Michael Edwards discovers that Georgian good times live on in Hotel Indigo in Bath.
“If it gets any hotter, Mr Darcy will be taking his shirt off. Yet again,” prophesies a guide at the Jane Austen Centre. He is extravagantly costumed as an effusive Charles Musgrove from the novel Persuasion.
More than ever, Bath continues its love affair with Jane Austen and all things Georgian. Though Miss Austen herself, living in straightened circumstances after her father’s sudden death, may have fallen out of love with Bath …
No surprise then that Hotel Indigo Bath, a recently opened 166 boutique hotel, opts to present an eclectic and sometimes irreverent view of a period when a succession of King Georges reigned from 1714 to 1837.
Nine Grade 1 listed houses, on South Parade, were redesigned to provide a hotel strategically positioned between the railway station and Bath’s many attractions. Since the passing of the days of sedan chairs, visitors have discovered that the compact and frequently pedestrianised Bath is eminently walkable. It is merely minutes to the Roman baths and just beyond lies the Fashion Museum and the famed No. 1 Royal Crescent Museum.
Beneath the wide pavements, where once ladies promenaded in their finest embroidered silks and satins, where vain dandies wore sculpted velvet waistcoats, Hotel Indigo Bath has converted former stables into luxurious vault rooms and suites.
Throughout the hotel, themes from Bath’s heritage create rooms with character and individuality. Literary Hideaway rooms celebrate the city’s writers, Garden rooms take up Bath’s love of parks. Architectural Beauty rooms feature a ceiling rose whilst Romance and Mischief emphasise the vagaries of the Bath season. Fortunes were made and lost at the card tables. Young ladies who were “out”, and eligible in the matrimonial prospecting game, pursued both romance and a fortune.
Reception at Hotel Indigo Bath time travels through the ages. A splendid example of taxidermy, a stuffed peacock, looks down on arriving guests. Silver bells, no longer in use, recall an era when affluent families rang for their servants. Whilst the servants hoped that they could snatch a moment to drain the dregs of the port decanter. Portraits of deer, formally dressed in regimental regalia, adorn the walls. Bright blotches of primary colour paint obscure long-gone ladies and gentlemen.
Down in the arched vault rooms and suites, hints of Georgian style coalesce with contemporary comfort. For all of his £10,000 per annum, Mr Darcy would never have enjoyed a Nespresso coffeemaker, 40-inch television, refrigerated mini-bar and rainforest shower. Though he would have appreciated stylish wine goblets and ornate teacups that look as if sourced from Sotheby’s. Even the gym continues the vault theme with rustic sandstone walls.
Part of the hotel, The Elder restaurant and bar are independently run and owned by restaurateur Mike Robinson with Gavin Edney as Executive Chef. This is where breakfast is served, and hotel guests can book a table for lunch or dinner or have a drink and snack at the bar during the day and evening. The restaurant’s name is a tribute to John Wood the Elder who built South Parade in the 1740s.
In the scorching summer of 2022, an al fresco bar set-up on the broad pavement is a popular destination for cocktails, chilled cider and shucked oysters.
Inside, the restaurant runs through four of the terraced houses, providing intimate dining. Featuring deep green distressed-paint walls, taxidermy and framed pastoral still-life, there is a feel of a walk through the woods.
An amuse bouche of a bull shot, a warm beefy/gamey glass of broth, invites diners into the gastronomic world of The Elder. And game frequently appears on the menu. Perhaps masala spiced fallow deer tartare as a starter or roast pave of Bathurst Estate fallow deer as a main course. Although, both are sourced from restauranteur Mike Robinson’s company, there is plenty of choice, beyond venison, on the menu.
Such is the ethereal quality of the warm madeleine served with the oat milk and tonka bean panna cotta, that even Marcel Proust, could have been distracted from his quest In Remembrance of Things Past for what he had previously considered to be the memory of a perfect madeleine.
At first sight, the brass, oak, and tan banquettes may give hints of a gentleman’s club. But a lively playlist and smiling young staff, dressed in waistcoats and jeans, make this a charmingly contemporary venue.
Both hotel and restaurant pay homage, with tongue-in-cheek, to Bath’s stylish history. Yet, neither is overwhelmed by either the grandeur of the city’s heritage nor a desire to appear cutting-edge trendy. A portrait of a grandly attired Georgian lady, enjoying a fish-bowl glass of wine, perfectly captures the ambience.
Tell Me More About Hotel Indigo Bath
Hotel Indigo, South Parade, Bath, BA2 4AB
T: 01225 460441
Rooms from £149.