Cheltenham is an old stomping ground for the team at We The Food Snobs and never fails to disappoint when we return. On our last visit we had the pleasure of an evening stay at No 131, a boutique hotel inside a stunning Grade II-listed Georgian villa at the heart of Cheltenham’s tree-lined promenade.
For our latest assignment in Gloucestershire’s premium spa town we sat down in Purslane, a seafood-led eatery just a five-minute stroll from No 131. Head down Rodney Road, behind Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre, you will find Purslane but be careful as you can easily stroll straight past the restaurant without realising.
Purslane boasts no fanfare inside or out and that’s the way its owners want it. The original concept for the restaurant envisaged by Parisian manager Stephanie Ronssin and chef Gareth Fulford was for a laid-back neighbourhood venue serving top quality food. It appears the pair have delivered with some style.
The restaurant itself is an intimate space, with just a handful of tables spread over one narrow, sparsely decorated room. Purslane lets its menu do the talking. The strong focus is on seafood – though there are a few meat options – with the promise that every fish served is caught the day before in Cornwall.
In the kitchen, they pride themselves on the freshness of their ingredients and source all products locally. There are seasonal vegetables from the Vale of Evesham, as well as cheeses and rare breed meats from the Cotswolds hills.
We started with the Citrus Cured Scottish Halibut and the Hand-dived Oban Scallop. The halibut was served in thin strips with Fennel, Tobiko Caviar and Granny Smith shreds, which ensured the dish was bursting with fruity flavour.
The scallops were equally pleasing, offering mouth-watering tenderness and blended masterfully with Ham Hock, Fregola, Sea Purslane and Parsley Pesto.
For the main event, we dug into the Cornish Plaice on Stephanie’s recommendation, as well as the Slow-Cooked Duck Leg, Red Cabbage, Crushed Celeriac and Quince. The plaice, which melted in the mouth, was accompanied by Garganelli Pasta, Perigord Truffle Butter, Cauliflower Cheese and Trompettes, an assortment of captivating flavours. The duck leg was equally faultless in texture and flavour.
To conclude, we indulged in the Warm Treacle Tart with Roasted Pear and Clotted Cream Ice Cream and the Coffee Macaron, comprised of 70% Chocolate, Caramel Cream and Macchiato Ice Cream. Both superb!
We think we will be heading back to Cheltenham a little more often now!