I travelled home to the hills of The Cotswolds for the festive period and whilst I was of course over the moon to see family and friends, there was a brand new addition to Cheltenham town that I was really quite excited about. The establishment I am talking about is the highly anticipated No.131, housing 11 bespoke bedrooms, a restaurant and bar called Crazy Eights, and all set inside a Grade II listed Georgian villa that had been derelict for seven years!
I had been tipped off earlier in the year about the opening but the plans themselves had been kept secret. Even after emailing contacts at their sister restaurant and scouring their Twitter feed for clues, it was still hard to imagine quite what lay behind the impressive façade of the Crazy Eights restaurant and bar.
When I did finally get the chance to walk through their doors, I was immediately impressed, this had definitely been worth the wait! We were greeted with a warm welcome, our coats quickly taken and an invite to enjoy a cocktail in the lounge before dinner. The lounge felt very homely but finished with a touch of luxury and grandeur, a theme that runs throughout. Here’s a little look at the restaurant and bar and even their dedicated cheese, charcuterie and wine room.
We settled on the sofa in the lounge and perused a cocktail list filled with quite a number of intriguing tipples! I opted for the 131 Sour, a simple yet delicious blend of Gin, Blue Raspberry Syrup, Lemon & Egg White, whilst my sister Kate chose the Dry Daiquiri, composed of Rum, Lime, Sugar, Campari, & Passion Fruit.
After the cocktails were dispatched we made our way to the dining room to take our seats and finally got our hands on their menu. We managed to grab a word with chef Antony, who told us that the food at Crazy Eights will be, wherever possible, English and in season. Their suppliers have been carefully selected for their quality and the menu focuses on prime cuts, which are cooked in the wood fired ‘Josper’ oven. This was immediately apparent on browsing the menu, where we found an impressive list of steaks, alongside a great deal of other mains, starters and sides that were equal in their ability to make your mouth water. After our orders were taken, the Sommelier greeted us with the extensive wine list and offered some excellently informed advice on a few different bottles that would make the perfect accompaniment to our chosen dishes. After an interesting discussion, we decided that the fruity Argentinian Malbec would be the one for the job.
I started things off with a delightful little dish of Potted Goose, Warm Sourdough & Homemade Piccalilli. It was a rich and flavoursome dish that brought back memories of gorging on potted meats at The Disappearing Dining Club’s Summer Picnic. The homemade piccalilli added a refreshing and tangy contrast to the coarse pâté like potted goose, creating one delicious overall mouthful.
Kate went for an equally rich starter of Brixham Crab Gratin, which has apparently already become a firm favourite with diners. Covered in a delicious crust and brimming with flavour, I had to lend a hand as the rich nature of Crab Gratin soon had my sister fearing that she may not have enough room for the main event!
As I mentioned before, Crazy Eight’s menu offers a wealth of incredible cuts of meats, ranging from the 10oz 32 Day Aged Dexter Rump Steak all the way to the giant and brilliantly named 32oz Aberdeen Angus Tomahawk! Or if you fancy your steak extremely rare you may want to sample the Steak Tartare, available as either a starter or main might I add.
I kept things reasonably simple with an 8oz Aberdeen Angus Fillet Steak but topped it off with a Fried Duck Egg and coupled with a side of Roasted Bone Marrow and Creamed Spinach! Well it was the season of indulgence after all!
Kate jumped at the chance to sample a slice of Wagyu Beef and chose the 8oz 36 Day Aged Wagyu Wales Sirloin, covered with some great charring and what was a first for me, Stilton Hollandaise! Somehow I had never heard of it but believe me when I say that that is some sauce! Luckily she didn’t mind me sharing!
Both dishes were faultless, cooked to both our tastes and finished with delicious and noteworthy accompaniments. I think I mentioned when I reviewed Flat Iron that I very rarely go for steak when I dine out, as I feel my own attempts are usually pretty good. However, just as when I dined at Flat Iron, Crazy Eights’ offering has made me sit back and really appreciate just what a good steak is.
I hit the dessert course alone as Kate’s sirloin had gotten the better of her. I wanted something light and refreshing that would sit well with my final glass of Malbec, so decided on the Hot Custard Tart with Spiced Winter Fruit Compote. It fit the bill perfectly with a delicious texture, far removed from cold custard tart, as it melted on the tongue immediately. It was a satisfying final dish that topped off a night of exceptional food and drink.
No.131 and Crazy Eights definitely deserves the hype and anticipation that surrounds it. My Sister and I enjoyed every minute of our evening with them. You’d be wrong to think it was only down to the food and drink though. What No.131 does so well is to create a relaxed but special dining experience, delivering a modern twist on the Best of British with impeccable service from knowledgeable staff; all within a classy renovation of their Grade II listed Georgian home. It’s far more than your average restaurant and one that I think will prove to be extremely successful in the months to come. I even found myself heading to the underground Crazy Eights bar on another two nights whilst I was at home as I was so impressed. The bar is slightly different to the upstairs dining room and lounge, with a real feel of Shoreditch inside, whether it was the interior design or the fact that the Camden Town Brewery’s finest were on tap, I’m not sure!
This place is hot on the lips of all those in the know and I am sure it will soon be on those of the less informed too. Whichever category you fall into, definitely head down soon and see if you agree that this new kid on the block is definitely worth shouting about. I look forward to returning on my next trip home that is for sure.
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