[Cheltenham] Purslane

There’s a lot to enjoy at Purslane. That’s because they’ve pretty much nailed the basics of what they do. It’s a welcoming room, with comfy seats and attentive, friendly staff. A short menu which is mainly seafood related. And a kitchen that can confidently cook its offerings. Oh yes, I also like the pricing – the dishes for each course are priced the same - £9.50 for starters, £20 for mains, £8 for desserts.

One starter was beautifully presented. A glass dish filled with pebbles. On it sat a scallop shell, which held the griddled scallops, sweetcorn, orzo, purslane (I suppose it had to feature somewhere) and a parsley pesto. This was damn good. As was a crab salad. There’s shreds of white meat, with the brown enclosed in a crispy bon-bon. The sweetness of the flesh is enhanced by carrot – both shavings and puree.

For mains, hake came with crispy polenta and sweetcorn – some kernels blackened under the grill, some not. Nice contrast in flavour there. There’s some spinach, a scattering of clams, matchsticks of pancetta and a very light seafood sauce. Plaice was perfectly cooked and comes with artichokes and pearl barley. A single oyster was battered and deep fried. It all works very well but was slightly spoiled by the wetness of the dish. There was a sauce here, a foam there, a dab of something else – it’s all a bit overdone. But this is being picky. Bread’s a chargeable extra and we’d declined. Maybe we shouldn’t have and could have mopped up the sauces. Although if it was as good as everything else, it’d have been eaten long before main courses arrived.

We passed on dessert. Coffee was excellent.

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

― Jonathan Gold