Wednesday - Sunday
12.30pm - 2.30pm
Tuesday - Saturday
7.00pm - 10.30pm
12 Sadler Street
Wells BA5 2SE
(0)44 1749 689 099
Fork Magazine Writes About The Old Spot
"Some restaurants just get it right time and time again and The Old Spot is one of them. It is quite simply one of the best restaurants in the South West.
Located in Sadler Street, in the heart of the cathedral city of Wells, this fabulous bistro opened without fanfare in July 2006 on the site previously occupied by the Market Bar.
Until then, chef/proprietor Ian Bates had spent most of his cooking career in London, most prominently working under the great Simon Hopkinson at Sir Terence Conran’s Bibendum restaurant. Before that he worked at name restaurants such as The Chiswick and The Brackenbury. Quite a CV.
After moving away from London, Bates worked in Bristol’s top restaurants, including Quartier Vert and Culinaria, but The Old Spot is his first solo venture.
The Old Spot is the restaurant Somerset had long needed and the success in the first year has been phenomenal, with regular customers including Simon Hopkinson and Rick Stein. Ian Bates cooks exactly the sort of simple, ingredient-driven Modern European food I want to eat all day, every day.
Like Hopkinson - his mentor - the food is part of the long line of Elizabeth David-inspired chefs that started with George Perry-Smith and continued with West Country culinary greats Joyce Molyneux and Stephen Markwick.
Since it opened, I have eaten at The Old Spot a handful of times and every single meal has excited and satisfied. Bates cooks strictly within the seasons and this is reflected in the menu, which changes every day or so.
A mid-summer menu, for example, featured seasonal treats such as pea and mint soup, breast of duck with broad beans, bacon and mustard and boiled orange cake with local strawberries and mascarpone.
I started with leeks vinaigrette with pickled anchovies, chopped egg and capers - a faultless rendition of the French bistro classic.
This was followed by smoked haddock with lentils, cherry tomatoes and salsa verde. On paper, it may have appeared to feature too many strong flavours, but it worked brilliantly.
The fish was perfectly cooked, the roasted cherry tomatoes were indecently sweet and the Puy lentils were rich and nutty. Any richness was countered by the piquant salsa verde.
For dessert, a white peach and raspberry trifle was surprisingly light, well balanced and packed with ripe summer fruit flavours, helped along by the boozy sponge.
Wine buffs should also note that the entire wine list at The Old Spot has been selected and supplied by Hallatrow-based wine merchant and bon viveur Bill Baker, who supplies wine to some of London’s very best restaurants.
And with lunch costing only £17.50 for three courses or £15 for two courses (dinner is £26.50 for three courses or £21.50 for two courses), there’s plenty more scope to splash out on the excellent wines.
The job of a restaurant critic is to be as critical as possible, but when a restaurant is as spot-on as The Old Spot, it makes that part of the job very difficult indeed. With Ian Bates cooking, the easiest part of this job is the eating. The difficult part is knowing when to stop."