Finding ourselves in Bath, we of course opted for lunch at the only vegetarian restaurant in town: Demuths, on North Parade, an alley not far from the Roman Baths Museum. We were a captive audience, not knowing the town well enough to venture in search of vegan fare further out, and pressed for time as well.
Here's the thing you need to realize: vegetarian restaurants in Britain will feature two mains: a risotto (made vegan on request) and a curry. If it's winter, expect to find a nut roast on the menu as well. To round off the sparse lunch menu at Demuths, a non-vegan salad (with blue cheese mousse) was offered.
I love risotto, but, frankly, I've had about all of them I can stand. The table next to us had ordered it and it was a lovely beet red color, which at least added some interest. And as for cauliflower and potato curry—again, I've eaten my fill (the night before, in fact). So two of us ordered the tempura nut roast, which turned out to be large cubes of nut roast, breaded in tempura batter and fried. I'm still working out whether that was innovative or desperate.
My daughter ordered parsnip soup, which, again, is standard fare this time of year. With a big hunk of bread for dipping, it was filling enough for a main dish.
SInce the starter we really wanted, mushroom and chestnut paté, was no longer available, I settled for the "local leeks with hickory smoked potato, hazelnuts, apple and pickled yellow mustard" while my daughter ordered polenta chips. The hickory smoked potatoes were truly divine. In fact they vie with the polenta chips and plum ketchup—actually just the plum ketchup—for first place. Polenta chips are like french fries, only made with sticks of firm polenta. They're becoming standard veggie fare, as well—though in this case the plum ketchup set it above the fray.
The tempura nut roast, served with cider gravy, was probably a better idea on paper. In practice, the tempura batter didn't add anything but calories. The roast veg was nice, along with the cranberry puree. (Though I'd have preferred a dollop of plum ketchup!)
The service was slow, and a bit of misunderstanding meant my starter arrived with my main—I'd have preferred to savor those potatoes on their own for a while. The garlic bread I ordered arrived at the same time too, so it was a case, literally, of famine to feast.
While I'd definitely recommend Demuths for anyone in search of a vegan meal in Bath, it isn't worth a trip to Bath (nor, incidentally, is the Jane Austen Centre, fyi). But there are plenty of other reasons to make a trip to Bath, any time of year, in fact. If you do, pencil in a trip to Demuths Vegetarian Restaurant. The menu will undoubtedly have changed to something more seasonable by then, but I suspect you'll find risotto and curry and polenta chips. And perhaps a nut roast with fusion aspirations.
Demuths is located at 2 North Parade Passage. Follow the signs for Sally Lunn's and you'll come to it. To reserve a table, phone 01225 446059. I rang as we were finishing up at the Roman Baths Museum and secured a table, but on busy days you might want to ring up further ahead, as the restaurant, housed in a Grade 1 Georgian building, isn't very big.
And if you're in Bath for more than a few days, you might check out Demuth's Vegetarian Cookery School, run by Rachel Demuth. The courses look interesting—more interesting, in fact, than the lunch menu.