Bathing Beauties.

Our first few days in London involved several rounds of chain dining. I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, but for the most part, this was done deliberately—I have a nostalgic fondness for WagamamaBelgo came recommended by a former local for a casual, inexpensive meal, and I fell for the foodie tourist-bait that is a Jamie Oliver restaurant—and with predictably average results. Wagamama could never hold up to my memory of it, especially after my love affair with Ippudo; at Jamie’s Italian, I had the only plate of food that’s ever been too salty for me to finish; and while Belgo’s beer was delicious, our bucket of mussels was underwhelming.

I hardly expected our luck to change in the tour-bus capital of Bath, but it was there that both our mediocre dining streak and our lack of success with seafood came to an end.

We ducked into the Tasting Room’s brasserie for a quick snack and a glass of wine before our bus left for London (we were on a Stonehenge/Bath combo) and found ourselves on the restaurant’s rooftop patio, a tiny space wedged between two buildings, umbrellas shading the tables from the neighboring sausage joint’s exhaust fan. Expectations were not high.

Imagine my surprise when the dish of mussels we ordered turned out to be one of the best I’ve had in ages. The bivalves themselves were great, and with a glass of blanc sec in one hand and a spoon in the other, I declared the butter-heavy shallot, cider, and saffron sauce “soup” and scraped the bowl clean. No shame, either.

Some things—huge rock formations in the middle of the English countryside—are inexplicable. Others—an unforgettable bowl of mussels in a bath of butter and saffron [Ed. note: pun Jill’s] in the middle of tourist country—are just fortuitous.

Which is more impressive?

Well, you may notice that the pictures are of my meal, not of a stone circle built by giants.

Tasting Room Wine Merchants & Brasserie
6 Green Street
Bath BA1 2JY

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