Thursday, 24 June 2010
The Royal Well Tavern - Cheltenham
I have a short announcement to make.
In just a few short weeks, I’ll be exchanging the beautiful shires of Essex for another location in this green and pleasant land. I’m moving to the South West, Bristol to be exact.
Now, before the national authorities are alerted, roadblocks are thrown up and mass panic sets in across Britain, rest assured, nothing will change with regards to the blog, it will still be ‘Essex Eating’, I’ll just be ‘On Tour’.
I can also assure you that I’ll be bringing a certain Essex ‘something’ to the Bristol food scene. (What that ‘something’ is exactly, who knows…. and no, its not an orange perma-tan and a scorching case of crotchrot…errr… ok… as well as those things, I shall bring ‘something’ else, and it shall be good).
I’ll still be back to both London and Essex on a regular basis, so don’t even think of sloping off to get your foodie fixes elsewhere…. I’ve got my beady eyes on all of you. OK?
Now you’re up to speed with what’s going on in my life, lets talk about Cheltenham of all places.
Whilst idly venturing out to explore places in the South West prior to my move, almost on a whim, I decided to visit Cheltenham. I’ve never been there before but I’d heard it was a very nice place indeed.
Deposited at the train station (which I might add is bloody miles outside town), in blazing sunshine, I trudged along a tree-lined avenue towards the centre.
I’d asked on Twitter for lunch recommendations beforehand. It is such an amazing resource for just that type of thing. Follow (and be followed) by the right people, and finding a superb personal recommendation for lunch instantaneously, no matter where you are in the country is as easy as asking. I find it invaluable.
A few people had mentioned that The Royal Well Tavern was just the place for lunch, and I was even supplied with a link to a very complimentary Jay Rayner review from last year, where he extolled the virtues of their bargainous Prix Fixe menu. It sounded spot on to me and I planned to head there, but first….
Cheltenham is supposedly a lovely place, but I needed to exhibit my knack for gravitating towards the complete arse end of town. True to form, my talent didn’t let me down. I was soon scratching my head, wondering where the nice areas were, whilst surrounded by rubbish pubs and pound shops. Less than impressed with what I’d seen so far, I headed back to find the restaurant.
Luckily, I stumbled across many much nicer parts of town on the way there. Cheltenham’s honour remains intact.
Poking my head around the door, my first impressions of The Royal Well Tavern were good. Dark wood panelling and heavy gilt framed portraits give the look of a Victorian gentlemen’s club. It’s nicely done and there’s a rather pleasant relaxed atmosphere.
The good first impressions were reinforced by a friendly welcome as I was seated and a jug of tap water being proffered without being asked for (Seems to be almost the norm nowadays, seems like a lifetime ago when restaurants regularly fleeced you with bottled water and made you feel like a classless cretin if you dared to ask for water a la tap).
Along with some bread, and some local butter, a bowl of cornichons were placed on the table for me to nibble on – nice touch.
Ordering the Prixe Fixe menu, three courses for £12.50, I looked forward to my first course, which didn’t take long to arrive.
A steaming hot, verdant green, bowl of Asparagus Soup impressed me straight away. Its creamy almost foamy consistency was incredible, it was perfectly seasoned and it tasted beautiful, light and fresh. I doubt I’ve eaten better anywhere else. I could have happily eaten another bowl.
My main of grey mullet, lentils, bacon and aioli arrived nicely presented and again, as with the previous dish, perfectly cooked and seasoned. I seriously enjoyed it. From eating this and the first course, it gave me the real impression that there were some skilled chefs at work in the kitchen.
The dessert of Raspberry Bavarois was nicely done, being just the right side of sour and not too sweet. Not quite as knockout great as the first two courses, but good and a perfectly judged way to end lunch.
Whilst eating, I could see into the open kitchen, and the two chefs working away seemed very young indeed, I’m not sure if this is because I’m getting older myself, but nevertheless bearing in mind their apparent youthfulness I was amazed at the quality and the assuredness of the cooking.
So, three excellent courses for £12.50. It’s hard to complain about that, and I wont.
I really enjoyed lunch at The Royal Well Tavern, the food was seriously good, the service was exemplary and the Prix Fixe option is a complete bargain.
I only wish there were more restaurants like this, so I could lunch cheaply in such style more often.
The Royal Well Tavern
5 Royal Well Place
Telephone: 01242 221 212