It does what it says on the tin. But does it excel? MARK TAYLOR visits this Bath institution and comes away teary eyed…
Walking into the downstairs bar of the Hudson Steakhouse, I was instantly transported back to 1993. It’s almost 20 years to the day that I stood in this very bar, shoulder-to-shoulder with pints-in- the-air football fans watching England beat Poland 3-0 in the 1994 World Cup qualifiers, thanks to goals from Ferdinand, Gascoigne and Pearce.
Back then, this handsome Georgian building was known as The Hat and Feather, a legendary pub that still holds a place in the hearts and minds – or should that be livers and spleens? – of many a rheumy-eyed Bathonian.
The Hat and Feather was one of those classic pre- smoking ban pubs where you could pretty much get a drink anytime you wanted, regardless of the correlation between the clock and the actual licensing hours. The pub closed for good in 2004 and reopened the following year as Hudson Steakhouse, although ‘The Hat and Feather’ is still carved into the stone above the front windows as a permanent reminder.
It seemed unsporting to mention that England match to my Polish waitress, Aga. And anyway, neither Poland or England qualified for the following year’s World Cup finals, so we would have both been crying into our pints of Tyskie Gronie back then.
Aga has been working at Hudson Steakhouse for the past seven years, which is a remarkable feat in a business where most people seem to move on as soon as they get their first pay cheque. And the Hudson Steakhouse is lucky to have her, as she is as welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable about the menu as you could hope for.
Owned by Richard Fenton, the former chef who also runs Firehouse Rotisserie and Café Lucca in the city, this converted pub is styled more on the New York steakhouse than a British boozer, although you can still pop in for a pint or cocktail downstairs without feeling trapped and pressured into ordering food.
But then, it would take considerable willpower not to be seduced by the menu here, whether you decide to eat downstairs or in the first-floor restaurant with its open kitchen.
Early evening in late June, the upstairs restaurant was bathed in sunlight, which illuminated the room with its wooden floors, reclaimed wood panelled walls and leather seating. On each table there was a tall glass of sea- salt-encrusted breadsticks, ideal for nibbling and dipping as you scan the menu.
You don’t have to be Poirot to work out the main crux of the offering here, but aside from eight or so different steak options, main courses include sea bass and tiger prawn coconut laksa with snow peas and jasmine cashew rice, and veggie-friendly pine nut, butternut squash risotto cakes.
I kicked off with a Hudson starter plate, which included a silky, creamy chicken liver parfait with ginger apple relish and Parmesan crostini; dill-flecked crab and avocado remoulade with a zesty wasabi lime dressing; crisp and plump tempura tiger prawns with spicy ponzu dip; and an Asian-style duck salad with strips of Daffy tossed with that winning combo of sesame oil and soy sauce as well as juicy orange segments, slivers of crunchy carrot and assorted leaves.
The steaks here – all Angus and Limousin beef and hung for a minimum of 35 days – are supplied by Terry & Son butchers along the road, and are sourced from a ‘farm-assured co-operative’ in Staffordshire. Prices range from £16.95 for the flat iron (that’s a ‘top blade’ steak in old money) and rise to £33.95 for a 10oz prime fillet – the latter presumably aimed at any passing Bath rugby players.
I went for the more restrained 10oz rib-eye – a snip at £21.95, although you do have to pay extra for the chips (truffle and Parmesan fries, £4.50, are highly recommended) and all the other bits and bobs, which might cause some wallets to flinch.
But it was a price most definitely worth paying. With marbling like hot clotted cream, this was a steak against which others should be judged. Perfectly seasoned, more rare than medium, juicy and smoky from the grill, I had to put the brakes on halfway simply because I didn’t want it to end. Like Gazza in those 1993 World Cup qualifiers, it was enough to reduce me to tears.
Of course, I didn’t really need to order a slice of dark chocolate tart with candied orange mascarpone (£6.50), but it was simply in the line of duty, m’lud. Dense, rich, with the orange cream adding a subtle lightness to it, it was essentially a cheffy take on a Terry’s Chocolate Orange – but what’s wrong with that?
This was the first time I have eaten at Hudson since it first opened eight years ago and it was good to see the place still busy, producing some very good food and, arguably, some of the best steaks in Bath at the moment.
Just like those shots from Ferdinand, Gascoigne and Pearce I watched on screen two decades past, this was a meal that certainly hit the back of the net.
Hudson steakhouse, 14 London street, Bath, BA1 5BU; 01225 332323; www.hudsonbars.com