When chatting to a friend about our varied itinerary around Europe I mentioned I was going to Bath. You MUST go to Sally Lunn’s she said. I like to eat, so after explaining it was like a tea-room as I’m not one to really argue about sitting down somewhere for a feed we added it to the list. Claimed to be ‘Bath’s Oldest House’ we could hit two birds with one stone on this one for hubby’s interest in building and architecture too.
A rainy day in Bath, we made our way down the small street and through the front door. We didn’t get very far after that, a popular place it seems, so there we stood in the narrow hallway. I didn’t know what to expect, and for some reason has conjured up the picture of a delightful little house in the middle of a garden with a white picket fence and rays of sunshine pouring down on tables as people sipped their tea. Ha ha, I don’t know why as it fitted the more common narrow terrace house abode that the UK is renowned for.
The ground floor was taken but we were able to go upstairs and given a table. The decor was rather plain, nothing too fancy and a little crowded. The kitchen was just off to the side and basically a small domestic-style one just like anyone’s home. We sat down and perused the menu, full of options for ‘The Sally Lunn Bun’. It is at this point I shall divert to their official publications for your information – no point reinventing the wheel!
“Sally Lunn, a young French refugee, arrived in England over 300 years ago. She baked a rich and generous bread known as the Sally Lunn Bun. This bun became a very popular delicacy in Georgian England as its special taste and lightness allowed it to be enjoyed with either sweet or savoury accompaniments.”
There is a lot of other historical information about Sally and her bun provided along with the original kitchen in the basement of the house. The recipe was rediscovered in the 1930s in a secret cupboard. The ingredients remain a secret, although customers are advised it does contain egg and dairy. As stated, the menu offered many sweet and savoury choices. To give the bun fair opportunity to prove itself I chose one of each.
My savoury choice was a ‘trencher’. Trenchers were used many years ago when plates and such apparently didn’t exist, with people instead using their bread to hold their food. I chose the ‘Pork Forestiere’, pork loin steak in a creamy mushroom sauce. Fortunately in our case a plate was provided otherwise there would have been quite a mess. I have to say, the bun was not what I expected.
Accustomed to the variety of ‘home-baked’ quality breads you can get these days there was something about this that missed that mark. They mention that the buns themselves are now produced off-site due to demand, perhaps in this process the original quality is lost. A large bun base was used under my roast and gravy topping. It wasn’t crusty, and was similar in texture to a typical commercial iced-bun. I expected it to be a bit lighter and course. It was neither sweet nor savoury. Even though the bun was toasted my gravy soaked in (I hate that). Being bread though it was quite filling and certainly on a cold rainy day was considered good comfort food.
Moving along, I then had my sweet option. Although they say they try to use the bun bottoms for savoury dishes and the tops for sweet, I scored another bottom. I guess it was a popular day for sweets. With a simple jam and clotted cream it still tasted good. I felt despite being suited to both sweet and savoury meals it lent itself better for the jam and cream. Lighter than a scone, if it weren’t for the size I would possible prefer it …though I am a fan of scone’s buttery flavour and texture.
I’m not entirely sure how this bun has become ‘World Famous’ …it was nothing startling. However if you do happen to have a liking for them they can be purchased individually to take home. According to Google there is some debate as to whether it is in fact the oldest house in bath but it’s probably the only one with it’s original kitchen still in tact! With various stories of celebrities that have visited such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, a little bit of nostalgia makes for a nice experience overall.