Arriving at Bath’s newest and grandest five-star hotel, right in the middle of town, is a proper treat. Not only are the staff supremely friendly and switched on, but it soon becomes clear that the hotel’s name refers to more than just its spa town location. Offering all the well-documented benefits of Bath Spa’s healing waters (extolled since Roman times), its brand new innovative and luxuriant spa in the basement of the building not only complements but enhances the rest of the hotel. A Swedish massage was about as good as spa treatments get. As befits a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group, this sets high standards for both its staff and guests, and then exceeds them. In a town that has always been a big draw for visitors, this excellent addition has just raised the game.
Though not the largest room we’ve ever stayed in, size was irrelevant here. On the third floor, our luxurious lodgings offered truly stunning views over Bath through elegant sash windows, allowing us to see everything from the Abbey to the fields beyond: a welcome reminder of a time when towns and cities still had green spaces adjoining them. Lovely touches abounded, from the welcome bottle of Billecart-Salmon champagne and selection of sweet treats to the gloriously comfortable bed. Getting up for breakfast the next morning was almost a hardship.
Food and drink
Continuing the vogue for a Michelin-starred consultant chef, the Gainsborough has brought on the German wunderkind Johann Lafer to offer what it calls “Dining Without Borders”. What this means in practice is a mixture between English, European and Oriental elements; dinner might begin with a scrumptious Cornish king crab salad or soy-glazed pork belly before moving onto rack of lamb with a Szechuan pepper crust or roasted sea bass with macadamia gnocchi. What makes the evening so special is that the staff give every sincere impression of wanting to be at your beck and call to make your repast a really enjoyable one. A nice touch at breakfast is that the cooked side offers eggs done to your specification in a moment.
In a nutshell
Those who have bemoaned that Bath hotels tend to be rather like country clubs – hard to get into and expensive once you’re there – will be relieved to find that, at last, the newest offering is reassuringly excellent in all regards, making guests’ stay a true sybaritic pleasure from start to finish. You won’t want to leave.
Travel from London Paddington to Bath with First Great Western; www.gwr.com