It was our first date night for a few weeks and there was one place I had been desperate to take him – The Tavern.
All in aid of raising money for Action For Charity: Women v Cancer, bloggers and businesses from in and around the Cotswolds came together to sell new and pre-loved fashion items, crafts, food and other offerings at the very first Cotswolds Creative Market.
Well well well, look who’s back with her blogging mojo! If you’ve not read my previous post then that will probably make zero sense so I’ll leave a link here for you to have a read. Going back to basics, I’m sitting down with a cuppa and sharing my list of 5 things to do in Cheltenham – because I feel like it’s about time I shared what makes this Spa town so darn special.
It was a cloudy Sunday afternoon spent in the most gorgeous, greenest of gardens. I think I found my new happy place.
Rococo Garden in Painswick, Gloucestershire is the most picturesque place. I did a little research on local ‘escapes’ and came across this beauty of a location – the perfect escape to the countryside (not that you have to travel very far out of Cheltenham for beautiful views). Sunshine or not, the flowers were all in bloom and I found myself humming along to Laura Mvula’s Green Garden.
Probably not the best day to be wearing a skirt, I certainly felt the breeze between my knees, March winds in May were in full force!
It’s incredible that this is the only surviving Rococo garden in Britain, I have never seen a garden like it. The term Rococo translates to an ornate style of architecture, art and furniture, which was popular yet short-lived in the early to mid 18th century.
This is the first view you are hit with, the green valley.
We were about to embark on our stroll when the wind took a strong turn so we crept back to the Tea Room for shelter, coffee and cake were calling!
That was some of the best coffee cake I have ever eaten. I mean, it even rivals my own (my Cappuccino cake is a specialty of mine).
Bellies full, we took a wander along the first path that we came across, not knowing where we were going to end up or what we may come across…
The Red House, I’m not sure if it was because there was nobody else about or that the weather was a little overcast but the building had an eerie vibe to it. I have clearly seen too many horror films in my time and my imagination went into overdrive, so I stayed clear of entering the house and admired the architecture from outside instead.
Then out of nowhere, a visitor came to greet us.
Our new friend escorted us along the next path, stopping now and then as I took photographs, what a purrfect companion.
Coat | Oasis
Top | Vintage
Skirt | Miss Selfridge
Boots | H&M
Bag | Zara
The ‘Excedra’ is an impressive feature within the grounds, a structure that you must take a snap of before you leave…
A photo opportunity arose…
I had quite the audience during my silly shenanigans…
Shakespeare and Augustus Caesar to name just two watched on, as I frolicked around the garden. Parting is such sweet sorrow but it was time to continue my escapades elsewhere – the maze was just around the corner!
“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I have had a fascination with mazes dating back to when I was just a small child. The excitement of entering the ‘unknown’, racing friends and family to get to the middle first, pretending that I’m in the Labyrinth and I’m en route to the Goblin Kingdom…
No? Just me who does that? Okay, let’s move on..
You can quite easily find yourself getting lost here within the six-acre valley garden, with the wondrous woodland paths surrounded by wild flowers.
As one path ended, we turned back round to find the next one to explore. Passing our friends Bill and Augustus, more beautiful flowers caught our attention.
Hay! Who is this guy?
His jokes were a bit corny but he impressed me with how outstanding he was in his field.
It’s difficult not to fall in love with this place, it’s a fantastic backdrop for whatever occasion – you can even get married here!
The sun came out just as we decided to call it a day (which the camera didn’t capture).
I’m already planning my next trip – perhaps when the sun comes out to play and I’ll be sure to wear more sensible attire for walking adventures.
Check out the website for full details on admission and events coming up!
As a Cheltonian born and bred I’ve seen restaurants come and go, but when Montpellier Brasserie closed down last summer I was disappointed. Their food and cocktails always raised a smile when I visited and I held fond memories of the place, but I was intrigued to find out who would replace this local dining spot.
Côte is a French chain inspired by Parisian bistros, putting together ‘authentic brasserie dishes with a modern twist‘. From steak to seafood and salads, there is something for everyone to enjoy and I couldn’t wait to tuck in and try what is on offer. Officially opening in Cheltenham on Monday 13th April, myself and a friend got to sample some of the delights a couple days early.
Lunchtime on a Saturday: the atmosphere was lively in an informal yet elegant setting. Friendly faces greeted us as we entered (and departed), the service was efficient and we didn’t have to wait long before our drinks and complimentary nibbles were served. Supervisors were on hand to prompt some of the staff to ensure customers were happy, monitoring the room for further improvements, something that will probably be present for the coming weeks whilst they settle in to their new surroundings. Our waiter was lovely and he was extremely attentive and the quality of the dining experience shone through, even before food reached our stomachs.
We enjoyed a bowl of juicy olives and crusty bread whilst perusing the menu, offering plenty of choice for most appetites. Whilst Sam chose the Boudin Noir as his starter (French black pudding with caramelised apples, poached egg and a frisée salad), I went with an old favourite – calamari.
