Bath isn’t the same place I visited as a tadpole. As soon as I found the excellent Pig Guide blog, it was obvious that the capital of twee had undergone a recent (or fairly recent) transformation that threatens to make it a serious destination for hungry horses like myself.
One night, sadly, wasn’t enough to sample all the exciting eateries there. There was to be no burger at Schwartz Bros, no steak at The Herd, no Nepalese curry at Yak Yeti Yak – not even a sandwich at Same Same But Different. I had time to eat one full meal in Bath and damned if I wasn’t going to do it in the most touristy way possible: by eating next to the train station.
Fortunately, Bath’s latest attempt to prove that it’s better than wherever you live is The Vaults, a hub of bars, cafes, shops and restaurants next to said station. Which probably makes it the nicest train station in the country, based on two things: a few pleasant drinks at Graze, a Bath Ales gastropub that’s overstocked with handsome bartenders, has a nice outdoor terrace, and comes with an admirably shout-y chef. Oh, and the superb Bath Ales beers (including on-site brewed exclusive, Platform 3 IPA). That definitely helps, too.
For pure obesity and indulgence though, it had to be neighbouring restaurant Grillstock. Yes, the same Grillstock that puts on the annual BBQ mashup in Bristol (now also exported to Manchester). Between the no cards and no reservations policies, the location next to the station, and the stripped back interior, I sort of wanted to hate it and all its on-trend accuracy. Unfortunately, while not universally perfect, it was better than competent and really rather impressive in places.
Starting with the standouts: pulled pork was some of the best I can remember, succulent and juicy, noticeably smoky, and just the right type of chewy. Brisket suffered by comparison, not only to the pork, but also to my sublime experience at Bison Bar in Dublin. Still, it was good meat, and good meat is rarely that bad. If you’re willing to travel within reason for the absolute best though, check out my Bison Bar review here.
The ribs divided me – properly meaty, a good crust, and a nicely understated glaze, but also seeming a tad dry. Perhaps another side effect of the excellent pulled pork, or maybe a more serious malady.
Elsewhere, fries were appropriately seasoned and crispy, coleslaw was of the creamy variety (as it should be), and house pickles were indeed homemade with a good, refreshing tang. Only the smoked sausage really disappointed, lacking any depth of smokey flavour and tasting more like a cheap frankfurter.
Add a couple of craft beers (there’s a good offering) and tip to the meat feast and it all came to around £25 – very good value to me, a bratty Londoner, but a bit expensive for the area according to a locally-based colleague. Nevermind. I left stuffed as a monkey and look forward to going back to check out the house burger and barbecued chicken at some point.
Given the amount of good places to eat in Bath that I’m now aware of, I wouldn’t necessarily prioritise this return trip to Grillstock, but it’s got plenty to recommend it – come to Wimbledon, pretty please? – as does Bath as a whole these days.
I could do without all the cocksure, public school alumni that flock to the uni (you should have come to Goldsmiths, realised your artistic insecurities, and taken way too many drugs, for fuck’s sake), but it’s a place that’s pretty, polite and – especially when bathed in summer sunshine – actually really damn lovely. Throw in good beer and BBQ and you’ve sold me.