Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham – Championship Pedigree

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Le Champignon Sauvage
24-28 Suffolk Road
Cheltenham GL50 2AQ
Tel. 01242 573 449

Food type: Modern French

Nearest train station: Cheltenham Spa

Website: Le Champignon Sauvage

Le Champignon Sausage, better known to the locals as ‘the champion sausage’ has been flying the gastronomic flag for Gloucester for nearly 30 years. Chef/ proprietor David Everitt-Matthias has been doing the foraging thing that is so much the rage in todays dining scene long before it was even a thing. It is almost as if he was prophetic in his cooking style, a man way ahead of his time, to include foraged food items on the plate while every one else at that time was messing around with sous vide and foams. Along with his wife, Helen (who runs front of house), Everritt-Matthias has successfully retained 2*s for more than a decade and a half. During this time, many chefs have passed through the kitchen doors, going to carve a career of their own. Alumnus include Matt Worswick and Mark Stinchcombe (winner of Masterchef Professionals 2015). In fact, when I was chatting with Phil Howard recently, he mentions that any chef coming from the kitchen here are technically very sound. David is also the rare breed of chefs who is (until this day) always there cooking in his own kitchen and has never missed a service.

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Dining Room

We dined on a Tuesday night where the restaurant offers the standard fixed priced a la carte menu – 3 courses for £65 as well as a cheaper menu du jour for £32 (also available during lunch). There is no tasting menu available. There are around 6 options per course on the standard a la carte menu where the dishes are slightly more elaborate than the ones on the menu du jour. Selecting the dishes can be tricky though as all the items sound very appealing. The wine list does have a good selection of half bottles and if you look carefully there are some absolute gems at a very fair price. The dining room features tables that are nicely spaced apart and *gasp* table cloths. Unlike many restaurants, they maintain a sensible level of lighting such that you can actually see the food you are eating. Service here is excellent, led by an experienced front of house team, although I wish the atmosphere would have been a lot less hush-hush.

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the Kingham Plough, Chipping Norton – Careless

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the Kingham Plough
The Green,
Kingham,
Chipping Norton, OX7 6YD
Tel. 0162 
8405 405 

Food type: Modern British

Nearest train station: Kingham

Website: the Kingham Plough

The Kingham Plough is one of those places that has always been on my radar ever since chef/ proprietor Emily Watkins started appearing on Great British Menu. Unlike many people, I do take cooking shows like GBM and Masterchef with a grain of salt. You just have to look at how inconsistent the judges scores are compared to the chef’s scores to conclude that at the best of times, the judges are just chatting a bunch of codswallop or at least biased towards certain types of cooking. With Emily winning the fish course, it made me take notice of her pub/ restaurant, but even that itself was not enough reason for me to make a special journey to dine there. Our meal at the Kingham Plough was an impromptu decision, made the day before, as we were staying in the area for a couple of days, having dined at the Wild Rabbit the evening before.

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Restaurant Exterior

We dined at lunch where there was a cheap lunch menu (3 courses for £18) alongside the standard a la carte menu. There are 4 options per course on the small a la carte menu. Thats not a problem for me though this may be limiting to some diners. Items are rather fully priced. Starters are £10 – £12, Mains £22 – £25 (except for the vegetarian option which is £17) and Desserts £7 – £8. Although I am sure that Chipping Norton and the village of Kingham must be an expensive neck of the woods, the prices here are on par with what is being charged at 1* Hind’s Head and Royal Oak, both located at fairly upmarket areas. There is also a bar snacks menu with an extensive selection of snacks and larger plate options which cost about the same amount as a starter.

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the Wild Rabbit, Chipping Norton – One to Watch

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the Wild Rabbit
Church Street,
Kingham, Chipping Norton, OX7 6YA
Tel. 01608 658 389

Food type: Modern British

Website: the Wild Rabbit

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Front Entrance

The first meal of my birthday road trip took us to the village of Kingham where we were booked to stay and dine at the Wild Rabbit. I had thankfully made the booking way back in September before the announcement of the Michelin Guide 2017, where unsurprisingly, they were awarded a star. Since the award of the star, both the restaurant and the accommodation have been fully booked until January. The chef here is Tim Allen who was previously at Launceston Place which used to be a favourite of my wife when he was cooking there for 4 years.

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Dining Room

Tim recognised us when we arrived to check in and offered to whip up a tasting menu for us so we could try a wide variety of his dishes. There is no tasting menu available at the moment as Tim informs me, he is still recruiting people to complete his kitchen team. However, I am sure that this will materialise at some point in the future once more staff are in place. At the moment, there is just an a la carte menu available. Starters are £12 – £13.50, Mains £20 – £32 and Desserts £7. There is no lunch menu available although there is a bar snacks menu which feature smaller dishes.

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Sindhu, Marlow – Work In Progress

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Sindhu
Macdonald Compleat Angler
Marlow Bridge Lane,
Bisham, Marlow SL7 1RG
Tel. 0162 
8405 405 

Food type: Modern Indian

Nearest train station: Marlow

Website: Sindhu

It has been a long time since I last ate in an Atul Kochar restaurant. I was still in university and it was 2008. I feel old just thinking about that. At that time Benares, Atul’s flagship restaurant in Mayfair, had just won a Michelin star, carrying over from Tamarind where he was head chef. Today Atul’s restaurant empire spans over 3 continents with outposts in Dubai, Madrid and India. He also has restaurants on board P&O cruise ships named Sindhu. This is also the name of the restaurant at the Macdonald Compleat Angler hotel in Marlow where we dined.

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Compleat Angler

The dining room is located to the rear of the hotel and has beautiful views of Marlow bridge (which is undergoing refurbishment work) and the River Thames. We dined at dinner where there was an a la carte menu as well as a tasting menu available. Starters are priced at £12 – £15, Mains £17 – £26, Sides £7 and Desserts £8. The tasting menu is £65 and comprises of 7 courses. At lunch, the 3 course set lunch menu is £18, and features pared down versions of the a la carte dishes. We decided to go with the a la carte menu, with an additional main course.

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the Hand & Flowers, Marlow – King of Flavour

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The Hand and Flowers
126 West Street
Marlow SL7 2BP
Tel. 01628 482 277

Food type: British Gastropub

Nearest train station: Marlow

Website: The Hand and Flowers

The meals out for my birthday week continued thick and fast, with a visit to Tom Kerridge’s Hand & Flower’s pub in Marlow my next destination. Booking a table here has become a complete nightmare ever since they got their 2nd star, with tables booked up as far as 9 months in advance. The problem with my job is that I actually do not know what my rota will be like in 6 months and hence, for a while I had just completely given up on ever dining here. Thankfully, the restaurant saw some sense, scrapping the old reservation policy for one where you book 3 months in advance, much like you would at Gordon Ramsay or Fat Duck. In addition, they frequently advertise any late table availability (last minute cancellations) online and that was how I managed to snag a table here for a weekday lunch. For this visit, I would be joined by one of the ‘Pies’ who had also been wanting to dine here for ages.

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Table Setting

The menu here is a simple 3 course a la carte affair. No tasting menus although one is available if you dine in their private dining room called ‘the Shed’.  Items are individually priced with Starters £9.50 – £16, Mains £28.50 – £39.50 and Desserts £10.50. The set lunch menu is a bargain, 3 courses for £19.50. It is actually nice to see the restaurant still offer a set lunch menu as I am sure they could easily do away with it given how fully booked they are. From what I have been told, by a fellow chef, the Hand & Flowers do a solid 150 covers every day. That they are able to produce such consistent food for that many covers is remarkable.

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