Purslane Restaurant, Cheltenham
PUBLISHED: 16:17 01 May 2013 | UPDATED: 16:54 18 June 2013
Purslane restaurant opened in July 2012 and combines the freshest, sustainably-caught seafood from British waters with the best local produce the Cotswolds has to offer. Chef, Gareth Fulford uses modern techniques such as sous vide cooking to bring out the purest flavours while delivering simple, modern British dishes to a high standard. 50% of our menu is seafood, using fish sourced from small, inshore day-boat fishermen who use hand lines and nets off the coast of Cornwall. They don’t damage the seabed by trawling and they land their fish on the same day it’s caught, so it can be fresh on your plate the very next day.
Gareth and Restaurant Manager, Stephanie Ronssin come from AA Rosette and Michelin-starred backgrounds, where they have welcomed royalty, celebrity diners and foodies from far and wide. Between them they bring beautiful dishes to the heart of Cheltenham paired with wines from well-known names such as Louis Latour and small independent vineyards, plus a small range of Belgian beers.
Just imagine a pressed terrine of Wye Valley duck, Cheltenham beets, duck liver parfait and gingerbread crisp to start. Follow that with delicious grilled Cornish gurnard, Evesham Vale heritage tomatoes, sea spinach and potato gnocchi.
And finally, finish your meal with vanilla-poached Gloucestershire apricots, natural yoghurt mousse and homemade granola. Whether you’re popping in for a light meal before a night at the theatre or dining A La Carte after a great day at Cheltenham Races, Purslane offers an intimate and friendly atmosphere that you’ll want to revisit time and time again.
The Guardian and Observer’s food critic, Jay Raynor visited Purslane in February 2013 and gave us this glowing review:
Cheltenham has something every town needs: a superb neighbourhood restaurant.
There is, around the notion of the restaurant, a peculiar fantasy, commonly held. People outside the business rarely dream of setting up a sweaty, concept-heavy chain, or some gilt and stuccoed mittel-European gastro dome. All they want, they say wistfully, is a little neighbourhood place. You know the sort of thing. Just enough tables to make it work. The kind of food “real” people want to eat; dishes that are classy and intense without being up themselves. Lots of regulars. More like eating at a friend’s kitchen table than at some stuffy joint.
It almost never works out like that. Invariably the food in the classic neighbourhood place meanders between underwhelming and overambitious without ever quite finding that middle ground marked “nice”. In the search for a USP, ingredients are tortured, recipes violated. Service judders between “scared rabbit” and “excuse me madam, while I put my hand down your blouse.” Dinner is no longer a pleasure. It’s material for a post-traumatic-stress therapy session.
It comes down to this: simple is not the same as easy. Purslane in Cheltenham is a very straightforward proposition. It really is a small, neighbourhood place, with space for no more than a couple of dozen people. It’s a comfortable room, but no one will ever include pictures of it in an interiors magazine. There is a very large set of cutlery on the wall. The lighting is moody without making you fear you are suffering from macular degeneration. There are two friendly waiters who carry stuff, smile, say nice welcoming things and then sod off again. That’s about it. It is simple. But gosh, is it good, in that understated way that makes you push away a plate licked back to the glaze, with a sense of loss that it’s all gone.
There are five choices at each course, with starters at £8, mains at £16 and desserts at £6. There are no shameless supplements. The food leans towards fish, but not exclusively. There is a terrine of rabbit and langoustine, served at room temperature beneath a wobbly layer of sweet-salty cider jelly, alongside a pile of celeriac. There’s oodles of technique here, not least in how they get something this loose on to the plate in a sharp oblong without it falling apart. Even more impressive is a gratin of heritage potatoes with stinky-salty St Oswald cheese, long-cooked onions and dinky homemade crisps for texture. It is three very good things, handled with care.
Quietly hiding away on these plates are various modernist techniques, especially the use of a nitrous gun to foam up purées and sauces. A parsnip purée is given the treatment and piped atop a little pot of long-braised pig cheek which arrives alongside a crisp loin, some braised red cabbage and whole roast parsnips. A sensitively cooked fillet of sea bream, with a little crunchy greenery and a delicate mussel stew, arrives with the lightest of sponges flavoured with celery. The latter is made by putting the sponge mix through the nitrous gun and cooking it in a microwave for a few seconds (a technique developed by Ferran Adria at El Bulli). What emerges has the texture and lightness of pussy willow. It’s clever, but not a cleverness that intrudes.
The foam gun has one last hurrah in a warm chocolate pudding with a scoop of malted milk ice cream and, on the side, a hot toffee doughnut. Which of those last three words did not meet with your approval? More complex was a buttermilk panna cotta with a rhubarb sorbet and gel. We also ordered some of their other ice creams – blood orange and meringue, quince – because it would have been rude not to. The wine list is short, with a couple of great choices by the carafe. Their own breads are impeccable. Oh, you know; it’s all just bloody lovely. It’s what people mean by the perfect neighbourhood restaurant. I might just have to move home, so it ends up as mine.
Jay Raynor, The Observer, Sunday 24 February 2013