It’s nice to get out of Bristol from time to time, and so when a friend and I were invited over to Bath for a meal at (pan-Asian restaurant, obviously) Panasia, we jumped at the chance. Having been open for only eight months at the time of our visit, the venue is still fairly new, and we were keen to see how they were getting on…
It’s a beautiful restaurant, nestled in the terraced buildings of Bath’s George Street, with plenty to keep your eyes entertained before you eat. Gold mosaic walls vie with patchwork-style fabric-covered walls for your attention. Black wire lanterns with red tassels hang from the ceiling, and a metallic gold mural hung from the wall behind our table: a table topped with glass that covered individual compartments, each containing a gold coloured leaf with a different design.
We’d read great things online about Panasia’s cocktails, and so both decided to order their signature cocktail before our meal: the Geisha Blush (£8). Absolutely stunning, both to look at and to drink. It was the rose liqueur and lychee flavours that hit us first, with the yuzu and coconut far more subtle, and the botanical vodka barely discernible. And we loved the pink rose petals nestled between two layers of crushed ice – a lovely added bonus.
Back to the menu, and some tough decisions to make. The ‘Oriental Bar And Restaurant’ covers off a number of Asian countries, including some more creative dishes that you won’t find on the menu of your standard Chinese, Thai or Japanese restaurant.
As a result, prices are a little higher than elsewhere, with starters from £5-£10 and mains from around £9-£17 with rice/noodles charged extra. We were a little surprised that we weren’t asked if we wanted rice when we ordered our mains, but did so anyway.
My dining companion ordered the pan fried scallops with a King William pear purée and a yuzu dressing (£8.95) as her starter: fat, juicy scallops beautifully presented with curls of raw carrot and strips of green and red chilli. Her personal preference would have been to have the scallops a bit hotter and seared for a little longer, but she was full of praise for her starter – complex flavours, but not so strong that they overpowered the scallops. She also liked the fact that the heat came from lashings of black pepper, rather than the traditional chilli.
I was a little more boring in my choice of starter, and instead went for the Yasai Tempura (£5.50).
Rings of green and red pepper in a light, crisp tempura batter held battered strips of aubergine and courgette, and the dish also included a slice of tempura sweet potato which was, unfortunately, a little undercooked. The plum sauce with which the tempura vegetables were served was beautiful, though, rich and sweet.
Onto the mains, and agreement from both of us that my dining partner’s ‘braised British lamb shank slow cooked with onion and new potato in a Massaman sauce’ (£15.95) was the best take on a Thai Massaman curry that we had ever tasted. The meat fell off the bone perfectly, and the sauce was a lot thicker than you’ll normally find in a Massaman curry, but with an amazing depth of flavour. It was also interesting that Panasia had chosen to leave the new potatoes whole and to serve the dish with broccoli, giving the whole plate an air of the English Sunday lunch.
I’d gone for one of our host’s recommendations in the Pacific Seafood (£14.95): stir fried prawn, squid and mussels in garlic and peppercorn. Sadly the photo that I took doesn’t do my meal justice: great pains had been taken with the presentation, but not to the detriment of the flavours.
My main was served in a basket of fried noodles, and included slices of red and green pepper, onion and spring onion which were cooked but still gave a satisfying crunch with every bite. Both the prawns and the mussels on the half shell were large, fat and juicy, and I was surprised to see the inclusion of small pieces of scallop and a whole scallop nestled at the bottom – something that wasn’t mentioned on the menu. Again, the heat in the dish came from large pieces of crushed peppercorns, and the garlic was noticeable but not overpowering. Delicious.
We both decided that we probably hadn’t needed to order our individual portions of steamed Jasmine rice (£2.95 each), as the portions were on the generous side and the accompaniments with which they came were perfectly filling.
Our one major disappointment, sadly, was the dessert menu. Priced between £4.25 and £4.95, it wasn’t particularly Asian, featuring desserts such as iced nougat and tartufo, along with photos, suggesting that they could possibly be bought in? We had both expected a little more, considering the quality of the previous courses, and felt that it wouldn’t be difficult to include more Asian desserts such as fresh fruit platters, coconut rice pudding and Thai sticky rice with mango.
All in all, though, a great meal – and a very good cocktail at the start! Service was friendly and attentive but not overbearing, and the prices may be on the high side for this type of cuisine but an early evening prix fixe menu of three courses for £13.95 (plus happy hour on cocktails!) is a good way to ease yourself in. We’ll be back.
Panasia Oriental Restaurant
Address: 2 George Street, Bath, BA1 2EH
Telephone: 01225 481 001
Website: (under construction)