My definition of a good hotel is a place I’d stay at
Staying, unwinding, and dining at the Gainsborough Bath Spa is so relaxing, you may miss your breakfast
Review by Sarah Rodrigues
Northanger Abbey’s Catherine certainly wasn’t wrong to be wide-eyed with the wonder of Bath ‘… for here are a variety of amusements, a variety of things to be seen and done all day long’ – but then again, she was from the countryside. When you’ve travelled to Bath from a city even more bustling, you may feel that seeing and doing things all day long is the very last thing you want.
How fortunate then, that the Gainsborough Bath Spa gives you the option to do everything, or nothing. Its welcoming elegance lies just a short walk from the train station – although valet parking is offered for those who prefer to drive – and is right in the heart of Bath’s World Heritage Site, so your ability to get out and explore everything that Bath has to offer is unsurpassed. That said, once in the embrace of the hotel, it’s incredibly tempting – and entirely feasible – to simply not leave it for the duration of your stay.
Of course, the spa aspect of the hotel certainly doesn’t hurt where this is concerned. As the only hotel within Bath’s Spa Village to have access to the warm and mineral-rich waters for which the city is famed, there’s more than enough wallowing to be enjoyed in the graceful bowels of the building, as you move between pools of varying temperatures, interspersed with saunas, ice baths, lymphatic hoses and – deliciously – cool drinking water and spiced hot chocolate, a Georgian confection laced with chilli, cardamom and cinnamon. A range of treatments, nurturing body, face and soul, are also available in this blissful area of the hotel: choose from scrubs, wraps, massages and facials, all varying in length from 60 to 90 minutes. Aquatic treatments are also on offer, with yoga and physical therapy carried out in the light-filled main pool.
Yet there’s much more to the Gainsborough than its spa; its rooms alone are a restorative experience, with deep blue-greys accented by dull gold, warm browns and jet black – all combining to create a cosiness that seems like it would be almost impossible to achieve in a room of such lofty proportions. The 18ft high ceiling soars above enormous windows, over which heavy curtains can be drawn against the night – but beware: so ludicrously comfortable was the bed, with its abundance of pillows and deeply luxurious mattress that, married with the absence of light, I could easily have slept all day. As it was, it was past 9.30am when we stirred, very nearly missing breakfast.
This wouldn’t have been such a terrible hardship, given that we were still stuffed to the gills from the previous evening’s meal at the hotel’s Dan Moon restaurant. Having come to the hotel in the summer of 2016, chef Dan Moon so inimitably made his mark on Bath’s already sophisticated dining scene that, within a year, the restaurant had been named after him. Dan Moon at the Gainsborough is also open to non-guests, but for someone already swaddled in the soothing ambience of the Gainsborough, it simply represents another reason to stay within its walls. With a 3 AA Rosette rating, diners can choose from a 5-course or 7-course tasting menu, or browse the à la carte selection, where sautéed scallops, served with shellfish risotto, king prawns, yuzu and seaweed, clamour for attention alongside other starters such as chicken liver parfait with almond granola, blood orange sorbet and chicory. Just reading the list of mains is a feast for the senses: roast Creedy Carver duck with a confit leg spring roll, plum purée and sesame has me drooling before my eyes even make it down as far as the roasted best end of Mendip lamb served with a lamb shoulder bon-bon, salt-baked celeriac, black pudding and girolles (the lamb won in the end and was sublime). A selection of deconstructed desserts closed the meal, during which, it’s worth noting, all dietary requirements were met with ease and no trace of judgement; a book that many less critically acclaimed restaurants could benefit from taking a leaf from. Casual all day dining, afternoon teas and cocktails are also available in the more relaxed ambience of the Canvas Room, next door.
Bath’s healing waters are not the only liquid for which the city is known – the Georgian era, during which much of the city’s graceful construction took place, was also a time when gin bars proliferated. Fittingly, the hotel’s bar has over forty artisan gins to sample, each paired with garnishes selected to complement the botanicals of the spirit. Although it’s not recommended that you sample them all in one sitting, the view of the thermal pools from the bar’s interior windows is comforting: I’m fairly certain that luxuriating in Bath’s thermal waters was not known as ‘taking the cure’ just because it helped with rheumatism, arthritis and other genteel ailments.