Blunos - posh fish in Bath
One of the biggest problems hotels have is how to keep their guests in the building for meals. The solution is generally to employ a celebrity chef and that’s what the County Hotel in Bath has done with Martin Blunos. (Sadly this restaurant has unexpectedly closed.)
If you haven’t heard of him, you should have done. With his engaging personality, distinctive walrus moustache and warm West Country burr this larger than life TV chef is hard to miss. (Think a 1990s version of Tom Kerridge.) I first met him 20 or so years ago when he was cooking at Lettonie, a restaurant for which he earned two Michelin stars.
It was a bit of a shock to find him in this rather bling brasserie-style dining room with its gashes of lime green and orange* - not that anything has been skimped on fitting it out. Reassuringly for a fish restaurant though, there’s a display of fish worthy of a high class fishmonger together with an extensive list of daily specials. “Today’s oysters are from Poole and Porthilly" it announced.
Fortunately they were among the dishes that Blunos sent us out to try (Disclosure: I was lunching with wine writer and consultant Angela Mount who had drawn up the wine list). There are some utterly delicious grilled ‘Asian oysters’ with sesame, chilli and sake you mustn’t miss if they’re on. We also tried the crisp salt and pepper squid with a nuoc cham dip, potted shrimps with salmon served in a dinky can (great idea - salmon definitely adds to the texture) and some fabulously airy crab tortellini (below), a worthy 2 Michelin star dish.
We then managed to consume the best part of a grilled seabass with salsa verde that could have easily served three - expensive at £49 but perfectly cooked and incredibly fresh. (Not all the mains are as expensive. A whole mackerel with ginger would only have been £18 and you could easily make up a meal from the ‘small plates’ which, oysters, crab and tiger prawns apart, mainly hover around £7-10)
Wine follows a similar pattern, pricewise. You could spend a bomb on a bottle of Dom Perignon which at £200 is the same as at Rick Stein’s Seafood restaurant but the very decent Devaux house champagne is available at £11 a glass. The fabulous Greywacke Wild Sauvignon - a worthy alternative to Cloudy Bay - is a toppy £65 but you can order the zesty Godello do Monterrei from Mara Martin - their best seller - for a far more affordable £29 or £5.50 a glass. Basic Chablis is pricey at £55 a bottle but there’s a good Languedoc chardonnay for £30.
So Blunos can be expensive, as befits a Michelin star-standard restaurant. It would be ideal if you wanted to book somewhere in Bath for a celebration but it’s also a good place to go for some great fish and a lighter meal - though I can imagine the cooking might not be quite as precise if the man himself was not in the kitchen**. (Those tortellini, in particular, are a hard act to pull off.)
Treat it like a seafood tapas restaurant, share a few small plates, especially the daily specials, have a glass of white wine or prosecco and you could get out at under £25 a head. Which for cooking of this quality is great value.
PS There is also (a distinct boon in Bath) off-street parking.
Blunos is at The County Hotel, 18-19 Pulteney Rd, Bath BA2 4EZ. Phone: 01225 481188. Closed Sunday and Monday and - note, late eaters - for reservations after 9.30pm in the evening on other days. Also closed for refurbishment in January 2015
I ate at Blunos as a guest of the restaurant
* I may be on my own on this. Several reviewers on Trip Advisor love the decor ;-)
** which, to be fair, he generally is. And often bringing dishes to the table and chatting to the guests.
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