25 February 2009

le champignon sauvage restaurant, cheltenham

it's that time of year where I'm hunting for somewhere to go eat for my birthday I don't like dining on a different date, so this has been the first time in 3 years I've been able to go back to le Champignon Sauvage, a 2* michelin resto just 2 streets away, that is closed Sun/Mon

here's the menu that greets us
: food click on the zoom icon, then drag your cursor round the page to read

Our table is booked for 7:45 & on our prompt arrival we are met with 4 members of staff. It's not fully booked then.
Which never bothers us, we don't mind being the only souls in a restaurant - but we muse about hard times hitting the restaurant industry, & whether some out-of-the-way places have the resilience for difficult times ahead - my husband thinks Cheltenham is remote.

Over a gin-tonic & a prompt amuse-bouche - we read the menu.
I can eat anything presented to me, save the rabbit tortellini starter that has a vanilla purée. I've had vanilla dishes before, & as with the addition of chocolate into savoury plates, it doesn't please me very much.

So our starters are to be:
- celeriac lasagne, sole, cockles & sea beet & for me
- roast lobster with miso glaze, oat groats risotto, onion & orange spiced bread both are delicious.

Tony says his fish lasagne is the second to best starter he's ever tasted. The first was in Brussels somewhere.
My lobster is a sweeter flavour than I expect, I put it down to the miso. The oat risotto is sticky as a pudding texture would be. I enjoy it tremendously. The lobster pieces are a little firm.

Another interim appetiser arrives. I do so enjoy these. It's a cumin & cauliflower smooth glass, I can't detect the cauli much over the roast cumin hit. & it reminds me of our soya milk at home.

Nice though.

We've worked on our main dishes, and go for the Winchcombe venison, its bolognaise, chervil tuber purée, liquorice root jus
We used to live next door to the great church in Winchcombe & I recall our walking with 3 times the normal weight
boots - completely clay sodden - around the C12th Hailes Abbey, when a deer jumped right out of the hedgerow in front of us. This gives me the chance to employ that well used remark I don't know who was more astounded & guess the deer didn't sense our footsteps, dulled by the mud.

so we have .......... that local venison,
& I really desire fish, the zander, carrot star anise purée, duck heart & green raisins, coupled with a red wine foam that doesn't feature on the menu.

It's stunning dining. We are both rather quiet picking at every morsel combination before us.
and the flavours are harmonious.

However, there is a downside to note, which is true each time we have eaten here. The main star of the plate (be it fish or game or cinderford chop) plays second fiddle to the sophisticated creativity.
The venison is not melt in your mouth, the zander isn't distinctive in its own right, it's disguised too much by the duck flecks around the plate.
& I recall a lamb meal on another occasion that was overcooked.

But we are easy diners, and it doesn't really matter - it's just a remark.

No puddings for us, & we point out some cheese, this is a portion for one.
Another dainty appetiser arrives, one of my favourite things = a beignet with onion marmalade


Working clockwise as instructed on the cheeses, I eat mine with caraway thins, & Tony uses the fine breads
.... we go
from the selles-sur-cher (one of my favourite cheeses)

we seem to be working exponentially through the scoville scale of cheeses.
..... to the last one, an epoisses, is devastatingly strong. I am asked if I can recreate the breads - so my husband is really enjoying the baked side accompaniments.

Two coffees now for us, & a generous display of little sweets and chocolates. I have to move them away from Tony who cannot tolerate a biscuit.

& I indulge myself on 3: the coconut block, the sticky
turrón - nice, and the dusty cocoa cone - filled with a fruit cake centre.
Another one would be to force things & spoil it. So we end our meal with that hot vat of dark coffee.

We haven't stinted ourselves on anything, and our bill is £140 for 2, yes it's a lot of money but we've only been out for an indian once this year
- inclusive of 2 bar room gins, a half bottle of Tindall sauvignon blanc 2004 & a bottle of 1998 something I can't remember but it tasted of sloe & was a lighter wine, as we had asked, a supplement on the lobster starter to consider, & a bottle of water too.
It would be easy to get that price way down.

Just one critique if I may, perhaps it's the layout of the dining room, but there is something overly subdued about the restaurant.

Nonetheless, you do have a sensational meal there though.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gill

Thanks for your review. As I read through it, I kept getting the feeling of a place that seemed somehow to be trying TOO hard. D'you know what I mean?

So when I read your remarks about the main ingredient playing "second fiddle to the sophisticated creativity", I was somehow relieved that you'd felt that too, to some extent.

It's hard running a really good restaurant, particularly in these difficult times. You've got to walk the tightrope between letting the ingredients sing, and bringing out something new and exciting in them.

Thanks very much.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gill

I love the sound of the menu and the photos look good. I find some misos are a little sweet for me.

Who needs pudding when you have those cheeses .... You showed great restraint with the sweets and chocolates.. Bravo!! Not sure if I would have resisted as well!!

Anonymous said...

Cheers for the review Gill.
It's the closest I'll get to sampling the food there unless we win the lottery.
As you say it's not cheap but you get what you pay for.
A belated Happy Birthday to you and may there be many more.
Scott-FoodMB member.

Gill the Painter said...

Pleasure, Ian.

The Wandering Pit said...

Looks devine!! Really interesting reading!

Gill the Painter said...

thank you Lucinda, Tracey - hi Scottie!

Anonymous said...

What a flavoursome meal....!
Looks like you had a fabulous Birthday Dinner there Gill, deserving your praise at a resto that continues to delight you, and a great way to kick-off the year ahead!

Considering how terribly good you are at not eating out most of the time, it is almost bordering on frugality!!!

Like you, I've often felt that presentation takes centre-stage over the actual food in many high-end restos, and have mixed feelngs about it... because it's usually a special treat, so I avoid being too critical and try not to mind unless it's of national-debt proportions!

Thought you were particularly restrained with those chocs - I'd be disappointed if you left without a little to-go bag...??!

Gill the Painter said...

Can you imagine those raised eyebrows if one asked for a doggy bag.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I know - but the devil always makes me....!

Anonymous said...

This makes wonderful reading albeit in a sort of vicarious way - yes I was there with you tasting all the lovely dishes and savouring the wine.

From another Feb birthday girl Many happy returns! Jen (AKA Rockblueberry)

Gill the Painter said...

thank you Jen.
and a belated birthday wishes to you too.

Sunflower said...

Lovely meal Gill. I am jealous!

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