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The Bathhouse

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Warning: we were invited to review this restaurant and the entire meal was paid for by the house. The following below is our independent view, but you have been warned.

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Originally built in 1894 as a Turkish bathhouse in the Victorian ages, The Bathhouse got a new lease of life in June 2009 when it reopened bar cum club cum restaurant.

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Located close to Liverpool Street Station, The Bathhouse is a tiny little building sitting in a courtyard bordered by tall office buildings. The façade of the building is very much a change of scenery from the neighbours and merely hints at the interior lurking underground while a café and al fresco dining is available outside.

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Past the entrance is a circular staircase heading downstairs. The history of the place is still on display with the tiles but the new owners have added generous lashings of decadent garnishing with heavy wallpaper, deep velvet drapes and gilded candelabras dotting the scene. The atmosphere was all quite intimate with the majority of the light coming from big table candles.

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Before I start with the food, it’s worth mentioning the cocktails especially as we were told by the manager that cocktails here were extremely popular. Being absolute cocktail noobs, we left the choices up to the house and the extremely hot bartrendress (wearing what I can only describe as a basque) mixed up some of their specialities including a whisky sour, Doris Gay, Peartini (PigPig loved this one) and Sailor’s Demise. Now I did say we’re fairly inexperienced with cocktails, but we both really enjoyed the ones we had, especially as they seemed lighter than our previous samples and went down a treat.

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Left: whisky sour, right: Doris Gay

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Actually, the drinks menu is also quite interesting, being stuck in the middle of an old encyclopaedia.

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For the amuse-bouche, we were served a ceps and mushroom spring roll. Freshly fried and hot, the PigPig really enjoyed this. Myself, while I liked the great natural mushroom smell and earthy flavours and the overall taste of it, I also burnt my tongue in my greedy haste to eat it.

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Gazpacho (soup of the day). I don’t normally order a soup but on a hot summer’s day, a cold refreshing gazpacho seemed especially appealing. Omitting the tomatoes gave this soup a distinct green colouring as the main ingredients were cucumber and celery with flakes of mint. While it was reasonably tasty, I think a little something extra like using pickled gherkins instead of the blocks of cucumber in the soup or adding bacon (everything savoury gets better with bacon!) would have made it better.

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Chicken liver pate. Wonderfully smooth, this rich creamy little pot of fatty protein was so satisfying to my glutton of a soul. The sourdough bread was a little bit on the overtoasted side, but had a nice aroma.

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Rib eye steak. The steak itself was perfectly cooked to my desire (medium rare) with a grilled surface and pink interior while there was an option of either peppercorn, béarnaise or chimichurri sauce. It was however a bit on the thin side and didn’t seem as marbled as a normal rib eye. It was under-salted as well. The fries were great though, being just the right shade of crispy while still being a bit soft too.

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Pork belly. First impressions – Gods that’s a big plate! A bite later of the risotto – wow, that’s really good. Although the menu says the risotto had veal bone marrow in it, I didn’t really notice it although it did have an excellent creamy consistency with a strange light and yet heavy flavour at the same time with a strong overtone of the wine used in the cooking. I can’t put my finger on the exact flavourings or broth used, but we both really enjoyed it.

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The pork belly was reasonably tender but not mouth-meltingly so. The PigPig felt that it was a rather lean pig, but we both agreed the crackling was crunchingly good. The cooks had removed the fat underneath the skin, avoiding the sticky mess we had at L'Autre Pied* trying to get the gelatine off our gums.

Elderflower and prosseco martini jelly. This distinctly adult jelly had a good balance of sweetness and tartness from the prosseco while still allowing the taste of the elderflowers to come through. The bubbles from the prosseco cast mini-explosions on the tongue while eating the jelly as well.

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Earl grey panna cotta with Kendal mint cake. Rich and creamy, the lightly sweetened panna cotta had just enough tea flavour without the tannin coming through. We both found the Kendal mint cake a bit weird though as it seemed to be essentially a block of sugar and didn’t really add much to the dish.

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We didn’t pay for the meal, but I approximated that a three course meal will come to about £26 without drinks or service charge. Although only the entire waiting staff seemed to comprise just three people (including the bartendress), service was efficient and prompt and everyone seemed friendly and eager to help with the menu. Just one complaint, the table was a bit flimsy, it started wobbling while we were cutting our meats.

Food – 6.5
Service – 6.5
Atmosphere – 7.0
Value – 5.0

Serving organic local food, The Bathhouse does a fairly good job at delivering quality dishes with more emphasis on pleasuring tongue than the eyes. While the food lacks the flair and elegance of Michelin-hunting-restaurants, it makes up for it with its ample charm and unique atmosphere, from the décor to the occasional burlesque shows or the slightly odd carnival-like music (obviously hand picked by the manager and he was humming it while zooming around the room).

Best bit: the atmosphere, it felt like a really romantic dinner and we spent a good couple hours just chatting away while sipping on the cocktails.

Worst bit: realising that to get proper steak, one needs to go to a proper steakhouse. In the past I would have been happy with the steak here, but after Hawksmoor the goalposts have moved so much that regular restaurants don’t cut it anymore for steak.

The Bathhouse
7-8 Bishopsgate Churchyard
Tel: +44(020)7920 9207
Official website

The Bathhouse on Urbanspoon

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