The Gainsborough Bath Spa: The U.K’s Hottest New Hotel

Founded by the Romans as Aquae Sulis, Bath1 on the River Avon is historically Britain s most fashionable city, filled with Georgian residences, and public crescents, circles and squares that are famous for their Palladian elegance.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa: The U.K's Hottest New Hotel

The Gainsborough Bath Spa was built originally as a hospital. Courtesy Gainsborough Bath Spa/Leading Hotels of the World

In a place with such rich heritage, you might not expect to find much in the way of new. But this month, after nearly a decade in the making, the Gainsborough Bath Spa2 hotel officially opens. Originally built as a hospital in the early 1800s, the Gainsborough occupies two Grade II Listed buildings (that s strong landmark protection for those who don t know their U.K. preservation terminology). Underneath the honey-colored limestone, called appropriately Bath stone, builders found a fine Roman mosaic and more than 17,000 coins of which a few dozen are displayed in a glass in the lobby.

The new Gainsborough is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World3, and its features fit the hotel group s emphasis on properties that raise both art and design, as well as culinary and wellness elements to the fore. As soon as guests check in, they ll want to get straight to the source of Bath s existence, literally by hitting the one-hour Bath Circuit at the property s Spa Village Bath.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa: The U.K's Hottest New Hotel

Under a skylight atrium, the Gainsborough s Spa Village Bath uses the same water source that the Romans did. Courtesy Gainsborough Bath Spa/Leading Hotels of the World

No other hotel in Britain has water that bubbles up from the deep earth at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The water is reduced to a manageable 92 Fahrenheit for the balneo pools, and for sitting under the neck jets in the main floating pool that is set under a glass atrium. The spa also features traditional and infrared saunas, a steam room, and ice chamber. Copious aromatherapy and massage treatments include a Ginger Renewal that works magic on jet lag.

The Gainsborough s broad sweeping staircase will make you want to forego the lift up to your room. Of the property s ninety-nine rooms, a dozen are suites in various configurations dictated by the historic building s quirky angles.

The gorgeous Bath city light that pours into the hotel shows off some rooms refined grays and muted colors, while highlighting touches of Gainsborough blue in others. The different moods all come courtesy of the prestigious New York ‘based firm Champalimaud Design4.

The Champalimaud team added artful toile antimacassars over the headboards that show a Gainsborough pastoral scene. The tall windows are draped by heavy curtains as in a bourgeois home of the period. The wardrobes are made with in-laid burl wood, and the marble bathrooms feature traditional plumbing fixtures and under-floor heating. Small touches include a reproduction of Britain s vintage Roberts brand radio by the bed, and at night, a sprig of lavender on the sheets with a poem such as Wordsworth s To Sleep.

Located on the hotel s ground floor, with an additional separate entrance to the public, the restaurant Johann Lafer at The Gainsborough has been serving since July. A large wall painting of the construction period was the work of a Bath University art student, one of several who won a competition given by the hotel. To give the atmosphere a brasserie feel, tables are set at different heights, but there is nothing brasserie about Lafer s menu.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa: The U.K's Hottest New Hotel

At Johann Lafer at the Gainsborough, chef Lafer creates refined dishes in a brasserie atmosphere. Courtesy Gainsborough Bath Spa/Leading Hotels of the World

Though he became a celebrated Michelin-starred chef, cookbook author, and TV personality in Germany, chef Lafer is from Austria s Steiermark (Styria), one of that country s most innovative agro regions of small farmers, organic orchards and wines. At the Gainsborough, Lafer s menu blends locally sourced English ingredients with Asian flavors.

At lunch, guests can munch on five-spice bread with beetroot butter while enjoying appetizers such as a dish of salmon two ways prepared in teriyaki and tartar styles. Roasted sea bass with macadamia nut gnocchi is a popular main dish. Dinner dishes range from pork belly cooked for fifteen hours, with mango sauce, to beef cheeks and lemon grass polenta, with red wine jus and sun dried tomatoes.

The Asian influence in Lafer s cuisine can be found in Devonshire duck breast, with red cabbage, teriyaki jus and potato dumplings, or in his Aberdeen Angus prime rib, with yuzu citrus cream sauce.

In the afternoon, guests can enjoy tea in the Canvas Room, or retire there after dinner to read newspapers or chat over cocktails. The original hospital chapel is now an event space with an outside terrace.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa: The U.K's Hottest New Hotel

The Gainsborough s bright, marble lobby also displays Roman coins found during the building s restoration. Courtesy Gainsborough Bath Spa/Leading Hotels of the World

Eventually the time comes to head out and experience Bath, which along with Venice is the only place whose Unesco world heritage5 status encompasses the whole of an original city. You could not be more centrally located at the Gainsborough, and specifically to further enjoy Bath s raison d tre: Hot water. Just next door, the city s original Thermae Bath Spa6 steam rooms and various baths are crowned by a rooftop pool with great views. The tiny Cross Bath which was once frequented by royalty can be booked privately.

Likewise, hotel guests are just minutes away from the Bath Abbey, and the Roman Baths7 which display thousands of artifacts found among its pools and viaducts. The attached Pump House Restaurant8 makes for a great lunch, dinner, or tea break from touring the bath museum. Queen s Square, designed by the great John Wood the Elder, is just across from the Jane Austen Centre. From there, guests can follow the Gravel Walk that she wrote about to the famous Royal Crescent residences where one house is now a museum recreation of an 18th-century home.

Along Milsom Street9 with countless shopping choices, Jolly s is one of Britain s first-ever department stores.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa: The U.K's Hottest New Hotel

The famous Bath Abbey is just a three-minute-walk from the Gainsborough. Courtesy Gainsborough Bath Spa/Leading Hotels of the World

For another fun dining experience, The Chequers, which has been serving since 1776, has the coziness of a traditional pub but with a menu that features gastro pub fare like beetroot compression with goat cheese and walnuts, and main dishes such as marinated lamb rump with a moussaka red pepper, aubergine, and feta black olive. 10 Crossing the Pultney Bridge takes you to the Holburne Museum11 with its fine Gainsborough paintings, behind which flows the Kennet and Avon canal.

As you stroll the towpath after dinner to watch houseboats lazily cruise by, you ll also feel quite content knowing that in just a few minutes walk you ll be back in the comforts of your Gainsborough dwelling.

The train from London to Bath in the hills and valleys south of the Cotswolds is only about ninety minutes. The Malaysian-based YTL12 corporation s first foray into Europe, The Gainsborough Bath Spa is just a quick walk from the Bath train station.

By car, you can get from and back to Heathwick even faster, and before you fly home enjoy one last treatment at the Elemis Travel Spa13 in the British Airways lounge.

Follow me on Twitter14.

References

  1. ^ bath (visitbath.co.uk)
  2. ^ gainsborough (lhw.com)
  3. ^ lhw (lhw.com)
  4. ^ champal (champalimauddesign.com)
  5. ^ whc (whc.unesco.org)
  6. ^ spa (thermaebathspa.com)
  7. ^ roman (romanbaths.co.uk)
  8. ^ pump (searcys.co.uk)
  9. ^ milsom (visitbath.co.uk)
  10. ^ chequers (thechequersbath.com)
  11. ^ holburne (holburne.org)
  12. ^ ytl (ytlhotels.com)
  13. ^ ba (britishairways.com)
  14. ^ john (twitter.com)

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