Review: Corkage

There’s surely only one way to celebrate a restaurant’s birthday, and that’s by going there to fill face…

In December 2015, Richard Knighting and Marty Grant opened a pop-up restaurant. Three years later their creation – which quickly turned into a permanent gaff on Bath’s Walcot Street – is still going strong, and now has a younger sibling too, on Chapel Row. 

This restaurant-cum-wine-bar is about as social as it gets; the small plates are great for sharing, there are more wines that you could ever hope to get through, and you’ll find no long menus to take your attention away from either of the above – or your chosen company (so be sure to take someone with good chat). The Chapel Row restaurant is a little bigger than its Walcot Street counterpart, with banquette seating running along both sides of the galley-style dining room, and a newly designed garden at the back that spreads over two levels.

It’s got the feel of a rustic European wine bar, not least because of all the weathered wood, huge collection of wines on display, and rather apt grapevine that spills its fruit over the top of the trellis in the garden. The relaxed continental vibe is also helped along by the friendly, chatty staff who, in the purposeful absence of menus, talk you through what’s on offer. The food, too, takes its inspiration from Europe, with special influence flying in from sunny Mediterranean countries.

Sat in the garden in said vine-enclosed nook at Chapel Row, we found out that we were actually there on its first birthday. And that was all the excuse we needed (who am I kidding – as if we needed any) to kick off lunch with a glass of something gold and fizzy. The proffered bottle was a 2014 Cava from Castillo Perelada; a brut nature, it was dry and crisp and an ideal aperitif out in the sun. This number has not long been released for general sale – the makers used to keep it all to serve at an event they hold each year. 

The cod goujons with aioli (£8.50) arrived in a set of four, their golden crumbed shells seasoned with salt flakes that gave bursts of flavour in the mouth. The fish inside was tender and juicy – really noticeably fresh and precisely cooked. I know what you’re thinking: posh fish finger. And you’re right, but you won’t look at the Captain’s frozen versions the same after scoffing these. 

There was caponata (£7) too; the slow-cooked medley of courgette (well, ’tis the season), olive and tomato was served at room temperature on two slices of toasted Bertinet bread, and topped with a flourish of pine nuts and rocket. 

Cauliflower (£6.50) had been chopped into florets, coated in a spiced batter and plopped into the fryer. Emerging as crisp, golden pakoras with perfectly cooked insides, these bite-sized beauties appeared at the table with a generous dollop of fresh and fruity mango chutney. 

A handsome-looking globe artichoke (£9.50) arrived next; we hungrily fanned out the leaves and began peeling them off, dunking them into the super-savoury anchovy and pine nut dip before scraping off the delicate flesh with our teeth. A great snack to nibble on over a glass of wine or three, it was like a decedent – and far more delicious – crisp and dip scenario. (Way to step up your game when it comes to Netflix-binge snacks.)

We’d finished that cava by this point, and seeing as we had the onglet steak (£10) still to come, ordered a glass of red each. The light, chilled number we settled on was ideal for a good bit o’ beef on a sunny day. And a good bit o’ beef it was; served in slices with a light drizzle of chimichurri, it flaunted its deep pink flesh and loose grain, practically bragging about how tender it was going to be in our mouths. Show off. With it we ordered the spuds (£4.50), which arrived cool and dressed for the occasion with capers and plenty of fresh green herbage.  

A white chocolate cheesecake with a refreshing berry sorbet, and muddle of peach and raspberry (both £6) provided the encore, alongside a well-pitched raisiny dessert wine. 

It’s no mystery why this inviting little bar and restaurant has proved such a hit – be it for a few wines and a snack or a full-on meal. It’s only small, so thank goodness there are two of them. (We wouldn’t say no to a third, mind.)  

Corkage, 5 Chapel Row, Bath BA1 1HN; 01225 423417