Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Le Champignon Sauvage

For a  good few years now I have wanted to go to Le Champignon Sauvage having often read that the food is superb and by many accounts worthy of 3 Michelin stars rather than the 2 it does possess.  David Everitt-Matthias is a chef renowned for both eschewing the “celebrity chef “ route - you will rarely if ever I believe catch him on the TV - and for never missing a service in the restaurant.

But in fact I had forgotten all about it on booking a girlie weekend away in the Cotswolds last weekend.  It was only on searching for interesting places to eat (I always have my priorities right after all) that I remembered that we were only going to be about 5 miles away.

And so the, rather excited on my part, decision was made to book lunch there for the Saturday - in part because I knew of the, frankly, incredibly good value lunch set menu (2 course at £26 or 3 at £32) but also because dinner that evening was already taken care of.

On arrival at the fairly unassuming (from the outside) blue and white fronted restaurant we were greeted  warmly and offered a drink in the lounge or to go straight to table.  Perhaps because there was such a heavenly savoury smell in the air we chose the latter - eager to stick our noses in the menus I think.

The decor in the restaurant was fairly simple yet dare I say it dated but with some lovely artwork - neither myself nor Naomi were particularly entranced by the beech effect panelling  (a lot of how late 90s French dining rooms are decorated according to Naomi - and she should know) but it didn’t really matter when we were here for the food.  

We had read much of the ambience, or rather lack thereof, but luckily that wasn’t really an issue on our visit.  True it was at first quite quiet but by no means whisperingly so and after about half an hour one table of four had no qualms in upping the atmosphere which meant that the other 6 or so tables also relaxed.

We started with a glass of Kir Royale while perusing the menu.  The Set Lunch looked perfectly acceptable but both of us had a sneak peek at the à la carte (2 course for £48 or 3 for £59) and were instantly lost to it’s charms.

Next to the table were four gougères - clearly the source of the gorgeous aroma that had greeted us on arrival.  These were light, moist, just cheesy enough and quite honestly utterly yummy.  The amuse bouche that followed was a leek and potato velouté topped with a white truffle foam.  Again, delicious. 

Swiftly following were the breads - a brioche with bacon which was nice enough but not as exciting as I thought it would be and a granary that looked excellent with a lovely crust and soft interior.
To start I had the Dexter beef tartare with (homemade) corned beef, wasabi cream and pickled shimeji mushroomswhile Na opted for the dived scallops, 'Crown Prince' pumpkin, chestnut velouté, chestnuts and white balsamic caramel. Both looked beautiful - a masterclass in presentation.

Of the beef starter while both elements were lovely the tartare was the star for me. Perhaps because I have never tried it before (always imagining a little pile of mince essentially) I was amazed at how good it was: boldy yet perfectly seasoned and with wholegrain mustard seeds providing an interesting contrasting texture and subtle crunch.  Combined with the wasabi cream it was heaven. 
I only had a mouthful of the scallops but again all the elements combined perfectly. Scallops are fairly ubiquitous on menus these days yet here they were definitely a cut above.

On to the mains.  The Winchcombe venison, salt and burdock baked golden beetroot and roasted quince for me and Cinderford lamb assiette with hazelnut puree and smoked aubergine compote for Naomi.  

Unfortunately I can’t say much about the lamb as I failed to write down the full menu descriptions and the waitresses sadly weren’t especially good at explaining the dishes as they presented them (this in fact was probably my only complaint - while perfectly sweet and competent I was disappointed that they couldn’t explain the dishes as the do at, say, Noma or Viajante.  Although I accept that they’re not the chefs bringing to your table which is the case at Noma).

The venison was perfectly pink and melt in the mouth.  I actually love beetroot in all its guises anyway but was amazed at how well the salted baked beetroot complimented the venison.  An excellent combination.  The inclusion of toasted oats was also a nice touch giving yet another layer of taste and texture.

For desserts we went for the Bergamot parfait, orange jelly and liquorice cream and the vanilla cheesecake, salted chicory mousse and chocolate sorbet both accompanied by a deliciously rich and intensely raisiny Pedro Ximenez.

I enjoyed my taste of the parfait and jelly: light and refreshing with the liquorice cream nicely balancing the two citrus elements.

The cheesecake was excellent - more than just cheesecake it contained the salted chicory mousse within and the salted caramel on top adding another layer of taste.  My only quibble being that I prefer my salted caramel a little saltier.  The chocolate sorbet was another revelation: glossy and deeply flavoured, I am under instruction to learn how to make it!

The food was all excellent and the portion sizes far from meagre (by this point we were on the point of Mr Creosote-esque explosions).  On top of this the long (in excess of 15 pages) wine list had more than enough perfectly decently priced wines to choose from.  With our starters we opted for a half bottle of a lovely Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine sur Li and for the mains a half bottle of the smooth and fruity Chateau Lyonnat Lussac St. Emilion.  And at £8 and £15 respectively, excellent value for money.

Le Champignon Sauvage, 24-26 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham, Glos GL50 2AQ

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written. Could almost taste it all over again xx