England’s Hotel of the Year, the Gainsborough Bath Spa, England’s Hotel of the Year
YTL HOTELS’ THE GAINSBOROUGH BATH SPA
Rooms from £320, including breakfast for two. If you book on the hotel website, you receive champagne in your room and a discount spa treatment.
Dan Moon at the Gainsborough Restaurant six-course tasting menu £60
The collection of Roman coins proudly but discreetly displayed in the foyer of YTL’s Gainsborough Bath Spa in Bath signal to guests that they can expect a very special experience. The silver coins in two denominations are dated between 32 BC and 275 AD and were found during 2007 excavations for the hotel, which is a stone’s throw from Bath’s famous Roman Baths.
Most of the coins that were found are in the British Museum in London, but the hotel has kept a small collection on display as a dazzling connection to the history of the site.
Bath is a special town, popular with Londoners who travel just 90 minutes by train or car for a weekend of history and indulgence. The Gainsborough, named after Bath’s famous 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough, is a special hotel, as it is the only one to offer private access to the thermal waters. The simple reason is that Malaysian-based YTL also owns the local water company, Wessex Water.
A soak in the spa is a must and it’s free for all hotel guests to enjoy before 10am and in the evenings. The top room rates buy you access at other times. Regardless, you’ll want to spend at least an hour soaking yourself.
But it’s more than a dip in a hot pool. The experience starts with a piece of theatre that offers a souvenir for when your real life resumes. A spa attendant takes you to the salt bar where you choose scented essential oils for your personal salt bag that lasts a couple of days unless you choose to use it in a bath. Armed with a guide to the pools and saunas, you are then free to get the most from the thermal waters, which are said to contain 45 different healthy minerals.
The first stop is a warm thermal pool, which is meant to be followed by a cooling hand-held shower on the legs and feet to aid circulation. Next you slip into a hotter pool to get your muscles loose. Large marble benches on the sides of the pools are designed for cooling off between dips.
Paddling through to the next room, you can alternate between two saunas – a traditional cedar-lined one heated by a rock furnace, and an infrared one that is said to help muscle aches. The intricately-tiled steam room is drip-free and delightful. A classy touch is a tiled cool room where crushed ice scented with lavender drops from the mouth of a stone lion. The ice is a wonderful way to cool your body after the heat of the pools, saunas and steam room. A larger, sky blue pool is the finale. It has 10 private alcoves with powerful jets.
From the large pool you can see the Gainsborough Bar a few floors above. It’s a cosy haven (think dimly-lit gentleman’s club) that offers a stunning gin menu.
Next to the bar is young British chef Dan Moon’s restaurant. This is a place where nothing is rushed. The menu features seasonal produce, most of it sourced locally, which is to be expected in a five-star hotel restaurant. But the combination of flavours and impeccable plating are noteworthy.
The seared scallops served on a bed of lobster and crab risotto with house-made prawn crisps is a sensational starter. For mains, a highlight is the local lamb served two ways – a pan seared backstrap and a lamb shoulder croquette with celeriac and roasted vegetables. Dessert is pretty as a picture – dark chocolate and ginger mousse with a mirror glaze. The wine list makes choosing difficult, with pages of offerings from around the world. Fortunately, there is a good selection of wines by the glass, allowing the opportunity to sample several varieties.
A stay at the YTL Gainsborough is pricey, but the service is impeccable and includes a pick-up from the station almost at the train door so you don’t have to worry about your bags. The large, beautifully appointed rooms have complimentary mini bars.
One word of warning, though. If Dan Moon’s food and wine doesn’t break the bank, this is the place to further indulge in a private spa treatment which will cost you even more money – but be completely worth the £180 for 90 minutes. The Ginger Renewal, which involves a full body exfoliation with ginger-infused salts and oils and a full body massage with hot stones, is magical.
Surely the Romans would have approved.