It was a beautiful morning with barely a cloud in the sky, and yet, it was hard to reconcile this time with the cold hard fact that it was a Sunday morning. It was a Sunday morning and I had a stinking hangover.
I’ll drink in the afternoon on Saturday, that way I’ll finish early so that the 7AM start won’t be too bad. I’m sure this is the sort of flawed logic that has led to the downfall of empires, the extinction of species and the elimination of football teams from major tournaments. I can just see the Greeks thinking “What a nice horse”, the dinosaurs fobbing off the meteor storm as a “passing shower” and Don Fabio turning to Psycho and remarking “3-1? Got to be time for Heskey right?”
Anyway, I digress; suffice to say that an afternoon’s drinking culmintated in goldfish bowls full of Long Island Ice Tea and a drunk Ian. While I may have been home by 11.30 I woke up feeling like a pig had shat in my head and the prospect of a train journey to Bath wasn’t a particularly pleasant one.
I managed it though, and it is quite a nice feeling to be up and about when the weather is so good and everywhere is so quiet. Not that my stomach would have agreed.
So why, you may ask, was I up at such an ungodly hour on the designated day of rest? Well, those lovely people at Sauce Communications had invited thelondonfoodie, laurafleur, onemilliongoldstars, thewinesleuth, everythingbut and I on a trip to Bath for the day so that we could check out the Food Show being held near the Royal Crescent and visit the Bath Priory Hotel for afternoon tea.
I’d only been to Bath once before and had found it a delightful retreat from the busy streets of London. Relaxing in the rooftop pool of the Thermae Bath Spa was gorgeous and the Roman Baths were fascinating – particularly good was “taking the water”, where you can taste the sulphurus brew that supposedly has such health benefits. As far back as 1562 there have been published articles suggesting it as a cure for 89 problems including dropsy and infertility.
This was a different proposition though and after a painful train journey (for me with a wretched hangover at least) we were whisked along to the food show and the stall of the Priory where Head Chef Sam Moody and Hotel Manager Sue Williams? Were waiting for us with a glass of Prosecco and some fabulous sausages. The Prosecco did it’s job pretty quickly and I found myself suddenly feeling a lot more human and able to do my best in sampling what the show had to offer.
We were pointed in the direction of The Thoughtful Bread Co who had provided the Priory with some of it’s bread ovens and who had some incredible samples on offer. The Onion bread was great and I was tickled by the breadbox for £2 containing some mini selections along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Among my purchases from the Festival was this Fennel Salami from Trealy Farm Charcuterie which is fabulous and goes particularly well topping this ratatouille I knocked up.Other highlights were the Marscapone, Fig & Honey Ice cream from Mendip Moments and the little man with his no double-dipping sign. I’m not even going to mention the company the used car salesman was representing but we backed away as soon as possible.
Oh and there was some Garlic I was clearly impressed by.
One of the reasons we had been invited to the show was to see Sam Moody, head chef at the Priory, do a cooking demonstration. Sam worked under Michelin starred Michael Caines who is now at sister hotel Gidleigh Park, but since 2009 is now head chef and showing youthful enthusiasm for the post.
Along with his assistant Niall and additional staff members in the audience he took us through a menu starting with a creamy seafood risotto, a main of Hinton Estate Beef with a salt beef and wild mushroom ragu and a berry coulis for dessert.
I don’t have any pictures of the risotto – it went quicker than a cake in a staff meeting but it was creamy and full of fishy goodness and I’m sure the scallops would have been delicious had we got anywhere near them. This crowd were seriously hungry and even our gang of food bloggers, not known for being backward at coming forward when it comes to free food, were overwhelmed.
The Beef was cooked in a Sous Vide, a water bath kept at a steady 48degrees to cook the meat in the tenderest way possible. Sam rated the Hinton Estate cut as highly as any Wagyu he had tried and on tasting it I can confirm it was truly something a bit special. I was lucky though, having to take my chances with the knife on the chopping board because the plates were ravaged so quickly and eating the ragu from the pan with a shared spoon. I have no shame.
From the delights of the Food Festival where we lounged around listening to Professor No-Hair and the Wig Lifters we took the short walk up past the Royal Crescent and to the Priory Hotel itself.
Set in beautiful grounds the newly renovated place would certainly be a bit of a treat. It was a little pricey for my budget but has a lovely feel to it and the rooms are immaculate and although brand new retain the charm of the place. The croquet lawn, outdoor swimming pool and spa/gym are all great attractions for potential guests while the herb garden out the back really confirms the commitment to reducing those food miles. The huge thistles also impressed us!
We stayed for afternoon tea in the delightful sitting room surrounded by the owner’s art collection and it was all I could do but to stop dropping off as I sunk into the comfy sofa. There were many teas on offer and along with the sandwiches and scones a selection of cakes that I didn’t quite make it to. Sam had specially created a set of berry-topped pannacotta which were tasty and light.
He has very kindly provided me with the recipe:
- 1kg pork mince
- 200g chopped dried apricots
- 100g chopped shallots
- 20g chopped thyme
- 2 whole eggs
- Salt, pepper, sugar
- Puff paste
- Mix together all of the above ingredients
- Roll out puff paste
- Fill with farce
- Egg wash then cook at 170*c until golden brown