A couple of weeks ago we went on a pilgrimage to the fiancé’s homeland – in other words we drove to Cheltenham. In addition to practising my technique with my newly acquired driving license, (I missed a few ‘give way’ lines and was accused of trying to kill his parents!), the purpose of the trip was to take my Aunt for dinner at Cheltenham’s Le Champignon Sauvage as a special thank you. The fiancé has been telling me about this place for years so we decided to go and try it out. I had been geeking up on the history etc in anticipation of the great feast and found that Le Champignon was very highly regarded (it has two Michelin stars) but did not realise quite what a treat I was in for. Every mouthful was as scrumptious as you would imagine, however it was the combination of ingredients, flavours and textures which was so fascinating and created a restaurant experience unlike any other.
Heston Blumenthal describes the chef (David Everitt-Matthias) as ‘A gastronomic visionary whose imagination is expressed so beautifully through his cooking’. With this quote ringing in my ears we headed to a quiet street in the Montpelier area of Cheltenham, where I knew we would not be disappointed.
Despite being the kind of person who is very sure of my opinions (You may have noticed!), I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on, commend, or worse, criticise a gastronomic experience of this calibre, created by the chef patron who has been doing what he does so well for almost as long as I have been alive. I will therefor simply listwhat we had for your delectation. I won’t pass comment on each course – you can confidently assume it was all amazing, delicious, mouth-watering etc without me endlessly reeling out descriptive platitudes!
We started with a selection of canapés including a goat’s cheese dip, sweet corn and bacon mini muffins and finally (I know I said I wouldn’t) the most amazing parmesan cream cubes rolled in powdered chorizo. This was followed by an amuse bouche of leek and potato soup with a truffle velouté (You know how I feel about truffles).
On to the starters – I was rather less bold than fiancé who opted for the frankly terrifying sounding combination of braised pig’s cheek served with crispy pig’s ear in a risotto of nettle and garden snails! My choice of lobster tail in Thai broth with kohlrabi and sea cabbage ravioli came served in a beautiful stone bowl which really added to the appeal.
The main course was superb (sorry!) the most amazing combination of textures and flavours where every bite was almost sweet – a really unique mix of chump of lamb on incredibly smoky aubergine puree with whole hazelnuts and a lemon cream. Fiancé opted for venison with roasted golden beetroot and quince. All this was served in the almost homely dining room – the restaurant is run by a husband and wife team and there is a wonderful cosy atmosphere that I think London restaurants would struggle to recreate.
A palate cleansing oat and mascarpone creation followed, and just as we were planning to go on to pudding, our heads were turned by an eye popping cheeseboard that happened to be wheeled passed at just the right moment. Resistance was futile – we tried five different cheeses ranging from Vacherin Mont D’or (the mildest!) to Lincolnshire Bomber and particularly pungent Roquefort, all served with superb rye infused crackers.
All of this indulgence was rounded off with pressed apple on a raisin brioche with salted caramel and almonds and as if that wasn’t enough, coffee and petit fours. We had to be rolled home, especially as this feast had been accompanied by lots of good wine, but it was well worth it for such a wonderful evening in such a unique and special place.