Le Champignon Sauvage restaurant
24-28 Suffolk Rd, Cheltenham
A husband and wife team have been running this charming two-Michelin-starred local since 1987
David Everitt-Matthias, chef and proprietor of Cheltenham’s Le Champignon Sauvage, has hardly missed a service – ‘maybe two or three’, as his wife Helen tells us – in the 25-year history of his restaurant. Helen’s record isn’t bad either. Between them – him in the kitchen, her in the dining room – they have managed to create a two-Michelin-starred dining experience that is as unconventional as it is unpretentious. It’s the personal touches that keep people coming back here time and again; after working a long service, at how many other restaurants do the owners sit patiently by the door, thanking and chatting to each guest individually as they go?
Though he’s written three cookbooks, and knows pretty much everyone in the business, David flies under the radar. He and Helen opened the restaurant in 1987, expanding it in 2005, all the while keeping the decor and atmosphere laidback, unfussy and homely. David cooks with international inspiration; though he’s never been to the country, most of his food arrives plated up on exquisite Japanese dishes. It’s clear he has a big imagination, which comes out in his work.
The Menu Gourmand starts via a Dexter beef tartare with corned beef, wasabi cream and pickled shimeji mushrooms – paired, rather daringly for the start of a meal, with a full, fruity, oaky Côtes du Frontonnais. Moving on, we have plump, miso-caramelised scallops, furnished with sweetened turnip and verjus cream, offset by a crunchy, sweet sesame crisp. Next comes a serious, complex dish of cured mackerel, pig’s trotter gayette and whelks: a new take on surf and turf. Then, a beautiful course of witch hill potatoes, buffalo milk curd, caramelised-onion purée and leek ashes, topped with razor-thin slices of ham. A wood pigeon with black pudding seems perfumed with Christmas spice, and is wonderful. Three generous desserts, including an iced bergamot parfait with orange jelly and liquorice cream, appease sweeter teeth. The cheese plate, at a £10 supplement, is the stuff of dreams, but don’t worry if you can’t fit it in. It’s no accident – that personal touch again – that David and Helen buy what they themselves enjoy, so they won’t mind if you leave them enough for a well-earned, post-service snack. AEM. 01242 573449