When a mysterious invite landed in my email inbox, asking if I’d like to attend a private dining experience at the Aztec Hotel and Spa tucked just between Bristol and Bath, I was intrigued to say the least.
Using our overnight stay as an opportunity to explore Bristol again (the last time was around a decade ago though it seems like only a few months) we thoroughly enjoyed our moseying around the highlights of this nautical city.
I feel like Isambard Brunel would approve of us staying in a hotel named after the fierce Mexican peoples who invented several clever ways to overcome adversity; floating gardens that skimmed the surface of their lakes, the use of cochineal beetles to dye fabric (and still used in modern day food), the use of passionflower for insomnia and agitation (also still used today), soccer aka ollama and the idea of universal education. But, surprisingly not chocolate – they appropriated that from the Mayans.
The hotel itself is smart, cosy and perfect for the business guests that use the extensive conference and meeting facilities, before relaxing in the spa facilities and snoozing in their well-appointed rooms, ready for another day of meetings.
We checked into our twin room, and were delighted to discover a welcome cocktail ready to be made; the ice chilling in our glasses, a generous measure of local 6’o’clock gin and a splash or two of tonic. We refreshed ourselves as we got ready to meet our dinner fellows – a gathering of event professionals and bloggers. (Thanks to my thirsty hand model!)
Starting with a welcome glass of bubbly, not to mention tiers of scones which we deftly plied with clotted cream and jam, we met in the dining room to introduce ourselves and then take in a tour of the event and conference facilities.
All the formalities done, we peeled away for a pre-dinner soak in the pool and spa, soaking away all of the weather earlier in the day.
Suitably refreshed, leaving ourselves just enough time to slip upstairs again and then change for dinner, we gathered again for dinner in their private dining room. We began at the ‘pimp your gin’ station and grinned as the sun began to set.
Our table was beautifully set with a scattering of artfully arranged herbs, setting the tone for a jovial evening of delicious flavour.
We were being looked after by Marc Payne, Executive Chef at the Aztec Hotel, who delighted in flexing his years of experience. We began as all good meals do with fresh bread and salted quenelles of butter, then a cheeky off menu amuse-bouche and classicly beautiful starter of heritage tomato, burrata, basil and rapeseed followed.
Mains for the carnivores were perfectly seared beef fillet slices atop parsley risotto, Bath blue, confit garlic, tempuraed onion rings and a red wine reduction, whilst the vegetarians enjoyed a confit garlic gnocchi, sorrel, chive and hazelnut dish which I actually rather envied. Well, between tines of delicious beef of course.
Then another cheeky off-menu amuse-bouche arrived at our elbows, a delicate arrangement of raspberry caramel sheets and peach slivers that disappeared rather quickly.
We loved the theatre of Marc plating our main dessert right before our very eyes…
…as they say the proof was in the pudding. Or is that the eating?
Marc has been in post for around a year, and is sharing his enthusiasm for learning, stretching talent, extensive testing and a vision for turning their private dining room into an open kitchen experience.
We thoroughly enjoyed our rose and mascarpone cheesecake, accompanied by strawberry textures and pistachio; before tea, coffee and delicious petit fours were served.
I can’t wait to see what the future brings the Aztec Hotel team…
…the next time I’m between Bath and Bristol, I’ll just have to pop in.