It has been close to a year since upmarket Japanese restaurant Robun opened in Bath so we thought we would go along and try it for lunch.
Robun is in a great part of Bath sitting right at the top of Milsom Street next to the iconic Adventure Cafe, tables and chairs outside and everyone dining and drinking al fresco when the weather was good.
I have been to many Japanese restaurants in London and elsewhere before so was looking forward to trying Robun. I went with a friend on a sunny Thursday lunchtime in Bath so was surprised to find the restaurant almost empty.
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Thursdays have after all become the new Fridays and Bath was bustling at the time. The decor is cool, contemporary with an almost nightclub feel so perhaps it is more of a nighttime place?
We were greeted by a very pleasant waiter on arrival but the place lacked atmosphere on a sunny afternoon in Bath. It is a shame it was so empty.
The food at Robun is like a fusion of Japanese and European food, and is named after Japanese author Kanagaki Robun who was an expert on western cookery, introducing European barbecue to Japan.
While the main menu at Robun is extensive with lots to choose from including sushi and sashimi we opted for the set 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, more delicate roll, which was the best dish on the menu, five pieces of fresh sushi or maki rolls filled with fresh finely chopped vegetables and served with a sprinkling of dark, aromatic sauce.
We also had the Age Vegetarian Gyoza, a pan-fried vegetable dumpling, which was pretty bland to be honest.
The menu does not explain exactly what each dish is and our waitress seemed to know even less than us so it was all pretty much a guessing game as to what we were eating. It is not the waitress’ fault, staff at a restaurant like this serving Japanese food should be well trained by management.
For mains, we chose signature dish Wagyu Sliders, like mini Wagyu hamburgers in a brioche bun, and Chicken Karaage which our waitress told us was fried chicken. Simple as.
The famous Wagyu meat was tender and delicious but the burgers were a bit messy to eat and the guacamole seemed completely out of place. You get the sense much of the European food is deep-fried and is attempting to attract an English palate, a bit like Chicken Tikka Masala does in Indian restaurants.
It all looks delicious but somehow doesn’t measure up to being authentic Japanese food so is disappointing from that point of view.
The fried chicken was dry and really disappointing to be honest, just pieces of fried chicken with yuzu kushu and lime. We asked what yuzu kushu was but were rewarded with a nonplussed shrug so I am still none the wiser.
You get the impression Robun is a Japanese restaurant trying to be European and it sometimes doesn’t work. We simply had to try the famous Japanese Sake wine, expensive at either £8 or £14 a glass depending on what you choose.
I have had Sake before, it is an acquired taste I would say, not for me but I know people do love it. So I opted for wine to go with my lunch instead.
We ordered two glasses of delicious Whispering Angel rose wine which was recommended to us, it was delicious but pricey at £15 a glass. We should have ordered a bottle but we had originally planned on just having the one, you know how it is. It was my weekend so went for the second glass so to speak.
We were shocked when we got the bill, it was a whopping £125.50, £40 for food and an alarming £80 for wine, as well as service charge of £15.69 and £3.50 for bottle of sparkling water.
It is amazing how bills mount up in restaurants, a couple of glasses of wine and you are in triple figures. Sometimes restaurants in Bath lure you in with good value set menus but the price of alcohol can be sky high I find. We know wine is expensive in restaurants but this really is a bit much we thought.
It has been a tough time for hospitality, we know that, and there is a staffing crisis so we agreed we may have gone on a bad day and will return again to Robun in the evening as we like to support our restaurants in Bath. But we also have to be honest or our reviews, good or bad, are meaningless.
We felt the food was average, we did not have much help with choosing our food and the wine was very expensive, although portions sizes were generous. We thought £20 a head was good value, but £125.50 for two people is expensive in any language, that is a lot of money these days.
And the staff should be able to tell customers about the dishes. We were sadly disappointed at this fairly new restaurant, we hope we will have a better experience when we return.