How I Hit The Restaurant Jackpot in Bath

On my way from Dartmoor to Oxford I knew I’d be passing through Bath around lunchtime. While planning months earlier, I’d asked my old French teacher (see Black Lace), who’d moved there some years before, if she could recommend a restaurant in the centre of town which would serve a classic dish of fresh fish and which wasn’t crawling with tourists.

I knew it was a tall order and I expected her to say she really couldn’t help but instead it seemed I’d won the metaphoric lottery. “My husband is head chef at just such a place and if you want I can organise for you to interview him” she offered. I accepted enthusiastically.

Accordingly I arrived at Woods in Alfred Street, a tranquil, quiet road (thanks to the one-way system) just behind the Assembly Rooms, one of Bath’s main tourist attractions.

Claude Price of Woods restaurant in Bath
Claude Price of Woods restaurant in Bath

David and Claude Price have owned Woods since 1979, and it was Claude, an elegant, smiling Frenchwoman from Lorraine, who welcomed me to the restaurant. “Most of our customers are locals”, she explained, Certainly the restaurant has an informal, unpretentious atmosphere, with smart black lacquer signage and warm natural wood floorboards – it’s easy to imagine it becoming a favourite, regular haunt.

I have the dish of the day: a classic, super-fresh lemon sole coated in a rosy-coloured butter.

And then came the pièce de resistance, a cold maple syrup soufflé which Stuart Ash, the head chef at Woods had made for me specially. This was a triumph, the rich creaminess cut flavour-wise by mint and ginger, and texture-wise by the crunch from the brandy snap.

Stuart emerges from the kitchen to talk to me as I’m having my coffee. He tells me that his first experience of a professional kitchen was when he’d earned a bit of extra pocket money washing up in a pub. He went on to learn the trade at a catering college in Bath where he’d enjoyed entering all the competitions (a theme it emerges).

A perfect lemon sole with rosy butter at Woods restaurant in Bath
A perfect lemon sole with rosy butter at Woods restaurant in Bath

Once qualified he says he “dabbled in Michelin-starred restaurants” but found they sometimes had disadvantages. “You’re part of a chain” he explains, “you never get to put together a whole plate – and that’s what I really enjoy”. These early experiences were then followed by an inspired time spent travelling and working, his extensive knowledge of fish and seafood arising from a stint in Australian kitchens.

I ask him about his culinary philosophy. “I like food to be kept simple,” he muses. “I don’t believe in making things over complicated”. However, he was lucky enough to have a very good set of lecturers, in particular Steve Bennison, who taught him advanced pastry skills. “I’m still involved with the college” he tells me, “every year I organise chef competitions there, one for students, and one inter-chef.”

Woods also puts on special events and is involved in the Bath Food Festival. Stuart sources local seasonal food, creating recipes specifically to make the best of what’s available and topping up with produce sourced from further afield when he has to.

“Our customers are very discerning” he explains, “but in the end all they want is just good food”. Stuart is understated and dismissive about what he does, but beautifully fresh, perfectly cooked food is, I suspect, harder to find than he realises.


Woods reopens today after the Christmas break with a new menu including grilled king prawns with red pepper, chorizo and tarragon butter; pan-fried fillets of sea bass with samphire and chilli butter, and confit of chicken leg
with butter bean, bacon and oregano cassoulet.


Stuart Ash’s cold maple syrup soufflé


  • 150ml double cream
  • 5egg yolks
  • 80ml maple syrup
  • 1leaf gelatine
  1. Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water
  2. Bring a pan to the boil
  3. Sit a bowl inside with the egg yolks and maple syrup
  4. Whisk to produce a sabayon
  5. add to it the gelatine
  6. when sabayon still hot, make sure the water is drained from the gelatine leaf before mixing it with sabayon
  7. Allow to cool slightly, fold through semi whipped cream
  8. Pour mix into moulds or cups, freeze for 24 hours
  9. Remove from freezer about five minutes before serving
  10. garnish with cocoa powder or raw cocoa nibs


Stuart Ash's maple syrup souffle recipe
Stuart Ash’s maple syrup soufflé


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

Warm panettone and butter pudding with hot whisky or rum syrup and cold ice cream

“Many thanks for a fun evening together last night. Bread and butter pudding especially delicious. Did you say that you used panettone for the bread?”…
Read More

A mascarpone mousse inspired by Davide Oldani’s kitchen philosophy that takes even chairs seriously

Of all the chefs I have written about on Saucy Dressings, Davide Oldani, is one of the most interesting. He’s a designer as much as…
Read More

Rose Coconut Laddoo for Diwali

Diwali starts tomorrow. You may not know this, but Diwali is a five day Hindu festival, which celebrates light over darkness, good triumphing over evil,…
Read More

Sign up to our Saucy Newsletter

subscribe today for monthly highlights of foodie events, new restaurant at home menus, recipe ideas and our latest blog posts