Since its recent opening in the heart of Bath, Koffmann and Mr White’s has been the centre of much critical attention, the named chefs sparking the interest of fine diners and casual foodies alike. The collaboration of renowned chefs Pierre Koffmann and Marco Pierre White promised a union of exquisite culinary influences from both sides of the channel, not to mention a combined total of 6 Michelin stars. After a semester of the £1 counter in Fountain Canteen and poorly cooked spag bol, Bath Time thought it was time to pay an overdue visit back to civilised society.
Stepping off the cold mid-November streets and into the ground floor of the Abbey Hotel, the boutique home of the Koffmann and Mr White’s French English Brasserie, we felt instantly whisked away to a world of Parisian charm. Our host Cherisse welcomed us warmly and chatted about the restaurant’s exciting opening only 5 weeks previously, and we admired the tasteful selection of art on display. The restaurant’s interior cast a tone of elegant class, with dark and chic walls, but simultaneously breathed home comforts, thanks to the traditional table decor and warm lighting. As advertised, the environment was stylish yet unpretentious and we felt all stresses of deadlines and coursework being dispelled.
We discovered the menu was nothing short of delightful, once the baffling French had been decrypted kindly, and understandingly, by Cherisse. Between us, we chose the classic French onion soup and terrine de foie de volaille (chicken liver, apparently) for starters and the poulet-noir and braised ox cheek for mains. The dishes added beautiful traces of luxury to familiar homestyle cuisine and the portions were sized perfectly. In particular, the soup was a harmonious blend of subtly rich cider, mouth-watering gruyere and croutons melting to the perfect consistency. The chicken was sourced by Koffmann himself and he selected a black-footed breed (poulet-noir) that can only be found in one French province.
It is not typical for the named chefs of many restaurants to visit their venues as often as Koffmann and Mr. White visit the Abbey Hotel. Unknowingly to us, Pierre was sitting on the opposite side of the room having dessert with waiting staff whilst we were indulging in the paired wines, served in glasses specially chosen by the chefs. Marco, being local to Bath, is also known to lend a hand in the kitchens a few nights every week. The casual involvement of the two named figures no doubt enhances the intimate nature of the restaurant, giving a comfortable atmosphere from which it benefits from immeasurably.
Alongside their new restaurant, the Abbey hotel is also home to some more well-kept secrets. Upon entering the lobby, the customer’s attention is directed through lounges and curtain draped corridors to the venue’s ArtBar. The bar was meticulously designed, featuring a range of artwork, plush leather armchairs and hundreds of crystal glasses dangling from the ceiling (which we were reassured were secure). With an expansive cocktail, spirit and wine menu, a knowledgeable and approachable mixologist, it’s no wonder the bar can justify such claims as promising the comeback of the Piña Colada. ArtBar is worthy of being your go-to for special dates or quiet drinks if you’re due a taste of luxury.
Hidden below the North Parade sits the Hotel’s ‘Escape’ venue, a series of renovated wartime bunkers appropriate for special birthdays and get-togethers.
Admittedly, Koffmann and Mr White’s is not a destination we’d recommended for dinner when you simply don’t fancy cooking. It’s a notch above Nando’s and a cut above The Cork, with prices slightly above a typical student budget, but for special occasions, it’s definitely worth considering. This restaurant is a treat, providing an ideal break from ordinary affairs.