Thursday 24 June 2010

The Royal Well Tavern - Cheltenham

Hello readers.
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
GL50 3DN

Telephone: 01242 221 212


aeropagitica said...

Gosh, this is right on my doorstep too! I must cut along and try this menu. The reason for the location of the train station was to prevent hordes of people from being deposited in town for the Gold Cup, so a kilometre's walk down the A40 serves to thin the crowds. Illogical for 51 weeks of the year, but there you go.

Jonathan said...

Ah The Royal Well Tavern. Cowie and I ate there a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. It was a million times better than The Champignon Sauvage which we had visited Cheltenham specifically to eat at.

And very exciting news that you are moving to Bristol. What a great city. You can get stuck in at the Corry Tap and eat sausages to your heart's content at the Clifton Sausage. Looking forward to reading about your adventures.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

So glad you made it there, Dan - and that you had a cracking meal, too, by the look and sound of it. I only wish more places could do the RWT formula.

Good luck with the Bristol move - I'm sure Bristolians will be super-glad to have a certain Essex 'something' added to the mix...;) Looking forward to reading all abaht it.

Dan said...

aeropagitica - Wow lucky you, I'd be in there all the time with such a cheap and quality Prix Fixe menu. Oh - and with regards to the station location, hahaha that makes sense I guess. BTW - I got a good look around the Montpelier and the Suffolks later on, very nice indeed.

Jonathan - Glad to hear its still as good as when you ate there a couple of years ago! Is the Champignon Sauvage the 2 Michelin star place?
As for Bristol - Thanks very much mate, the Corry Tap? I dont know it, but Im aware of the Clifton Sausage :).

Helen - Thanks to the heads up on this place! really good call. Agreed, there arent many places that seem to be able to pull off a really decent and cheap set menu. I always liked the bar at Butlers Wharf Chophouse near Tower Bridge for that, but haven't been for a long time, and now it's no longer Conran so not sure if its the same. Thanks for the Bristol best wishes...yes, I shall bring them 'something' for sure!

Food Urchin said...

Good luck with heading out West fella, you shall be sorely missed.....

but hey no doubt you'll still turn up at gatherings and events like a bad smell ; )

Keep searching for those food finds, even if you do keep ending up in the arse end of town.

The Ample Cook said...

What a great meal and outstanding value. You've described the meal beautifully with your words and your photos. Well done you.

Well, Bristol's gain is Essex's loss Dan. I will look forward to reading about all your new foodie adventures.

Good luck Dan x

Northern Snippet said...

That's amazing value.The main course portion looks quite small though? Even so.
Re: the water thing,don't mind at all if people want tap water with a meal or with OTHER drinks.Its the people who ask for a tap water and NOTHING ELSE that grate,and it does happen.Don't understand why you would sit at home then decide Oh lets go down the pub for a tap water.
Even had one last week who asked for a slice of lemon in hers "to give it a little something".Why not buy "something" instead?
Even tap water has a cost,staff to serve,glasses to wash,ice etc.

Sorry that had nothing to do with the review which I enjoyed,might try there when we pass through Bristol in Oct.

Dan said...

FoodUrchin - Thanks mate. I will be turning up back in London often, you wont get rid of me that easily!

Jan - Thanks. Awww what a lovely thing to say, lets catch up for lunch before I go oui? x

Northern Snippet - It's actually bigger than it looks, I'm a growing lad :) and if I was happy with it, then I reckon most people would be hahaha
Interesting to hear someone in the trades take on the water issue and I agree (dont worry, I had a pint with my meal!)
I can appreciate it costs money, Im suprised to hear people come in a pub and drink only water, but it takes all sorts I guess.
Keep an eye on the blog, I'll be writing about other Bristol restaurants in the near future.

gastrogeek said...

My ex used to live in Cheltenham, so I know it fairly well. Shame this place wasn't there then, great write up - especially love your use of the word "verdant"

Dan said...

Rej - Thanks :) Yes indeed, check me out getting all funky with my thesaurus. I just need to fit the word "indubitably" in more often for maximum kudos. (You wouldn't believe the amount of arguments I've had with people over whether that was a real word or not).

Hollow Legs said...

Brilliant value - I love that they gave you a pot of cornichons.

Helen said...

Yay! My home town. My parents went here recently and said the service was awful so it's interesting that you had a different experience. I must pay a visit when I'm next back home.

Dan said...

Lizzie - I was impressed by the pot of cornichons too heheheh easily impressed it seems! No, at £12.50 it was brilliant value, agreed.

Helen - That's really interesting, the service was examplary when I visited, I was really impressed. Shame it's perhaps not consistent. Did they like what they are though?
Be interested to hear what you think if you visit.

Jonathan said...

The Coronation Tap is an iconic pub that serves Exhibition Cider. It's worth the trip to Bristol alone. Be warned. It's like drinking apple juice.

And yes, Le Champignon Sauvage is the eerily quiet 2 Michelin starred badger.

Graphic Foodie said...

Good luck with the move Dan and watch out Bristol!

Dan said...

Jonathan - Thanks for that, I'll make sure to check it out next time I'm in Bristol. (This weekend).

Graphic Foodie - Thanks Fran!!