February 2017 marks the sixth anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Hansel und Gretel Strudel Bar – Bath

Back in the days of my Bath-based stint as a student, I was introduced to Hansel und Gretel, an alpine-inspired grotto of goodies coupled with a snug strudel bar which, secluded in a side-street just a stones-throw away from the picturesque Royal Crescent, remains to date one of my favourite spaces in the City. As such, I love sharing it with others; delighting in their saucer-eyed wonderment which constitutes an inevitable aspect of one's first visit and in fact (and certainly on my part), each and every visit thereafter…

Date and Time: Sunday 9th October 2011, 12:45
Name of Establishment: Hansel und Gretel
Location: 9 Margarets Buildings, Brock Street, Bath
Reason for Visit: Introducing the Best Foodie Friend (BFF) to one of Bath’s best kept secrets

Channelling the Alpine lifestyle and culture, Hansel und Gretel’s owner Christa has drawn on her Southern German roots to create a unique emporium of home furnishings, lovingly-made ornaments and specialist pieces exclusively imported for her ever-present fan-base. This is not to mention a beautiful range of Christmassy knick-knacks and although I have picked up some fantastically bespoke pieces for my tree, I tend rather to visit with my stomach in mind….added eleven years after the shop was founded in 1992, the downstairs strudel bar has become a much-loved addition to the overall charm of this curious dwelling…

Descending the wooden staircase which, tucked away at the back of the shop and lit with rows of twinkling fairy lights, certainly builds on a child-at Christmas style intrigue of what is to be found below. Quietly magical, the strudel bar doesn’t disappoint with authentic alpine décor, (think cosy cabin rather than après ski), soft lighting and quirky cuckoo clocks that punctuate what can otherwise be considered as the epitome of calm. Soft classical music and hushed conversation establishes a relaxed ambiance; its easy to imagine yourself curled up here with a good book! This is an intimately arranged space with just three large tables that have been adorned with hand-made toys; spinning tops and brain-teasers, perhaps to keep its younger clientèle entertained in a bid to maintain the aforementioned peacefulness, (or simply for the young at heart – the BFF was quick to attempt solving the wooden puzzle cube as illustrated below!) Subsequently, nestled amongst the plentiful cushions and enjoying the unspoken hints to the festive season, I almost forgot the purpose of the visit at hand...strudel!
The Quirky Fairy-Lit Counter
The BFFs Shapely Conundrum

And so, on to the menu which presents quite a quandary when it comes to deciding which of the drinks to opt for from a line-up guaranteed to bring about the warm and fuzzies! Besides the usual suspects, a wonderful range of teas sourced from a speciality German company offer such tantalising flavours as 'ginger cool' and 'orange blossom' and the hot chocolate selection is simply divine. The 'Hansi', accented with a crisp orange zing and the 'Berbl' blended with velvety fudge are two of my absolute favourites! On this occasion however, I finally settled on the 'Gustl' (£2.50), a cappuccino with a subtle measure of almond syrup, enough to give it a fantastic rich nuttiness without being overpowering – delicious. Now, I've got to be honest, this is not a place which caters for those unprepared for indulgence as whole milk is served as standard, there are no half-fat, skinny or soya alternatives and this may therefore prove a little problematic for some. I’ll admit that I myself would typically run a mile unless I see evidence of that red, skimmed-milk cap and yet, taking away the creamy viscosity of this drink would surely be more of a sin than consuming its delectable content!  In terms of cold drinks, there are some refreshing and rather healthy options – various juices including bitter-sweet cherry and the highlight, in my view, the 'Annaleesl' (£2.00) which muddles apple and cinnamon with sweet and spicy results. Although primarily offered chilled, this can also be served hot as a toasty winter warmer!
The Gustl
At this point, I must mention the service as the chap solely managing the bar proved attentive and polite; our orders were taken as soon as he gauged that we were ready to do so and in terms of his person, seemed to fit impeccably with Hansel und Gretel’s ethos with his softly-spoken manner and twinkly-eyed smile. And just like that, our strudel arrived; both opting for the ‘Kirsch’ (£3.95) which, baked with apple and cherry and sandwiched between light, flaky pastry, was warming and wholesome, the BFF and I ate silently side-by-side, engrossed in the tradition of this space. Thus, there is little more to choose from in terms of edibles here; a small selection of home-made cakes and tray-bakes and yet, this is simply not required when the strudel, which is hand-made exclusively for the shop, is suitably scrumptious! There are usually two varieties of strudel on offer and you can choose to accompany the ample portion you receive with either ice cream or freshly whipped cream. Both the BFF and I opted for ice cream which we agreed was not of the best quality but nevertheless provided the distinctive contrasts one would associate with a pudding of this kind, most notably the sweet creamy cool of the ice cream verses the tangy warmth of the fruit – yum! Furthermore, the ceramics used in the strudel bar are ‘Gmunder Keramik’, one of the oldest designs of its kind and still made by hand (as it was 300 years ago in the town of Gmunden in Austria on the lake Traunsee) – a fact which demonstrates the real attention to detail here, not to mention the appealing presentation this ensures of each dish. Even tap water (which the BFF and I both ordered to wash down our strudel) is served in delicate wine glasses with a cut-glass print – so pretty.
‘We hope you warm your spirit and fill your heart’ – the touching sentiment offered at the top of Hansel und Gretel’s out-of-the-ordinary menu. I love this; it really sums up the experience brought about by the shop and the strudel bar as well as indicating the passion behind their arrangement and content. I’ve often wondered how somewhere so unique and wintry in terms of its theme withstands its appeal throughout the year, especially in light of the current economic climate. Yet, although you may predominantly consider this a snuggly, homely space more commonly associated with seeking shelter from the elements, Hansel und Gretel is also a comfortable retreat and thus an attractive prospect whatever the season. Besides, who doesn't need a little escapism every once in while and, when it comes to appropriate places in which to lose oneself, I can't think of anywhere more friendly, welcoming and, quite frankly, charismatic as Hansel und Gretel.

And now for the second opinion…
The BFF gave Hansel und Gretel’s 8/10 and in three words, described it as 'sweet', 'tranquil' and 'comforting'.


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