Yeah, of course I’m joking. Cheltenham is now very definitely a great town for eating out. It ain’t London, Bristol or Brighton, sure, but it also ain’t even a city.
So, The White Spoon is new last weekend. Service was friendly and excellent, there’s no sign of opening-month meltdown that I could see. The dining room is cosy and informal, with bare wood tables and warm lighting from old-fashioned bulbs in sconces made from copper pipe (the cosy, warm lighting is why I can’t show you any decent photos, sorry!). Their wine list explores some interesting areas; Maureen had a glass of excellent Greek white wine with her main, an Assyrtiko, and I had a powerful Chardonnay with a really surprising caramel flavour. Food!My starter was of goat cheese and beetroot, hardly an unusual pairing. The Cerney Ash goat came three ways: the cheese, fresh curds, and a set custard which had the most delicious texture. Beetroots and carrots were pickled, charred and dried to crisps. All very tasty. Maureen’s crab tortellini came in a very dark, rich broth with a really punky south-east Asian flavour… lime and ginger? This broth was the star, so powerful that the well-cooked tortellini could have been filled with crabsticks for all we’d have noticed!
For main I chose duck, hooked by the idea of “red wine turnip”. And yeah, these little cubes of faux-beetroot tasted fantastic and partnered the juicy pink duck very well. Good confit potatoes too. Maureen went surf-n-turf: pork belly and sea bass with smoked potato and salsa verde. The pork was a lovely block, very well treated, the flesh moist and the skin scorched to add a nice bitter note along with the piggy fat. The smoked potatoes were full-flavoured and stood up with the pork very well. The dish probably didn’t need the fish, especially as it was small beside the pork belly, but it was well cooked with good charred skin too. The mustardy salsa verde gave the dish its tang.Puds were not the strongest course. My custard tart had very thin, damp pastry that added nothing to it. The custard itself was good, the blackberries and meringue shards adding fruit ‘n crunch respectively. Maureen’s raspberry and pistachio fool was an oddly messy bowl of stuff, given the great presentation of everything else so far. It was tasty enough, and I’ve seldom seen such plump and delicious raspberries!
The White Spoon deserves to do well. It’s a lovely spot with a good menu. As you can see, I’ve picked a few holes, but we enjoyed all our dishes and I’m looking forward to returning to find out how the menu changes and evolves. This is chef’s first time as head of his own kitchen, apparently, so it’s only going to get better. The meal was about £32 for three courses without drinks, and I’d say that’s about right.