Bath: that elegant Georgian city where Regency rules, Sally Lunn’s Buns are dished out by the dozen and Jane Austen fans don their bonnets with pride. In a city with no shortage of tourists, there’s a surplus of hotels which are, as our tour guide summed up: ‘Queen Anne at the front, Mary-Anne at the back’. In short, looks can be deceiving…
The Abbey Hotel, however, doesn’t let you down as you cross the threshold. Having been recently refurbished from a lacklustre Best Western, the family-run hotel doesn’t simply trade on its prime spot a few steps away from the heaving-with-tourists Roman Baths and namesake Abbey itself.
Owned by Ian and Christa Taylor, this independent hotel has all the trappings of a comfy home-from-home, refashioned in contemporary style as a bold urban abode. With 62 freshly decorated, individually-designed rooms, some that overlook the lush Parade Gardens and meandering River Avon, the hotel feels like it’s doing its best to shake off first impressions. As you step inside, the Regency bricks and mortar disappear to reveal an eclectic vibe featuring design classic chairs and exposed lightbulbs. Not just that, the Abbey Hotel is firmly plugged into the digital world, too, with fully charged iPads and radios at your fingertips, plus free speedy wifi– handy to Instagram the vast amount of art you’ll find knocking about the place.
Which brings us to the hotel’s aptly-titled Artbar. Start your evening with one of the 64 different G&T combinations on offer or one of the expertly-mixed cocktails: think Maryrose Chacha (rosemary smoke, cachaca, blackberry) or perhaps an Umeshu Brace (plum bitters, plum brandy and Champagne). If the hotel bar’s drinks menu deserves a celebratory toast, wait until you try the food at the Allium Restaurant. Head Chef Chris Staine has created a sumptuous menu focusing on authentic British flavours, using his time at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants to great effect. The menu is simple and well done. The 22-day aged pork with spiced lentils and apples hits the spot, as does the delicious combination of chorizo and haddock, which is a salty, mouthwatering winner.
Come breakfast, there’s an impressive spread of pastries and fruit while hot choices included a traditional full English with local Gloucester Old Spot sausages. Enough to fuel a thorough exploration of Bath’s many attractions – whether you’re strolling on the Royal Crescent, getting your culture fix at the Jane Austen Centre or restocking your wardrobe at the many local vintage boutiques and independent stores.
The best thing about the Abbey Hotel? The service, hands down. Being family owned, it’s got the ready welcome and a local’s knowledge found at the best B&Bs – but without the fear of dusty doilies and smelly tea makers. Amen to that – we think Austen would approve.
The Abbey Hotel’s festive Après-Ski Bar, featuring fondue feasts and mulled wine under cosy blankets on the terrace, is open now until 8 January 2017. Overnight stays start from £169 based on two sharing on a B&B basis. For more information and to book, see the hotel’s website or telephone 01225 809996.