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CITY | FOOD

Buzz in the park

Right around the corner from Royal Victoria Park, the Marlborough Tavern is taking a starring role in this year’s Pub in the Park festival. Joe Cussens, managing director of the Bath Pub Co, tempts Melissa Blease with dishes such as cauliflower and heritage carrot pakoras and lamb with aubergine and chickpea tagine

Cauliflower and heritage carrot pakoras with red lentil dhal will be on offer at Pub in the Park

54 TheBATHMagazine

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May 2019

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That line-up this year includes pop-up incarnations of superstar gastropubs including The Pony and Trap, Café Morano, The Hardwick, The Hand and Flowers and fellow Bath institution The King William, all of whom will be serving up festival-friendly incarnations of their menus – all in all, Pub in the Park’s second birthday party in Bath is set to be super-tasty. The Marlborough Tavern’s history, however, goes back much further than the festival’s does...

My festival menu is reflective of the kind of food we serve on our regular menus: simple, tasty and seasonal

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ive music courtesy of the likes of Texas, Will Young, Gabrielle and the Soul II Soul Sound System. Dedicated Champagne, gin, prosecco, Campari, cocktail and Pimms bars. Super-foodie eat to the beat opportunities at every turn, special guest appearances from the UK’s hottest superstar chefs and Fred Sirieix (Mr First Dates himself) hosting the whole shebang, all set against the glorious backdrop of Royal Victoria Park at its blooming best: now that’s what we call a festival. And when Pub in the Park returns to Bath for a second year running in June, there’s a whole new aspect to the super-enticing menu to rave about, as one of Bath’s loveliest, long-established independent pubs (that’ll be the Marlborough Tavern, then) prepares to headline on the food offering line-up. “The Pub in the Park team hosted a focus group at the beginning of this year asking for feedback and opinions on how best to move the festival forward,” says Joe Cussens, managing director of the Bath Pub Company: a family of four local, independent pubs, of which the Marlborough Tavern (taken over by the BPC in 2006) was the first. “We didn’t pitch ourselves, but a lot of people said it’d be nice to see a local business in the mix; having taken note of that feedback, the festival organisers invited us to join the fun. I guess we were an obvious fit really, because we’re right on the site’s doorstep. And, of course, we know our food is good enough to justify our presence on the star-spangled lineup.”

“This time 13 years ago, the only party we were looking forward to was a celebration at the end of a major refurbishment!” says Joe. “We first stumbled across the pub during its slightly dingy, pre-smoking ban era – it was all swirly carpets and fruit machines. But it was in a lovely location, and had a nice feel to it; we thought it could be so much more than it was. We didn’t originally set out to launch a gastropub – that was a fairly new term, back then, and it seemed a bit pretentious for what we wanted to do, which was create a more contemporary, relevant version of the classic pub. We became more foodie over the years because we became better at doing food, and it became clear that there was a demand for restaurant-standard menus served in a pubby atmosphere. People are inherently more comfortable in a pub environment than they are in a restaurant – you don’t have to dress up, you can just go and hang out with your friends and be sociable.” Inevitably, many changes have gone on behind the scenes at the MT since it first opened its doors. Fortunately for the pub’s merry band of regulars, those changes are subtle rather than shake-you-up. You won’t find a plastic straw anywhere behind the bar, for example, but you’re sure to notice the bigger selection of veggie and vegan food options, superb coffee, and amazing beer line-up, all of which have evolved at a pace,

especially of late. “We’re always evolving, but we never consider radical changes that would move us away from our core objectives which are pretty simple, really: great food, great service and a warm welcome, in a nice, friendly environment – that’s what we aim to do best. Our head chef Jack Scaterfield, who took to the MT hob earlier this year, has been perfect for us, and we’re a great fit. His food is spot-on for our ethos: tasty, inventive without being fussy, and with great veggie and vegan options too. Pub in the Park is a wonderful opportunity for him to showcase his work beyond our four walls.” “I like to bring flavours and influences from around the world to Bath, using the best-possible locally sourced produce. My festival menu is reflective of the kind of food we serve on our regular menus: simple, tasty and seasonal,” says Jack. “Each pop-up Pub in the Park pub is asked to do three tapas sized dishes, so I’m doing cauliflower and heritage carrot pakoras with red lentil dhal, fried curry leaves, fresh mango and coriander; lamb with aubergine and chickpea tagine, cucumber, yogurt, pomegranate and fresh mint; and salt and pepper squid with chilli jam, spring onion, fresh lime and basil. So, there’s a vegan dish, a meaty option and a seafood taster – something for everyone, designed to be eaten standing up or walking around.” And Jack is hoping, of course, to do some walking around at the festival himself during his downtime. “I’m looking forward to rubbing shoulders with chefs such as Angela Hartnett, Josh Eggleton, Alisdair Clarke and, of course, Bath’s own Chris Cleghorn, who earned a Michelin star for The Olive Tree Restaurant last year – they’ll all be on site, hosting demos. And at the end of each festival session, I’m hoping that the pub will have that same after-show buzz this year that it did last time around too.” “The Marlborough Tavern holds a place in people’s hearts, all year round,” says Joe. “People have got engaged and married there, met special people there, made friends there – I’m proud that we’ve created a place where our customers can create happy occasions; that’s what keeps the buzz alive, for me.” n Pub in the Park, Royal Victoria Park, 21–23 June; pubintheparkuk.com/bath The Marlborough Tavern, 35 Marlborough Buildings, Bath. Tel: 01225 423731; marlborough-tavern.com

Profile for MC Publishing Limited

The Bath Magazine May 2019  

The Bath Magazine is Bath’s biggest monthly guide to life and living in the city of Bath

The Bath Magazine May 2019  

The Bath Magazine is Bath’s biggest monthly guide to life and living in the city of Bath