It’s great to see restaurants’ regular customers itching to get back out and support their favourite places.
Take Cheltenham’s Le Champignon Sauvage, one of the UK’s most highly regarded restaurants and a bastion of French cooking. On a Friday lunchtime, it was a full house in the socially distanced dining room with owner Helen Everit-Mathias catching up with multiple regulars who she hadn’t seen in a few months.
With a cracking value £40 set lunch including snacks, bread, pre-starters and three courses of Michelin-starred cooking, I can see why the local customers were so keen to get back in the saddle.
A pair of killer snacks set a very high standard which was maintained - a light choux bun was stuffed with a decadently silky and creamy taramasalata whilst a short walnut cookie sandwich was filled with addictively salty and funky blue cheese puree.
A cup of sweetcorn veloute was the very essence of its headline ingredient. Sweet and creamy, it was topped with a crisp arancino fragranced with just the right amount of funky truffle.
Bread is always a highlight at the Champion Sausage; a light and buttery brioche flecked with bacon and shallot and a soft crisp baguette were both lush slathered with butter.
To start a meaty, flaky, crisp-skinned fillet of hake had a lovely note of umami-laden miso. Accompanied by al dente tender stem broccoli and smooth as heck puree, and a sweet-savoury miso dressing twanged with sesame, it was a lovely piece of fusion cooking.
Pressed Cotswold white chicken was juicy of flesh and crisp of skin. Its accompaniments of verdant kale, meaty jus, a silky celeriac puree and a vibrant, citrusy, nutty kale pesto were absolutely bang on.
Onto mains and a gurnard fillet was joined by light and soft squid ink gnocchi, citrusy and savoury ponzu dressing and a peppery watercress puree.
Stupidly tender pork belly was topped with a wafer thin, glasslike crackling. A glossy, anise-twanged meat jus, sweet heritage carrots and another belting carrot puree combined to make a deceptively hearty dish.
A gleaming glazed dome cocooned light and smooth bitter chocolate and nut-laced gianduja cremeux and light sponge. Vital cut through was brought to the pud by an orange ice cream which couldn’t possibly have tasted any more of citrus.
Across the table, a wobbly and fragrant lemon verbena mascarpone panna cotta was topped with raspberry jelly and a super smooth raspberry sorbet packed with tart berries.
At £3.50 for coffee and petit fours, it’s a bargain and an essential order. A cornucopia of delights didn’t have a dud - bubbly mint aero truffle and thick nutty caramel snickers truffles; smooth, fragrant salted lemon and coconut leaf fudges; a chewy almond macaroon ball; tangy blackcurrant jelly with marshmallow; gooey caramel topped chocolate brownie; and pistachio financier were all superb.
We had an absolutely belting meal at Le Champignon Sauvage - it’s never disappointed whenever I’ve visited over the last thirteen years and it’s great to see the food and service on as fine form as ever.
Address - Le Champignon Sauvage, 24-28 Suffolk Rd, Cheltenham GL50 2AQ'
Telephone - 01242 573449