I was conscious not to fill up on too much fresh bread (despite how tasty it was) in fear of ruining my two courses. Thank goodness I did as the portion of calamari was particularly generous! I’m used to sharing this dish in other restaurants so on average I would expect 6-8 pieces between two people, but there must have been 10+ pieces in this cute little pan of breadcrumbed squid! As my stomach started to shrink I felt like I had been eating a main course, so left the final few pieces for Sam to finish off. Dare I say it it might be the best calamari I have ever had! I would recommend this as a sharing dish though, unless you are feeling particularly ravenous.
For my main I chose the Salmon Fishcakes, a favourite dish of mine, with a baby spinach salad, dill, a wholegrain mustard sauce, and a side of French green beans to compliment the meal. I was slightly full from the starter but found it easy to demolish most of the main course, the only thing I didn’t care for were the number of capers on my plate – perhaps an ingredient that should be mentioned on the menu. Sam ordered the roasted duck breast with gratin potato and a griottine cherry sauce, and after trying a mouthful of the tender duck I look forward to ordering it on my next visit.
We were offered more drinks and handed the dessert menu. Everything sounded scrumptious! It’s a shame I felt so full up because the Praline Crêpes sound amazing, I will definitely be ordering this next time. We went with a coffee instead to end our lovely lunch with, and before we knew it it was time to leave.
From the decor to the service I was impressed with the experience and leaves you wanting to try more – great quality food for excellent prices.
Will you be visiting?
When I was approached by Jamie’s Italian a couple of weeks ago to review their restaurant here in Cheltenham, I leaped at the chance. As a lover of Italian food and a fan of Jamie Oliver’s I was looking forward to sampling some authentic cuisine with the rustic touches I know it is famous for.
We had a table booked for 7.30 on Tuesday evening and as we arrived on the dot we were greeted with a friendly smile within seconds of stepping through the door, I stated my name and we were swiftly taken to our table. The room was filling up slowly so it had a lively yet relaxed environment, perfect for a couple of friends catching up for the evening (nothing worse than having to shout above the noise to be heard).
The restaurant is a former County Court with original features including the jury box and judges’ table, it’s a pretty impressive place to eat your lunch or dinner – whether you are dining with friends or family, it’s a fun experience for all ages. Situated in the centre of town with bars and restaurants including Bills, Copa and Slug and Lettuce on the one side and the Everyman Theatre on the other, it’s a great location and easy to find.
Once we were comfortably seated and our coats were kindly hung up for us, our waitress for the evening brought over the menus and took our drinks order. We decided on a carafe of Sauvignon Blanc to wet our appetite and were well informed about the Specials dishes. We studied the menu and decided on sharing two starters – the Cured Meats Plank for one and the Artisan Bread Basket.
The plank boasts four types of cured meat, including fennel salami, aged prosciutto, piccante and mortadella. Served with a mini buffalo mozzarella, pecorino (thin crisp music bread) and chilli jam, a wonderful selection of pickles and olives and a delicious helping of kale slaw. Laid out on two tins, an idea Jamie himself picked up during a stay in Italy, the food was at eye level to us so it was much easier to see the contents on the plank aside from looking extremely well presented.
The bread selection was the perfect accompaniment, with homemade focaccia, ciabatta, sourdough, crackerbread and grissini sticks – served with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic and a tasty olive tapenade.
The flavours of the bread, meat and accompaniments together were fantastic and I couldn’t fault any part of it, aside from there wasn’t enough kale slaw – it was delicious!
We chose to order our mains once we had consumed our starters, the menu has such variety we just couldn’t decide! After a lot of ‘umming and ahhing’, we eventually chose The Jamie’s Italian Burger with a side of Funky Chips and the Lamb Chops Scottaditta.
When our mains arrived we were impressed with the presentation, especially with the lamb chops. My friend was given a separate plate to dish up the meal her own way, which included a flavoursome trio of herby red onions, toasted nuts and yoghurt with a side of posh polenta chips. I sampled a mouthful of the lamb and it was tender and flavoursome, something I would definitely opt for next time.
The beef burger was delicious! With the mortadella, balsamic onions, tomato and smoked mozzarella (I removed the pickles and chillies), the combined flavours worked perfectly together. The rosemary and garlic chips were incredible, chunky and fluffy on the inside, the perfect chip – they are extremely garlicky though, so perhaps not the best choice if you’re on a date…
I couldn’t finish all of my meal as it was so filling but that’s not a reflection on the food, just my small stomach. I always regret leaving anything behind, and an hour later I was craving those chips again!
We resisted dessert, as much as we were eyeing up the Epic Brownie, I opted for a cappuccino instead to round up our lovely evening. I was impressed that the cup of coffee tasted so authentic, it was like being back in Italy.
