With three-year-old daughter, excitable collie dog and very pregnant partner in tow, it’s hard to be on time, even for a special occasion like a birthday celebration.
It’s thus quite impressive that we arrive in Bath for our 7pm dinner reservation.
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There’s just enough time to admire the fine Georgian terrace of Great Pulteney Street, enter through doors of No. 15 to a warm welcome from the hotel manager and be whisked to our room past a sea of curiosities lining nearly every surface.
It’s only on our way back down the stairs to the restaurant in the bowels of the hotel (dropping our dog with the accommodating receptionist who’s all too happy to dog sit) that we have some time to absorb the array of weird and wonderful objects that give this boutique hotel its distinctly whimsical feel.
Each section of the staircase has its own set of ceramic animal mascots; dogs guard the section closest to our room but there’s also a dignified flock of ducks and fine drove of pigs to shepherd us to dinner.
One whole wall of the Dispensary Restaurant is adorned with antique chemists’ cabinets filled with old medical bottles and unusual remedies; the others filled with pots, pans and an assortment of hand whisks.
With so many distractions, it’s a relief that the menu is short and tantalising. I order a punchy, palate-tingling gruyere souffle followed by a pork dish. It encompasses all the satisfying flavours of a Sunday roast: crackling, apple sauce and root veg; the sweet comfort of a crispy roast potato provided by a suckling pig croquette.
It’s the morsels that I get to sample from the plates opposite, however, that show off the best cookery. My wife’s order of buttery scallops with crispy kale to start, followed by a wonderfully soft and succulent cod fillet with caviar cream and red dulse.
The wine list is also concise but well-constructed. We enjoy a crisp and refreshing Picpoul de Pinet, rich and chocolatey San Marzano Vidoro Negroamaro and a dark toffee Chambers Old Rosewood Rutherglen Muscat to accompany the dessert of apple and rhubarb crumble.
After dinner it’s up past collections of kaleidoscopes, under chandeliers made of earrings, and gramophone horn light fixtures, past the full spectrum of farmyard animals and into our generous second floor room.
With so much crammed into this hotel, it’s a place that could easily feel overwhelming or even pretentious, but No. 15 Great Pulteney manages to perfectly balance Georgian elegance and quirky modernity.
There’s a generosity of spirit in the staff, decor and all the little extras: there is even a ‘larder’ on the second floor with a free-for-all of soft drinks, ice cream, sweets and snacks.
That generosity extends to our checkout time. We arrived just in time but, after a generous full English breakfast, we manage to be leaving far later than we should.
A one-night stay at No. 15 Great Pulteney starts at £135 per night. Find out more at www.no15greatpulteney.co.uk
All photos by Ben Wright
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