Restaurant Review: The Pump Rooms

As you may know, if you’re an avid reader of my regular feature (and if you aren’t, why not?) I recently reviewed the champagne afternoon tea menu at the Royal Crescent Hotel. This week, I thought it only fair to cover Bath’s other great bastion of elegant afternoon nibbles: The Pump Rooms, right in the heart of the city, with the Abbey on one side and the Roman Baths on the other. If you’re looking for a little pomp and ceremony with your tea, then the Pump Rooms is the place for you – from the polished brass and dark wood revolving door that admits you, to the great chandelier and the concert pianist tinkling the ivories in the corner, the atmosphere is one of a very special treat.

My dining companion and I opted for the traditional Pump Room tea, and started with a glass of Searcys Selected Cuvée Brut – a lovely balance between sweet and dry.  Shortly afterwards a cake stand arrived, laden with treats for us to share, and we got stuck straight in to the savouries. There were, of course, the traditional sandwiches – honey roast ham, egg mayonnaise, and cucumber (I must admit, I’ve never been a cucumber sandwich fan, but I love a good egg mayonnaise sarnie) – but the thing we both especially enjoyed was the poached salmon shot with crisp breads for dipping. The texture and the flavours were fabulous and neither of us could resist scraping our shot glasses clean… special mention must also be given to the cheese scones topped with chive cream cheese, which were gorgeous. Our only criticism was that they were too small!

By now we’d polished off the bubbles, so we moved on to tea to wash down our cakes. All the teas we tried were lovely, but my absolute favourite was the Earl Grey Lady Blue – delicately floral and perfect for the afternoon. I couldn’t resist starting with the tarte aux fraises, my very favourite patisserie, but the chocolate & coffee opera cake (with solid chocolate coffee beans) was also fabulous. We finished off with fruit and plain scones, slathered with clotted cream and jam – a classic, beautifully done.

The food was fabulous, the champagne delicious, and the staff looked after us beautifully. The whole experience was great and in fact there was only one thing that surprised me, which was that the Pump Rooms are in serious need of some new crockery. It’s a big operation there, with a constant stream of visitors, and so obviously their crockery gets a pretty thorough work-out from the dishwasher. That means that although it’s clean, it’s badly scratched and scuffed, and that spoilt things a little for me – the devil is in the details, chaps! Apart from that, I’d certainly recommend it to a visitor to Bath looking to soak up Bath’s atmosphere in style. 

To visit the Pump Rooms' website and book your own afternoon tea (booking is recommended but you can sometimes just turn up & wait), click here.