This ranks among the very best restaurants in England. Classically faultless cooking with a constant ability to surprise and excite.
Not far from Cheltenham College, the surroundings in a slightly seedy part of town belie the interior charms and intimacy of a dining-room in which the cornflower blues and yellows recall Provence; the elegant furnishings a bijou, very English townhouse. As a hostess Helen Everitt-Matthias gets it absolutely right, treating you as an honoured guest with her perfect blend of informal conversation and professional discretion. From the base of a proper apprenticeship in the best London kitchens, her husband David, here now since 1987, has blossomed into one of Britain's finest chefs.
Whether you choose from the exceptional value prixe-fixe lunch or the more elaborate carte at night, David's cooking shows superb clarity of flavours drawing on the finest ingredients and enhanced by very subtle saucing; his particular gift is for accompaniments that are highly original but always successful because he has thought deeply about the combinations.
His remarkable culinary imagination inspired a recent brilliant lunch, proceeding from a subtly spiced vichyssoise with lovage and salt cod mousse to tortelloni of roedeer, the richness of the veal stock sauce made richer still by adding a little fig and caramelised beetroot, then all was reined back by savoury, homemade sauerkraut. Main courses like assiette of pink roast lamb and a mini shepherd's pie showed the same blissful balance, and a sense of humour!
A particular speciality is the roasted foie gras with walnuts. On no account should you miss the pannier of thirty cheeses in prime condition spanning a particularly fine choice of cows', goats' and sheep's cheeses, mainly from France. Or there's a lovely roasted peach with a light, lactically-flavoured fromage blanc sorbet enlivened with black pepper. First-rate espresso and excellent petits fours are a fitting finale.
Quality and gentle mark-ups are the virtues of the intelligently selective yet wide-ranging wine list, which includes a first-rate '96 Bourgogne Rouge (Champy), a £15 bottle that tastes like a £25 one.