Champignon Sauvage

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

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This Gloucestershire restaurant was opened in 1987 by chef David Everitt-Matthias and his wife Helen, who runs the front of house. It was awarded a Michelin star in 1995 and a second in 2000, which it retained for eighteen years before being downgraded to one star in the 2019 guide. David has famously never missed a service, and closes the restaurant if he is unable to be there. The a la carte menu is £75 for three courses, with a three-course set lunch menu at £40. The dining room is partly wood-panelled, with comfortably spaced tables. 

The predominantly French wine list had 136 full sized bottles and ranged in price from £24 to £1,200, with a median price of £46, which is much lower than you would encounter in London in a high-end restaurant. The average markup to retail price was just 2.4 times, which is not only much less than you would see in London but also less than you normally encounter around the UK. Fully 47% of the list is below £50 in price, which is not something that you would see in Mayfair. Sample references were Sileni Merlot 2014 at £30 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Jacqueson Mercurey 1er Cru 2013 at £52 compared to its retail price of £23, and Les Clavoillons Chavy Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru 2016 at £95 for a wine that will set you back £73 in the high street. For those with the means there was Louis Roederer Cristal 2007 at £350 compared to its retail price of £229, and Chateau d’Yquem 1998 at £450 for a wine whose current market value is £292. Each wine listed had tasting notes, and there was an unusually large selection of half bottles. Although the selection outside France was limited, the growers were carefully chosen e.g. the excellent Hamilton Russell from South Africa. This is a thoughtful, fairly priced list and one that most restaurants can only aspire to.

To begin with, a pair of canapes arrived. A blue cheese and walnut cookie was terrific, the cookie having light, flaky texture and the contrasting flavours of the blue cheese and walnuts working very harmoniously. Squid ink gougere was an unusual variant on the usual choux pastry with cheese, here the gougere filled with taramasalata. I’m not sure that I preferred this to regular gougere, but it was certainly original, and the texture was good (17/20 average). A further canape of smoked bone marrow custard with shimeji mushroom was flavoured with “wasabi” mayonnaise. This had a lovely hint of smokiness and silky texture (17/20) I did wonder what it would tasted like with freshly grated real wasabi, though the spiciness was quite restrained anyway.

Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen, a selection of granary bread, white poppy seed bread, white baguette and brioche with bacon and shallot. I was particularly taken with the brioche, partly as I am a sucker for bacon flavoured bread, but the textures of each one that I tried were classy (17/20). A starter of Norfolk quail was precisely cooked, served both as a breast and stuffed leg, along with onion cream, confit garlic and alliums. This came with a jus from the cooking juices that was suitably rich and was nicely balanced by the green allium leaves (17/20).  

Miso-cured cod came with baby parsnips and parsnip cream. This was a nicely judged dish, the sweetness of the miso pairing well with the parsnip, and nicely lifting the flavour of the cod (16/20). An intermediate course of braised breast of lamb with artichoke purée was simple in appearance but deeply flavoured, the meat extremely tender and the artichoke flavour complementing the lamb very well (18/20).

Sea bream came with morels, mushroom puree and a brown butter sauce, garnished with a few greens. The sea bream had particularly impressive flavour, being beautifully cooked and carefully seasoned. The morels were also top notch, with just enough greenery to balance the richness of the sauce. This was a gorgeous dish (18/20). 

Roe deer with lemongrass, beetroot, figs and a sauce flavoured with smoky lapsang souchong tea. The garnishes were very good, the beetroot a nice foil for the rich flavour of the venison, the figs bringing a touch of acidity and the lemongrass adding an interesting flavour note. The blemish was slightly chewy venison (15/20). I suspect that the meat texture issue was due to the natural variation that you might expect with a wild product, as the cooking itself seemed fine. One general observation on the savoury courses is that sauces tended to appear, as is the fashion these days, as small, sticky drops as reductions rather than generous pools of sauce. Personally, I rather yearn for the old days of glistening lakes of sauce that needed mopping up with bread.

To follow, there was an impressive cheese board with a mix of British and French cheeses, including 18-month aged Comte, Tamworth and St Marcellin. The ones that we tried were in excellent condition. A pre-dessert was dandelion root ice cream with coffee granita and milk foam. This was pleasant, the main flavour coming through being the coffee, the texture very smooth (16/20). 

Bramley Apple parfait came with pressed caramelised apple and a separate Granny Smith Apple sorbet. I am a sucker for apple desserts and this was excellent, the textures and flavours lovely (17/20). Mango came with Thai-spiced ice cream on a biscuit base with a Thai green curry sorbet. The texture contrasts worked well, and the ice cream and sorbet had subtle spice flavour that complemented but did not dominate the mango. This was a technically accomplished dessert, slightly let down by the somewhat bland flavour of the mangoes, which were from Brazil. I have perhaps been spoilt by too many Alphonso mangoes from India (16/20).

Filter coffee was from a local company called Cotswold Blending, and was a mix of beans from Costa Rica and Columbia. This was pleasant enough, though personally I prefer espresso style. A generous set of petit fours include orange financier with prune and burdock compote, chocolate and hazelnut brownie, salted lemon and white chocolate fudge, caramelised white chocolate fudge, Snickers truffle, a particularly nice rum baba, pistachio cake with toffee cream and a passion fruit jelly. 

Service was capable, and the bill with the cheese course, water and plenty of good wine came to £140 per person. If you shared a modest bottle of wine, which is easy to do on this list, then a typical cost per person for three courses might be more like £105, and of course you could eat for even less if you took advantage of the cheap lunch menu. Overall this was a most enjoyable meal from a kitchen that is operating at a high level. As ever when you try many dishes, some were a bit better than others, but there was no doubting the skill level on display. I have absolutely no idea why Michelin demoted the restaurant to one star. The quality of cooking had certainly not diminished since my previous visit. More to the point, if you consider the current clutch of UK two stars then there are plenty that are operating below the level of Le Champignon Sauvage. When you factor in the fairly priced menu and very fairly priced wine list, as well as the high level of hospitality, then this is a restaurant that can only be recommended, whatever Michelin may think.

Further reviews: 01st Mar 2008

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User comments

  • Michael carroll

    I totally agree This is a fantastic restaurant

  • George B

    Brilliant and well deserved review for an incredibly amazing restaurant.