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Champignon Sauvage

24-28 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, England, GL50 2AQ, United Kingdom

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Le Champignon Sauvage is set out on the ground floor in a quiet terrace in Cheltenham. David Everitt-Matthias and his wife Helen have been running the restaurant since 1987. You enter to a bar area with wooden floors and brown leather sofas where you can peruse the menu. This has cream walls decorated with a few watercolours. The dining room has a fairly low ceiling, with well spaced tables. Walls are painted white, adorned with assorted oil paintings. Lighting is from ceiling spot lights and is quite bright. There is a blue carpet and the wooden, not particularly comfortable, chairs have blue upholstery. A la carte dining is £48 for three courses, and there is a cheaper £28 set menu also.   

The wine list was 15 pages long, mostly French but with a reasonable selection from the more established New World locations, and just seven dessert wines. It is very fairly priced (especially compared to London), with house wine at just £12. Saintsbury 2005 Carneros Chardonnay is £29 (retail price £13.50), Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006 £36 (retail around £16), Wynns Coonawara Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is £30 (retail price around £15). Dessert wines were less kindly priced but still tolerable: Chateau Coutet 1998 is £39 for a half bottle (retail just over £13), Yquem 1998 was £375 for a bottle (around £120 retail). Wine service was rather a surprise. We were brought the list by a waitress (there does not seem to be a sommelier as such) and I chose a bottle of white, but asked about a glass of red wine for my main course since there did not seem to be any listed by the glass. I was told that I could have a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon. Where were these from? “from France”. “OK, could you tell me a little more?”. “Well the Pinot is from Burgundy and the Cabernet is from, er, some other region”.  Bear in mind that this was the person designated to take our wine order, not someone I hailed at random. The meal service itself was efficient enough, though our wine did not quite arrive on time. This was a strange lapse as we were about the first diners to arrive, and only six tables were taken all night on this Thursday evening. I found the atmosphere quite formal and not especially welcoming, though other than the points noted it had no real faults as such.  

A pair of warm, flat cheese biscuits, one plain and one with a tomato and herb topping, were pleasant but no more than that as an amuse bouche (15/20). Better was a glass of velouté of purple potatoes with a Thai spice foam; the spices came through well e.g. a distinct lemon grass note really lifted the taste of the potato (17/20). Bread was made here fresh each day, and was white, granary or brioche with bacon. All were excellent, the granary with a few seeds having lovely crust and fine flavour (18/20).

I tried roasted native lobster with confit of duck hearts, and pumpkin with nougat velouté. The lobster was superb. So often lobster is overcooked in restaurants but here it was as tender as one could wish, the pumpkin nicely cooked, the combination of the elements working well (18/20).  Diver scallops from the Shetlands had excellent taste but were unfortunately distinctly overcooked, moving into the border of chewiness. This was a shame since the Jerusalem artichoke puree with them had good texture and plenty of earthy taste, a good match for the scallops. Globe artichokes were tender and the dish was prettily garnished with pea shoots and liquorice root with a little julienne of apple. This was a nicely composed dish with excellent ingredients, let down by the careless overcooking of the scallops (16/20).

A little intermediate course appeared: seared squid and monkfish cheek with hazelnut and potato mousseline and toasted hazelnuts. The hazelnuts were a nice idea, adding a hard texture contrast, but I’m afraid the squid was a little rubbery and the monkfish (a fish very easy to overcook) was done a little too long also. My Goosenargh duck was cooked beautifully pink, served with chicory which had been caramelised in maple syrup, the duck resting on a bed of excellent walnut mash. There was a good reduction of cooking juices, and the slight bitterness of the chicory was a effective partner to the duck (18/20). Fillet of zander was well timed, served with caramelised cauliflower, smooth cauliflower puree, a few girolles, drizzled with a red wine and hibiscus sauce that added a slightly sweet, floral hint to the sauce. The dish did not need nasturtium leaves as well (17/20).

The cheese board was mostly British in nature, with a few French additions. Apparently it is sourced from the local shop in Cheltenham, so I a not sure which affineur(s) are involved. Stinking Bishop, Waterloo and Oxford Isis were in very good condition, as was an excellent Beaufort and a tasty Bleu de Corse. Sadly a St Maure from Touraine had that yellow tinge indicating it had past its best while a Herefordshire goat cheese was a little chalky (cheese 16/20 overall). The cheeses were served with either biscuits or excellent walnut and raisin bread.

