[Cheltenham] Champignon Sauvage

There’s some restaurants that get their two Michelin stars with all the bells and whistles of modern scientific cheffery. It can be interesting food to eat now and again. Then there’s other places that get their two stars by serving plates of food that you really want to eat. No, I mean really, really want to eat. And this is firmly in the latter category.

There were some lovely canapes in the bar to get us going. Most memorable were Parmesan crisps and a goats cheese and tarragon mousse to dunk them in. Then, once at our table , an “appetiser” – what more poncy places might call and amuse bouche. It’s lovely and light – a nettle veloute, salt cod mousse and a potato crisp. No – not a Walkers sort of crisp!

As a starter, there’s a crab salad. Is there anything more summery than a crab salad? For a bit of textural crunch, there’s shavings of a crisp pear and long, decorative shavings of kohl rabi. The dressing is oyster based and there’s more crunch and sweetness from hazlenuts.

The other starter was no less light and summery. It features rabbit , always a delicate meat and here offered as loin, as well as rillettes and a soft, perfectly seasoned parfait. A muscat jelly adds sweetness and there’s tiny carrots which, truth be told, don’t add much.

Everything so far has been accompanied by an excellent choice of bread – a bacon and shallot brioche is exceptional – and more is offered with the main course. Duck breast is perfectly pink. There’s aubergine, so meltingly soft as to be almost a sauce. A couple of slices of melon have been seared, giving an edge to the sweetness. A bit of chard works well. And the slightly asian tasting sauce is bang- on.

Turbot was also perfectly cooked. It sat on a thin slice of pressed pigs head. It seemed an odd combination but the pork worked in a similar way that bacon might have been used. There’s different preparations of cherry and larger tomatoes, together with slightly wilted Little Gem lettuce leaves for some crunch.

Desserts were both affairs that you’re not sure if they’re going to work. But they do.

There’s a blueberry cannelloni. Its richness is cut with the slight tang of wood sorrel in the accompanying cream, as well as by a yoghurt parfait.

Mango is the main feature of the other plate. Perfectly ripe, it smells and tastes very floral. Alongside, a sorbet based on the flavours of Thai green curry. Nah, it’ll never work. Yes, it does. There’s just a tiny hint of spice in the background but the predominant flavour is citrus, presumably from lemongrass. Oh yes, this really does work.

And, to finish, espresso is both full flavoured and hot. It comes with petit fours – eight different ones are a credit to the pastry chef. It’s been a lovely evening.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold