It’s been almost a year since the upscale Japanese restaurant Robun opened in Bath, so we thought we’d go there and try it for lunch.
Robun is in a great part of Bath, sitting just up Milsom Street next to the iconic Adventure Cafe, tables and chairs outside and everyone dines and drinks al fresco when the weather is nice .
I have been to many Japanese restaurants in London and elsewhere so was looking forward to trying Robun. I went here with a friend on a sunny Thursday lunchtime in Bath so was surprised to find the restaurant almost empty.
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Thursdays became the new Fridays after all and Bath was bustling at the time. The decor is cool, contemporary with an almost nightclub feel so maybe it’s more of a nightspot?
We were greeted by a very pleasant waiter when we arrived but the place lacked atmosphere on a sunny afternoon in Bath. It’s a shame it’s so empty.
Robun’s cuisine resembles a fusion of Japanese and European cuisine and is named after Japanese author Kanagaki Robun, an expert in Western cuisine, who introduced European barbecue to Japan.
While Robun’s main menu is extensive with plenty of choice including sushi and sashimi, we opted for the lunch menu which we thought was good value at £20 per head.
We had the Vegetable Hosomaki, like a version of sushi with a thinner and more delicate roll, which was the best dish on the menu, five pieces of fresh sushi or maki rolls filled with finely chopped fresh vegetables and served with a pinch of black, aromatic sauce.
We also had the Age Vegetarian Gyoza, a pan-fried vegetable dumpling, which was quite bland to be honest.
The menu doesn’t explain exactly what each dish is and our waitress seemed to know even less than us so it was pretty much a guessing game about what we were eating. It’s not the fault of the waitress, the staff in a restaurant like this serving Japanese food should be well trained by the management.
For main courses, we chose the Wagyu Sliders signature dish, such as mini Wagyu burgers in a brioche bun, and Karaage chicken which our waitress told us was fried chicken. Simple as.
The famous Wagyu meat was tender and delicious but the burgers were a little messy to eat and the guacamole seemed completely out of place. You get the feeling that a lot of European food is fried and trying to appeal to an English palate, much like Chicken Tikka Masala does in Indian restaurants.
It all looks delicious, but somehow it doesn’t amount to authentic Japanese cuisine, which is disappointing from that perspective.
The fried chicken was dry and really disappointing to be honest, just fried chicken pieces with yuzu kushu and lime. We asked what yuzu kushu was, but were rewarded with a bewildered shrug, so I’m still none the wiser.
It feels like Robun is a Japanese restaurant trying to be European and sometimes it just doesn’t work. We simply had to try the famous Japanese wine Sake, expensive at £8 or £14 a glass depending on what you choose.
I’ve tasted sake before, it’s an acquired taste I would say, not for me but I know people love it. So I opted for wine to go with my lunch instead.
We ordered two glasses of delicious Whispering Angel rosé wine which was recommended to us, it was delicious but expensive at 15 a glass. We should have ordered a bottle but originally planned to only have one, you know how it is. It was my weekend so I went for the second drink so to speak.
We were shocked when we received the bill, it was a whopping £125.50, £40 for food and an alarming £80 for wine, plus a service charge of £15.69 and £3.50 for a bottle of wine. ‘sparkling water.
It’s amazing how the bills pile up in restaurants, a few glasses of wine and you’re in triple figures. Sometimes the restaurants in Bath lure you in with good value menus, but the price of alcohol can be very high I find. We know that wine is expensive in restaurants, but it’s really a bit overpriced in our opinion.
It has been a difficult time for hospitality we know and there is a staff crisis so we agreed that maybe we had a bad day and would come back to Robun in the evening as we like support our restaurants in Bath. But we also have to be honest or our reviews, good or bad, don’t make sense.
We found the food to be average, we didn’t have much help choosing our food and the wine was very expensive, although the portions were generous. We thought £20 per person was good value, but £125.50 for two people is expensive in any language, which is a lot of money these days.
And the staff must be able to inform customers about the dishes. We were unfortunately disappointed with this fairly new restaurant, we hope we will have a better experience when we return.
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