I actually can't believe that it has taken the best part of two years to review - albeit shamelessly plug - my favourite snack-stop in Bath and yet, no trip to my former student-based stomping ground is complete without dipping into Ben's Cookies for as many confections as one's financial situation/expandable waistline can accommodate...
Date and time: Sunday 21st October 2012, 11.30
Name of Establishment: Ben's Cookies*
Location: 21 Union Passage, Bath
Reason for Visit: Looky looky...a superior cookie!
Nestled amongst the various outlets that flank the criss-crossed corridors behind Bath's main shopping street, Ben's Cookies instantly appeals to the sweet-toothed passer-by with a vibrant red colour scheme and, upon closer inspection, its nostalgic branding courtesy of well-known illustrator, Quentin Blake. This is a quaint and cosy space - not particularly somewhere to stay awhile given that its interior will comfortably accommodate no more than one group of people opting to 'eat-in' - but it's friendly and inviting nevertheless. What's more, utilising what is essentially a rather modest external area - where it is commonplace to see a queue snaking beyond its neighbouring establishments - a sprinkling of seating has been provided beneath all-purpose parasols. That said, with ten outlets in the UK (though mostly in the big smoke) and curiously, a fair few overseas (with branches in Saudi Arabia, UAE and South Korea), the best way to get one’s fix is the mail order service - yes people, I'm referring to the stuff that dreams are made of...cookies delivered directly to one’s home/workplace/loved-one’s gaff...delete as applicable! Here, a tin of eight will set you back £12.50 (exclusive of P&P*), and boxes of fifteen or thirty; £15.95 and £30.00 respectively. These deals are also available in-store which incidentally, lessens the damage to one’s pocket in that buying ‘on mass’ avoids the pricey concept of purchasing cookies by weight; which admittedly makes this a rather expensive habit to become accustomed to.
Though once bitten twice hooked, this is a sugar hit that is most definitely worth the pennies. Made from what the website claims are the finest ingredients – namely the best quality plain, milk and white chocolate, unsalted butter, sugar, free-range eggs and wheat (all from local producers near to Ben’s kitchen in Oxfordshire; where the dough is prepared) cookies are baked throughout the day and sold fresh from the oven. Furthermore, shunning the biscuity-bore so often found elsewhere, Ben's cookies are almost cake-like in terms of their disposition; offering real sustenance with a subtle crispiness that encases the soft, chewy deliciousness within – all without being stodgy, over-sweet or greasy which is, quite frankly, a triumph!
And without further ado, my top picks are as follows, (though I'd hasten to add that I’d happily indulge in any of the fourteen available flavours): Peanut butter; complete with whole nuts and that distinctive earthy sweetness, oatmeal raisin; not too dissimilar to a rock cake with a gooey cinnamon-spiced centre and chocolate orange; which, flecked with zesty orange peel, contains sizeable chunks of real milk chocolate that just melt-in-the-mouth; especially when accentuated with that undeniable just-baked warmth. Incidentally, I usually buy ‘to-go’ which, despite initial rather virtuous intentions, usually last little under an hour after exiting the shop. That said, if you are all about the here and now (and able to bag one of the coveted cushioned cuboids), you can choose from a range of hot and cold drinks to wash down your edibles. Here, all the usual suspects alongside some pretty decadent sounding milkshakes and yet, if you have room for the latter, you're not, in my view, making the most of your cookie experience!
In conclusion, you'd be mad to omit Ben's Cookies from your visit to Bath – seriously, forget about Millie's Cookies, it's almost certainly about what Ben brings to the table!
And now for the second opinion…
Upon asking a born 'n bred Bathonian where best to take friends who had never visited the City, he put Ben’s Cookies at the top of his list – that says it all really, don’t you think?!
*Which, to be fair, is a whopping £8.50