Our waitress was extremely knowledgeable and efficient, continuously informing us throughout the evening on the food and thoughts behind the presentation of the courses which was a really nice touch to the experience. A far cry from your usual Italian restaurants, Jamie’s is a warm and inviting dining experience for most foodies.
You can check out the menu here and book a table for yourself – there is even an easy way to choose your meals according to your dietary requirements!
Last week one of my girlfriends suggested going to The Vine for dinner, somewhere I had never been before in Cheltenham but had heard plenty of great reviews about.
The restaurant has a pub vibe which gives it a very laid back and relaxed environment. It was around 6.30pm and it was already starting to get busy so I would definitely advise booking a table in advance. We happened to grab a table on a whim towards the back of the room so it was slightly quieter. We sat down and perused the menu, Sidonie had been before so I asked her to recommend dishes (she knows I’m a wimp when it comes to heat and spice). There was a 2 courses for £7.50 special offer so we decided on doing that and ordered a couple of extra starters to share too. You have to make your order at the bar so if you prefer table service, this probably isn’t the restaurant for you.
Wine and spicy prawn crackers set the evening off to a good start.
We had a giggle and a gossip whilst we waited on our starters, but we didn’t have to wait long which I was impressed with. We had ordered the vegetable spring rolls and prawn toast as part of the specials deal, as well as the Thai pork dumplings. Served with a small salad, each dish was delicious and the flavours tasted ‘authentic’ – something that is promised in the menu. The dim sum were my particular favourite, but I have my eye on trying the Thai fishcakes next time!
Onto the next course!
The menu boasts a huge variety of dishes to choose from so it took some time trying to decide. I have wanted to try the Pad Thai with chicken for a long time and I’m always tempted by it when I see it on the menus in other restaurants. Sid chose the Thai green curry, which she requested to be ‘mild’ as opposed to hot that it was labelled as. Unfortunately the chef didn’t get the memo and it came out packed with a lot of heat! Luckily the portions are large and I shared some of my meal with Sid – one of the perks of ordering food you both enjoy.
We both have a sweet tooth so had to order a pudding each, naughty but nice! I chose the chocolate fudge cake and Sidonie chose Glouy tod, Banana fritters in coconut and sesame seed batter, drizzled with honey served with vanilla ice cream – yum!
Here are Sid’s thoughts on The Vine...
I always enjoy going to The Vine – I like the atmosphere, music, candles etc. It’s good for meals with the boyfriend or an evening with friends. I usually get the Thai fish cakes because they are light and delicious, but the Dim Sum was lovely! They could hold on the red chilli in the Thai green curry but apart from that it’s an affordable restaurant for everyone.
As it’s Valentine’s Day coming up, I would recommend it for a first date as it’s not too formal and the lighting, service and music is perfect!
The whole experience overall was good, and I would highly recommend it to others. I’m looking forward to visiting again soon to taste more of the menu, there is something for everyone! You can check out The Vine’s restaurant and menu here – let me know if you take a visit!
Bill’s has opened in Cheltenham, finally.
I’ve been a massive fan of the UK chain ever since sampling their delicious fish finger sandwich last year in the Bristol branch, so you can probably understand why I got excited when I heard through the grapevine that they were opening one in my home town!
Myself and Sid donned the latest accessory (a Bill’s freebie before entering the restaurant) before heading in to taste the food delights.
We had booked a table as it was still the first week of opening, and within seconds of walking in we were taken to our seats.
Whilst we were awaiting our food and drinks we noticed there was a real buzz and energy in the room, and the interior is particularly Pinterest worthy . The décor of the restaurant is rustic with a shabby chic style, yet still very modern. I love the large lamp shades and the wine storage cupboard especially.
Our drinks soon arrived – we both sipped on my favourite Amaretto Sours to start the evening off.
Then our food arrived!
We shared two starters – a plate of crispy lemon squid, with a gorgeous garlic and lemon mayo sauce to dip, and grilled halloumi and cous cous salad. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the latter at first, but the flavours of the cheese with lemon, pomegranate, mint and parsley together worked really well.
As it had been an unhealthy day of eating I chose the avocado, bacon and spinach salad which was delicious! I have recently been enjoying swapping lettuce with spinach as a healthier alternative, dare I say that I prefer the swap? The presentation of the dish was also impressive, making a salad look instantly more interesting.
Sid chose the grilled sea bream which looked amazing, and from a cheeky forkful, also tasted pretty good.
We ended the evening with cappuccinos instead of pudding, despite the desserts sounding too good to pass up.
The menu is full of variety and I plan on trying everything at some point – especially as I’ve heard that they are most famous for their breakfast/brunch menu…
If you haven’t been to Bill’s yet, what are you waiting for? Click here to head to the website and find your nearest restaurant.
P.s. I have since discovered that the pink shower cap is actually designed for bicycle seats, oops!