When I put out a request on Twitter for good seafood
restaurant recommendations, there was only one name that came up – Blunos, the
new restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Martin Blunos. Of course, I had to
book a table without delay to see what all the fuss was about.
When you enter the restaurant, which is tucked away
underneath the County Hotel on Pulteney Road, it’s a breath of fresh air –
muted greens and silvered glass with pops of bright colour, acrylic and chrome,
a world away from the standard blond wood floors and white tablecloths. The
staff (who are friendly and attentive without ever getting on your nerves – is
it just me who hates having my glass refilled every time I take a sip?)
immediately usher you to the fresh fish counter, where you can admire the day’s
options laid out on a twinkling bed of crushed ice.
Back at the table, the options are many and delicious –
you can choose between ‘small’ and ‘large’ plates, to mix and match as you
wish, rather than having to stick to the format of starter and main. While we swooned over the specials, bread,
olives and nuts arrived, and then the man himself brought us a little tin of
salmon mousse, a stack of wafer thin sourdough toasts, and fresh radishes in
onion and olive ‘soil’. The mousse itself had the consistency of fresh,
softened butter and dissolved immediately on the tongue, leaving behind a
whisper of beautiful flavour, and the earthy radishes somehow managed to taste
of rich, dark soil in the most delicious way.
Once we’d ordered our small plates (and polished off that
delectable mousse) the empty platters were whisked away and replaced with
espresso cups of fiery tomato gazpacho, served with salmon tartare. The
freshness of the fish with crisp cucumber made me think of spring mornings,
when the world has that clean, dew-washed feeling.
Unable to narrow it down, we’d elected to share four
small plates between us, so we began (if that’s the right word, having already
polished off three miniature courses) with vodka-marinated mackerel on a
beetroot salad, and cod cheek ‘scampi’ with chunky tartare sauce. The scampi
were gorgeously light and non-greasy, perfumed with dill, but the stand-out for
me was the mackerel – subtly flavoured with a little warmth from the vodka and
not overly fishy, perfectly balanced with sweet beetroot, especially the golden
variety, which was almost floral with hints of vanilla.
Our second set of small plates were both based on pasta –
a seafood raviolo with scallops and peas, in a light buttery liquor, and crab
tortellini in a bisque sauce with samphire. Although I do love scallops, and
the raviolo was beautifully light, the tortellini was my favourite dish of the
night. The crab was tender and juicy, and the bisque sauce with the samphire completely
captured the flavours of the sea for me – a smoky hint of charcoal, the salty
tang you get on a stiff sea breeze, the freshness of an environment that’s a
little wild and untamed.
By now we’d effectively worked our way through five
different courses, so you might expect that we’d be begging for mercy, but the
dishes were so nicely judged in terms of portion size and combination of
ingredients that we felt nicely satisfied, but never stuffed. This was a good
job as we managed dessert twice – first, another little surprise from the
kitchen, in the form of a boiled egg and soldiers. A perfect little ‘yolk’ of
mango puree topped the lightest of cream mousses inside a white eggshell, with
dippy shortbread fingers, cocoa ‘pepper’ and vanilla sugar ‘salt’. Enchanting.
Finally, we got to dessert proper – a bitter chocolate
tart and a strawberry meringue. Dark chocolate is a particular favourite of
mine but, just like coffee, I think the sign of real quality is richness
without actual bitterness. This tart didn’t disappoint – the perfect
combination of soft chocolate ganache with buttery pastry. The meringues were
delightfully delicate, with vanilla cream, strawberry syrup and fresh
strawberries – proving without a doubt that in the hands of a real professional,
the simplest of desserts can be the best.
At this point, we admitted defeat, and with a final glass
of Prosecco, we headed out into the rain. But with a menu that changes daily
based on the very freshest of ingredients, we will most definitely be going
back. This might just be the best meal I’ve ever had in Bath.