Bath Ales has long since been a bit of a South West institution: good solid beers, a great partnership with the rugby and their offshoot franchise Beerd offering the “hipper” crowd pizzas and craft beers they have been going from strength to strength. As a reaction to their continuing success their chain of pubs have been scheduled for refurbishment and a change to their menus.
Last month it was the turn of The Wellington, situated at the top of Gloucester Road, to have a makeover and menu revamp which, in this author’s opinion, was a little overdue.
As I walked in I was greeted with the smell of fresh paint and the feeling of openness. The orange walls were gone, the snug areas had comfy chairs and sofas put in and the walls are a lovely blue grey colour. The beer taps were brought up to date offering a fantastic selection of Beerd and Bath Ales beers, and the spirits were displayed on the back wall offering both local and more common vodkas, gins, whiskies and the like. I ordered a beer and had the option of having a pint or 2/3rds, which is the in style now but I don’t think totally necessary in an established pub.
The garden was still family-friendly with a children’s play area set away from the tables and a fox running about in the carpark (NB this fox may not be child-friendly).
We were seated next to the window inside and got our first look at the new menu. We all agreed the design on the back was great, showing lovely illustrations of where their produce comes from and some words about the ethos of Bath Ales. The menu itself was full of pub grub along with dishes that were a little more special ,depending on what you are in the mood for. To start, our party chose ham hock terrine (£5.95), scallop and black pudding tart tatin (£7.95) and I had the cured salmon with beetroot (£6.95). All dishes were delivered fairly promptly and were perfect starter size. As someone who is not a fan of the small plates craze it was nice to have a plate that was small enough to whet the appetite but full of flavour and priced accordingly. The salmon dish included both cured and baked salmon with picked and salt baked beetroot and a lemon dressing. It was light, fresh and the beetroot was sweet and earthy, as beetroot should be.
The staff were questioned mercilessly by the group regarding the mains, the great pie debate raged on, is it really a pie if it only has a pastry top? Luckily the pie at The Wellington is a proper chicken and mushroom pie (£11.95), completely enclosed in pastry and served with greens and a choice of mash or chips. The pie is part of the Classics section of the menu which included a cheese burger (£10.95), fish and chips (£11.95) and steak (£23.95). The burger, chosen by another party member, came out pink and the side order of braised BBQ ox cheek was incredible, 16 hours slow cooked in a thick, sticky BBQ sauce. The fish and chips portion was enormous with a light batter, mushy peas, tartare sauce and beer pickled onions. I chose from the mains part of the menu and had the braised lamb with hotpot potatoes (£14.50). The portion size was good, the lamb was melt in the mouth with a sticky, mint jelly, crunchy veg and the potatoes were soft in the middle, something I always fear when ordering anything that isn’t mash or chips.
During the mains, the staff were wonderfully attentive without being overly fussy, and were able to answer questions there and then without running off to ask someone else: quite a feat on a soft opening day. The staff all seemed to have good knowledge of the wine and food list and were efficient. They also let me go and have a nose at the B&B rooms upstairs (£99 per night) which were comfortable, clean and very inviting. Definitely the sort of place you would suggest to a relative if they were visiting.
Finally (after not very much persuasion) we ordered desserts. My eyes lit up when I saw sticky toffee pudding with peanut butter sauce (£5.50), which came with homemade ice cream and was, again, a very generous portion at a very fair price. Others between them chose the chocolate tart (£5.95) and passion fruit creme brulee (£5.50). All puddings were vegetarian and most of the desserts were gluten free or could be requested as gluten free, a really nice modern touch.
Speaking of dietary requirements, we were all pleased to see a lot of vegetarian and gluten free choices and surprisingly quite a few vegan choices so good to know that Bath Ales want to make it as easy as possible for groups to come out and eat together without someone having to choke down yet another couscous-stuffed pepper. All in all we were very impressed with what The Wellington has done with the décor and the menu and they are definitely cornering a lot of markets, from classic pub grub to a three course date night. They will still be entertaining the football types too and families are still welcome. All in all, definitely worth a visit as soon as possible!