where said bunny is mixed with great chunks of black pud­ding, all sat un­der a bur­nished and but­tery crust. A slab of win­ter de­light, it’s both sub­tle and mus­cu­lar. Brisket, slow cooked in red wine, melts into suc­cu­lent strands and comes swim­ming in a bold horseradish cream. Iberian-style beans come topped with a pair of im­mac­u­lately cooked cephalo­pod legs. The acid­ity is beau­ti­fully judged.

Veg­eta­bles are treated with ev­ery bit the re­spect of meat and fish, a sure sign of an ex­cel­lent kitchen. Creamed leeks loll in a lav­ishly cheesy West­combe ched­dar sauce, roast pump­kin sits un­der a bliz­zard of Berk­swell and roast Brus­sels sprouts are mixed with Jerusalem ar­ti­choke. There are rarely more than two or three in­gre­di­ents per dish, and young head chef Harry Rus­sell (a tal­ent to watch) puts them to­gether with a learned hand. Each dish is as good as the last. Ser­vice comes wreathed in charm­ing smiles, dogs are wel­comed and – most amaz­ing of all – I taste a goat’s cheese I ac­tu­ally like. Sin­odun Hill, las­civ­i­ously creamy, with only the mer­est of goaty bleats.

It’s one of those lunches that gets ev­ery­thing right, with the min­i­mum of fuss or pre­tence. Bath has a new star. Get there, be­fore ev­ery­one else does. About £25 per head

Oc­to­pus, chorizo and black bean stew

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