Restaurant Review: Demuths, Bath

Katie Jarvis reviews Demuths Restaurant in Bath.

It happened to me once. There I was on a Stroud footbridge, waving my banner against the Iraq war, before nipping into Waitrose afterwards like the good Champagne socialist I am. (Though, wait a minute: weren’t they the ones who invaded Iraq?)

Anyway, I happened to be queuing next to a chap, who turned to his wife and said, “Did you see all those hippies on the bridge?” Blood absolutely boiling in a polite Waitrose-type way, I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me. I was one of those hippies.” There was a confrontation of the kind of ferocity Dougal used to have with Ermintrude on The Magic Roundabout, before he cleverly replied, “Oh”. And the moment passed.

Heady memories. So the idea that all non-meat-eaters, for example, wear sandals and drive in quirkily outmoded cars is equally ludicrous, I explained to Ian as we struggled into our 1970 Singer Chamois and headed for Demuths Vegetarian Restaurant in Bath.

I tell you, driving in that car is like finding yourself in the scene from Airplane where the nun’s playing a guitar and everyone else is giving each other sickly smiles. Frankly, fellow drivers, it’s exhausting having to wave at you all and grin manically at five-second intervals on a 50-minute trip. It’s a car, OK? Last time I used it, I was surrounded by a group of admiring workmen, which was fine until I realised I couldn’t find reverse gear to get it out of the parking space. The idea that anyone who can’t concentrate at school is going to end up in a manual trade is clearly wrong, judging by the hideously long time it took them to get bored and go away, leaving me to cope with the gear-based humiliation in peace.

Demuths breaks the veggie mould in many ways, including by charging �6.50 or more for starters and around �15 (in our case) for mains. In other ways, they’re right up there with the kaftans. Why would your frontline staff, in a posh restaurant (price-wise, anyway), sport pedal-pushers and trainers? Or address you as ‘Guys’ every time you order. Small point, perhaps.

But let’s go on about it. Because the hosting was odd. Friday evening, very busy, so not unexpectedly various people without bookings were turned away, including one person hoping to join an already-booked-in couple. Fair enough. But five minutes later, another couple comes in and are told, “We can make up a table for you downstairs, if you like.” Huh? (Secret vegetarian handshake, maybe?) We know all this because the tables by the door are so ‘intimate’, the natural thing would be to join in any conversation taking place around you. Luckily, vegetarians tend to

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be slender…

…possibly because of the taste of the food. I know, I know. Put your pens down. I’ve been veggie on and off for years and some lasagnes are truly lovely. But it is hard to get really fab veggie food in restaurants. This, of course, is where Demuths almost comes into its own and I was unkind not to mention this first. It’s a delight to me to look down a menu and be unafraid of any of the dishes. I know all reviewers are meant to be Tom Parker Bowles, ready to sit down at a moment’s notice with Bedouin tribesmen and eat parts of sheep you’ve only ever seen before in biology or sex education lessons (Welsh board). But I personally don’t like eating things that performed a graphic function in life.

So the potato bonda (spicy green chilli potato balls in a gram flour batter with tomato ginger relish and cardamom lime yoghurt) and the chickpea fritters with lemon pickle, chermoula and parsley yogurt were the clouds parting and the sun beginning to shine. And the roast sweet potato cannelloni with its curried cream sauce, and my stuffed courgette flowers (that dish was a bit bland, to be honest) with chickpea and courgette served with smoked aubergine puree, tabouleh, confit red peppers and pomegranate jus were more than a cut above the normal paltry choice you’re offered as crumbs under the table. But �15? Steep. And talking of crumbs under the table, we paid �3.95 for the ‘thoughtful’ bread basket. The thoughts it provoked were mainly negative, due to the fact that a few of the slices had been pre-cut and were well on the way to ‘stale’.

We both had the Italian bitter chocolate cake because it seems bad form to pay over �100 for an indulgent meal that’s done you nothing but good.

Demuths is certainly somewhere you could take a committed meat-eater and still have a successful evening – the mark of a good veggie restaurant, to me. The menu is imaginative; the food is lovely… but it’s not the best veggie food I’ve ever tasted. And for the price, I thought it would be.

Demuths Restaurant, 2 North Parade Passage, Off Abbey Green, Bath BA1 1NX Tel: 01225 446059;

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