Review: The Wife of Bath, Wye
- Credit: Archant
Now owned by renowned restaurateur Mark Sargeant, The Wife of Bath offers an adventurous Northern Spanish-inspired menu, superlative accommodation and effortlessly great service
The heavens literally opened as soon as I was safely settled in my delightful bedroom at The Wife of Bath. I took it as a good omen – while it thundered and poured dramatically outside, I was warm and dry in what is a very different establishment to the one I last reviewed in 2015.
Much has changed while my back was turned, not least it being acquired and refurbished in 2016 by Mark Sargeant (with business partner Josh De Haan), owner of award-winning Rocksalt in Folkestone and The Duke William Pub in Ickham.
This once quite traditional inn serving modern British cuisine is now a homage to Northern Spanish-inspired dishes and offers diners an exciting adventure possibly outside their comfort zone, but one that I cannot recommend highly enough.
But first to the accommodation – there are five individually furnished en-suite bedrooms, including two in a separate annexe to the rear of the property.
I’ve stayed in Sir Thopas, the super-king front room before, but it was barely recognisable: the history is unchanged with its vaulted ceiling, beams and sash windows, however the decor is now much less fussy and far more contemporary.
There’s no space-absorbing four-poster but rather a superbly comfy bed with a wrought-iron bedstead and a huge abstract of a bull above it (so much nicer than that sounds), a funky standing clothes rail instead of a wardrobe, a modern sofa with bright button studs, a side stand with a welcome tray of spicy almonds and grapes, a Nespresso and a mini decanter of Sherry with two glasses. The gleaming white bathroom is transformed.
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On the landing, cleverly tucked way behind cupboard doors, is a pantry where guests can help themselves to extra towels, toiletries, drinks. Floors are sloping, ceilings low, stairs steep and narrow – it’s full of charm.
Downstairs is an intimate, inviting bar where you can enjoy tapas and a glass of something delicious from the truly eclectic yet accessible drinks menu before moving into the restaurant. Or just pop in for the tapas if you prefer; it’s served all day in the bar.
Perched up on a tall stool I chat to manager Ramona Nedelcu over a delicious Gin Mare, before being joined by My Dining Companion and heading for the attractive dining room. Roughly in two halves with an arched divide and wooden floors, a neutral contemporary decor balances ancient beams.
The à la carte menu takes inspiration from the best of Spanish gastronomy: Cataluña, the Basque Country, Cantabria and Galicia.
We soon discover that chef Adam’s dishes are adventurous in both their influence and flavour, perfectly blending the rustic with the refined while showcasing locally sourced pork, poultry, game and south-coast fish.
A selection of amuse bouche sets a very high standard, with the octopus and smoked salmon with beetroot our favourite nibbles.
To follow I pick the deceptively simple looking but in fact highly complex combination of rabbit mixed with chorizo and a chicken mousse, wrapped in a cabbage leave and served with a classic Spanish Romesco sauce. Robust in flavour and so vibrant on cracked blue-grey crockery, it’s a stunner.
MDC had missed out on a cocktail so opted for cantaloupe marinated in Gin Mare instead, and what a transformative effect it has on melon, really bringing out the flavour and sweetness. With wafer-thin Serrano ham and Sevilano oil, it was a work of Mediterranean magic.
More of that delicious Gin found its way into a Seville orange sauce for my main course of perfectly cooked hake served with asparagus and radishes (unexpectedly lovely). Equally splendid was MDC’s lemon sole with a shellfish and saffron broth with a ‘pop’ of aioli.
Desserts are cleverly English re-workings of classic Spanish puddings, including our divinely light almond and quince tart and a bitter chocolate tart made all grown up with Folkestone salt and Sevillano olive oil.
We asked for wine pairings throughout and I can thoroughly recommend that; staff are as well informed on the drinks as the food and service throughout my stay was delightful.
An excellent night’s sleep and I was ready for a Spanish breakfast and, after tasty tortilla with ham, peppers and aioli, I will never ever look at a bowl of cereal in the same way again.
Some places just put a big smile on your face and as I drove off into sunshine after the storm of the night before, I was beaming all over.
Meet the chef
Name: Adam Ashley
Job title: Head Chef
Tell us about you
I have been working as a chef for nearly 12 years now. After starting my career in a three AA-rosette restaurant I moved onto a couple of five-star star hotels and spent four years at Browns Hotel in Mayfair, where I worked my way up to Junior sous chef. I then moved onto Rocksalt in Folkestone and progressed to a senior sous chef and now I’m head chef at their new restaurant, The Wife of Bath in Wye. I have been here for nine months and the best part of my role is the new style of cuisine, using lots of new ingredients and trying new recipes. It’s a challenge I love.
Our principal suppliers are Fresher by Miles, Chapmans and Watts Farm; being able to use local suppliers is very important to us.
A signature dish?
I would have to say my rabbit and chorizo. It has been on the menu since we opened and continues to be a popular choice with our guests. The dish may look simple in its presentation but is complex in making and that’s why I love it.
Top cooking tip?
Don’t overcomplicate dishes. Less is more, some of the best dishes are created using only three or four ingredients. Let the main ingredient stand out and be the focus of the dish.
Mark Sargeant, his passion for food is infectious and he always wants the best, and Simon Oakley, the executive chef at Rocksalt. I worked with Simon for nearly 10y ears at Browns Hotel and then again at Rocksalt in Folkestone.
Where: The Wife of Bath, 4 Upper Bridge Street, Wye TN25 5AF
01233 812232 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Restaurant with rooms
How much: Gin Mare marinated cantaloupe, Serrano ham, virgin Sevillano oil £11.50; Pork collar, olive oil potato, smoked chorizo, courgette and lime £15.50
When: Breakfast 8.30-10.30am, lunch noon to 3pm Mon-Sat, Sun noon to 5pm, dinner 6.30-9.30pm, bar tapas Mon-Sun noon to 9.30pm