Bath BA1 1NX
Demuths in Bath has a really good reputation among vegetarians however, a recent visit by a friend of mine was quite scathing so I decided to see for myself. The place itself is on two floors and I was shown to a table downstairs. I was the only one there for quite a while, during which time I skimmed through some sample copies of the restaurant's cookbooks that they have for sale, and they looked pretty good, with some nice recipes.
The menu I was presented with wasn't overly inspiring, there were roughly half a dozen choices on both starters and mains menus, and also an appetisers menu with a similar amount of options. I forewent the appetisers and chose the Beetroot and Potato Patties from the starters and an Ethiopean Platter from the mains menu.
The starters menu was quite varied, however the mains contained a curry and the Ethiopian Platter (essentially another curry) a risotto, and a nut roast. As curries, risottos and nut roasts are quite often the "vegetarian choice" on a standard restaurant menu, I didn't think they showed the culinary possibilities that vegetarian food can attain no matter how good they might
The Beetroot Patties were three in number and were quite nicely presented spread with pea puree and accomanied by a raita and a few salad leaves. They were nicely spiced and the pea puree was good, but there was little or no beetroot flavour, which was a little disappointing. If the sweet beetroot flavour had been there, this would've been a splendid little dish. However, as it was the only real clue to the presence of the beetroot was the colour of the patties.
The Ethiopean Platter consisted of two different dhals (yellow split pea and red lentil and bean), spiced spinach and potato, and bean and carrot curry served on an pancake, Each of the individual ingredients were fine in themselves, but nothing special. However, the pancake was tasteless and, when eaten in combination with any of the other parts of the dish, somehow had the power to render them equally tasteless which was a touch weird.
For dessert I had Red Wine Poached Pears served with Blackberries and a Honey Labne. Again the presentation was very well done and it tasted really nice. The dish was sprinkled with honeycomb and it complemented the pears really well.
The service was quick and efficient, but not particularly personal. The prices seem to me to be quite high - £6 for a starter and £14 for a main course is a bit steep for this kind of fayre. My three course meal with a coke and a water came to over £35, which is very high.
Would I go back? Probably not. The food was okay, but nothing special, and it was expensive. It is nice to be able to be given a menu in a restaurant where I can eat everything on it, however I'd much rather have a smaller choice of really imaginative and tasty food than a dozen "so-so" items. Plus there was another restaurat next door that had quite a few tasty looking options on the menu a lo cheaper.
I have had some fabulous meals in vegetarian restaurants, Terre a Terre and Il Margutta in Rome, for example, but the majority of the best meals I've had have been in restaurants where the non-veggie meals have been top quality too, like Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons or The Lanesborough.
I guess, in the end, it all comes down to the skill and imagination (and attitude) of the chefs no matter what kind of restaurant they are in.