I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I love Bath. I didn’t grow up here, which I think is why I never take it for granted and never stop appreciating how awesome it is. One of my favourite things about the place (and there are a huge number) is that it’s absolutely packed with fabulous foodie culture. Not only are there loads of brilliant restaurants and shops, but Bath and the surrounding area are also full of clever creative people making all sorts of delicious produce. It means the city is always buzzing with something new and exciting, and there’s a huge appreciation here for food and for independent business.
The Bath Cook Book is a glorious celebration of all of the above. Produced by Meze Publishing, who have created books for several other cities (and picked up Best Newcomer at the Independent Publishing Awards in 2016, no less), it’s a sort of foodie bible for the area, featuring restaurants, cafes, shops and producers, as well as recipes from each of them. Full disclosure, each business has paid to be included, and I was worried before I read it that this would make the book feel like a big advertorial – but to be completely honest, I think it really works.
Each featured foodie has their own two or four page spread, to talk about their backstory, their inspiration or whatever else they fancy, and they’re an interesting bunch. Beth, aka the Free Range Chef, talks about how saying yes to any cheffing engagement that comes her way has taught her to embrace adventure and opportunity, while the family behind New MacDonalds Farm describe their mission to educate their customers about animal welfare and how it makes for better food. Kettlesmith Brewing Company are all about getting foodies to take beer as seriously as wine, while my old chum Helen at Taste of Bath is passionate about rounding up Bath’s best produce all in one place, to fill her fabulous hampers – in fact, several of her carefully chosen producers pop up in the Bath Cook Book, including Honey & Daughter, a great Somerset cider company who also make my favourite thirst quencher, a traditional mix of cider and ginger beer called Stoney Bonk, the Bath Gin Company and In A Pickle (the clue to both of those is in the name).
As well as the origin stories behind Bath’s culinary superheroes, the book is also full of titbits of local history and foodie folklore, making it a brilliant coffee table tome for dipping in and out of. And you don’t get short-changed on the recipes either. I’ve already bookmarked several that I fancy having a go at – including The Beaufort’s gorgeously colourful monkfish and octopus curry (above), and The Bath Cake Company’s maple and pecan chocolate cake (below) - although I’ve also picked out several new restaurants to try when I don’t feel like cooking…
The quality of the book is lovely too, with a beautiful design and lots of gorgeous photos that show off not just the food but Bath itself. And there are some really thoughtful additions – I particularly like the section at the back by local company Novel Wines, suggesting a wine to accompany each different recipe. All in all, this is a lovely little package that I’m happy to recommend – you can get it directly from Meze Publishing, or you can buy it from the featured producers themselves, which is a great touch.