A cylinder of passion fruit cream with mango had lovely taste, served with a slice of caramelised mango. This was served with a smooth coconut sorbet, along with little cubes of fresh mango, and was a refreshing and successful combination (18/20). A warm prune cake was served with a block of pressed apple, and a wild cherry stone ice cream. The prune cake had a comforting texture and distinct prune taste, the pressed apple a sensible pairing for the prunes; I am less sure about the cherry stone ice cream in combination with these, though it was well made (17/20).

Coffee was very good, served with a plate of petit fours: best was a lovely rum baba, moving through capable nougat, chocolates and coconut biscuit through to a chewy liquorice chocolate. A rather mixed bag (17/20). Overall I thought the cooking was a little uneven given its two Michelin star rating, but the best dishes were very good indeed.

 

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  • FoodPro

    How interesting - I happened to be at the next table to the gentleman who commented below (Charles R) on Friday 21st. We found the restaurant exceedingly pleasant, the atmosphere exceptional, the wine superb, the service more than adequate if not as polished and pretentious as one might expect from a 2-starred establishment (which I see as a positive). The food was innovative, interesting and well-cooked. Venison was gorgeous, deep and dark; scallops perhaps slightly overdone; smoked eel wonderfully evocative; the chocolate/olive tart DID work if you have an open mind about complementary flavours; petit fours, amuse bouches and wine were all fabulous. Agree with Andy that they do lack a sommelier to give expert wine advice, although as it happens the wine waitress chose very well for us. We did have one real complaint - there was an absolute f*****t at the next table who was doing his best to spoil everybody else's evening by being the 'difficult customer'. His entire table in fact, was an interesting piece of theatre. Some of the things we saw cannot be posted, but there appeared to be a food critic, or someone who believed he was, dominating the party. Not my cup of tea as a dining companion, but he did at least speak at a reasonable volume and seemed to know what he was talking about. The real surprise came when [Charles R, I assume] looked like he was trying to get a discount/free dessert, because he didn't agree with the chef's opinion on his choc/olive tart & cheesecake. Ultimately food is, of course, a matter of subjectivity. If you visit a restaurant like The Fat Duck, or Champignon Sauvage, you expect experimentation. It may not take your fancy, but David Everitt-Matthias is a 2-starred chef. If he says the dessert is supposed to be like that, then sometimes you just have to accept that maybe you have differing tastes. What is objective in my view, is that rudeness is unacceptable. Charles R behaved intolerably towards Helen (Maitre d' & David's charming wife who looked after us beautifully all evening, even accepting my apologies on behalf of Mr. R after his party had left). To give the restaurant 0/10 is just petty - do you REALLY think the restaurant deserved no points at all out of ten, really? Of course you don't, but like a bullying child in the schoolyard who didn't get his own way, you have to make a vicious dig. If you want to eat food you are comfortable with and know you like, I suggest you visit a Harvester or suchlike. If you're willing to try new combinations and experiences in a warm and friendly atmosphere, I'd highly recommend this Cheltenham treasure. Just don't go there if Charles R has booked a table that night. 7.5/10

  • Charles R

    What a totally different experience from us. We found the service surly in an unpleasant way. The flavours just don't work for example chocolate with olives, the olives did not complement the chocolate and the cheese cake which tasted of burnt caramel and salt. Non of the six dinners (who have all been to many fine dinning establishments)liked these. When pointed out to the women who was front of house, she explained that the pudding were as "the chef intended" and implied it was our fault for not liking them. The poor french waitresses seem to be in fear of her which leads to a tense atmosphere. 0/10

  • Lesley B

    We visited in October, and because I have some food allergies and I don't eat meat, and my partner eats neither meat nor fish we expected a bit of a problem with the food. In fact it was wonderful, my partner said the best he'd ever eaten, and help and advice about the wine was brilliant. The food had been individually prepared and had a variety of ingredients, clearly specially purchased, that is not usually found in most restaurants. Each course was special, the service was superb, even to the waitress telling us where to buy the lovely little spatulas that came with one course. Would we go again, absolutely!! Just wished we lived nearer, wed be regulars!

  • steve fischer

    very honest review Andy and i must say i agree in the main,i have eaten there on numerous occasions over the years,last visit 5 months ago and i came away feeling a little dissapointed,sounds a little strange but i actually thought it was a better meal when they only had 1 star