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A family celebration led to a meal out at Bath’s newest restaurant

It was a celebration after all – marking my youngest son’s starring role in the school play – so we needed somewhere suitably swanky and family-friendly to mark the occasion. Where better than Bath’s newest eatery, The Architect, at the ground floor of the grand Empire Hotel near the Parade Gardens and overlooking Orange Grove. A few different restaurants have used this venue over the years, but none have managed to imbue the place the style and classy decor of The Architect.

As soon as we arrived we were greeted by Ben the very friendly manager who led us to the main dining room which combines classic Bath grandeur with a wonderful high ceiling, chandeliers and well placed plants to create a impressive decor that’s part William Morris and part colonial hotel from the 1920s. The result is gorgeous, with padded booths – apparently a listed part of the building – that are just perfect for families to eat together, larger tables and even a private dining area for bigger groups and parties.

We’d been joined by children’s granny and grandad Graham for the meal out, so one of the larger tables was perfect, complete with comfy raised chairs, lots of natural light and a view out beyond the outdoor terrace to the Orange Grove beyond.

The booths are just ideal for a family meal out

The only thing that really detracted from the atmosphere was the background music, too loud and too modern, meaning that it took away from the general ambience. Hopefully they’ll find the volume switch soon.

With drinks ordered, including from a good choice of cask ales, soft drinks for the children and what was apparently a very decent G&T for granny, we were ordering starters and mains. The menu combines good old traditional food that you’ll find in most decent pubs – steak and chips, fish and chips, fish pie and goat’s cheese salad – with a select few more interesting options including slow braised ox cheek with truffle mash, oyster mushrooms, shallot and cavolo nero (£22.95) and coconut feta fritters, herb risotto, asparagus and pickled shallots (£14.95). There’s also a selection of light bites, a pretty predictable children’s menu and gluten-free options.

What was missing, those coconut feta fritters and a goat’s cheese salad aside, was any great choice for vegetarians or vegans, although we were told that this would improve very soon.

Throughout our ordering, full marks to Maria, our very friendly waitress, who dealt with the challenging demands of young diners – “Can I change chunky chips for fries?”, “No mayo on the beef please,” you get the idea – with good humour and aplomb. And full marks when our starters all arrived exactly as ordered.

The terrace is perfect with outside dining, complete with a view

Across the board, we all agreed that this was a very good start. The Devon crab salad (£8.25) was fresh, beautifully presented and, according to my daughter, “yummy”, the sticky barbecue beef sliders (£5.95) very sweet and very swiftly consumed, and my chicken liver paté, apple and cider chutney and toasted bloomer (£7.95) was absolutely delicious. OK, yes, perhaps the potted chalk stream trout (£8.75) could have done with a little spice to bring the flavour out, but again it was well presented and perfectly enjoyable.

While we waited for the main course, I grabbed the chance to a quick nosy around while the children’s and other grown-ups discussed the end of the school year and holidays. The whole place has a really classy feel, with the terrace one of the few outside dining areas in Bath with a decent view and the bar offering a perfect location for family or business meet-ups. For wheelchair users and parents and carers with children in pushchairs, there is ramp access to the bar and dining room, as well as a disabled toilet and baby-changing facilities on the ground floor.

Back at the table it was time for the main courses, with two 7oz fillet steaks with salad and chunky chips (£28.95), one 10oz sirloin with peppercorn sauce, portobello mushroom, tomatoes and chunky chips (£31.95), two chicken, ham and leek pie, buttered mash, greens, white wine and tarragon sauce (£15.45), a roast rump of lamb, thyme fondant potato, white bean purèe, lamb jus (£24.95) and chicken Milanese, garlic sage butter, goat’s curd, lemon green salad and new potatoes (£17.25).

Now if you know what it’s like eating out with children, you’ll know that as soon as the main course arrives it’s a tradition of swapping bits around, with “Mum, I don’t like mushrooms,” “I ordered skinny chips,” and “Can I have yours, mine isn’t what I wanted,” types of comments. So with all of these sorted out, we got on with enjoying the food.

The bar area extends into a comfortable lounge, ideal for business meetings

My sirloin was perfectly cooked, with excellent chunky chips and a peppercorn sauce with just the right amount of pepperyness (yes, that is a word… at least, it is now,). Accompanied by a glass of Rioja (£8), it was a real midweek treat and just about the perfect portion size too. Similarly my daughter was very happy with her fillet steak, served rare – as a fillet should be. Across the rest of the table there were a few gripes, with my youngest swapping his chicken pie for my wife’s rather gorgeous looking lamb and my older son accepting that a medium cooked fillet doesn’t show it to its best.

The general opinion on the mains was that they were OK without being outstanding, more good pub grub than restaurant cuisine, albeit well presented and in a much better setting than your average local. It’s worth adding here that the vegetables were excellent – with a fresh taste and beautifully prepared.

Was there room for desserts? As my youngest insisted, there’s always room for desserts and we’re so glad that we made the effort. While the triple chocolate brownie, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream (£7.95) brought a gasp of “Oh my god, that’s good!” from my daughter, the chocolate and hazelnut cheesecake, Bueno ice cream and chocolate sauce earned a “Wow, that’s exceptionally good,” from my oldest son and the Summer pudding, raspberry sauce, clotted cream (£7.75) a very satisfied “Extremely good,” from granny.

All-in-all, this was a really enjoyable family visit to a classy restaurant with great service and a menu that runs from OK to excellent. In fact, I’ve already booked in a return visit to meet a client for a business coffee and cake.