CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Restaurant Review: No 131

PUBLISHED: 09:11 03 January 2017

No 131 in Cheltenham

No 131 in Cheltenham

© Thousand Word Media

The ‘fab pub’ in the North Cotswolds struggled to feed my coelic husband, but for Katie Jarvis and her husband, Cheltenham’s star spot came up trumps

I promise not to keep on about coeliac. I honestly do. After this, I won’t mention it for at least, I dunno, another eight minutes. But I want you to see the lengths I now have to go to to eat extremely well at your expense. It’s OK – honestly.

So there’s this fab pub up in t’North (Cotswolds) that Giles Coren loved and that I’ve wanted to review for absolutely ages. They’ve got a table, and, when I ask, yes: they cater for coeliacs. Great! But then the angel on my right shoulder (the one with the BMI of over 30), whispers, “Check exactly what we can eat.”

“Well,” says the nice lady on the phone, clearly running her finger down a delicious menu. “You could have something from the fish board.”

“Right,” I say. “And if we didn’t want fish?”

“…Or the venison burger… Without the bun.”

There’s a pause, as her finger runs on.

“Or the salad. Without the dressing.”

Err… OK. So puddings?

“You could have the apple and blackberry crumble…”

“Fantastic,” I exclaim, truly happy. “A gluten-free crumble!”

“…without the crumble. And there’s the cheeseboard.”

“Wait a sec,” I say. “I think I can see how you’re doing this. Would that be without the biscuits?”

“…Without the biscuits.”

So we’re stuck in some of the most horrific circumstances imaginable: peckish and without a table booked at a really classy restaurant even a bit. I’m going to have to think on my feet: two of my least favourite positions.

“I know,” I say to Ian. “Let’s go to 131 the Prom. It’s the ‘in’ place to be, and packed with celebs. I know for a fact that Dom Joly lives beneath the clown picture in the dining room, and only leaves for the occasional lure of starving on a hostile tropical island. Ben Miller also lives under the table in the middle room. And I once bumped into Jeremy Wade on my way back from the ladies, where I’d let myself down by overusing the hand-cream to grip-zero status.

We run into 131, Cheltenham, from the bitter cold outside into the bitter cold inside. OK. Not quite as bitter, but pretty cold. (I strongly suspected disappointment loomed the second I seized the radiator in the lobby to find it not on.)

We grab a table and look round at all the celebrities, who seem to be restricted to an elderly couple, who either can’t hear the rap music currently playing, or who are massively and unexpectedly into hip-hop. On balance, though, neither yells, “Yo, *****” when summoning a waitress over to borrow her phone-torch to read the menu. They actually seem very pleasant.

So let’s get the gripes out of the way, because I’m about to say some extremely complimentary things about 131. The décor is designed so that any criticism you make reflects badly on you. I’d possibly term it minimalist-fussy. I rather like the ‘Sin will find you out’ lights, though Ian doesn’t, for reasons we don’t explore.

There are no gluten-free beers, so we order wine that takes many moons to arrive. One of our many serving visitors later explains that someone had to spend hours in the wine cellar to find it; though they don’t specifically attribute this to it being the least expensive on the slightly eyebrow-frightening list. And then – despite us performing a gluten-free song-and-dance – we’re brought a basketful of normal (evil) bread.

But. BUT. BUT. Things really perk up. Because the food is amazing. And thoughtful. And kind. I start with a delicious tuna tartar and Ian a devilled crab on g-f toast; and then mine is a fillet of sea bass with Asian style greens, garlic, ginger and chilli, and Ian’s a chop of Hampshire pork. The flavours are just gorgeous. And the waiter (one of many) says things like, “The chef says there are traces of gluten in the Dijon mustard so he’s using something else.” What a honeybun.

Like the décor, it’s hard to decide whether to be warmly impressed with the staff or slightly disappointed. It varies, but let’s go for warmly disappointed as a halfway house. The one I felt was a bit distant at first, appears, finally, to be engagingly shy – he’s new here; when he stops to chat, he’s charming. Some of the staff are so surprisingly dressed that, at one point, I nearly ask a customer for the bill.

Which is large. I’ll come onto that. We have extra roast salsify and sweet potato fries with our mains; I’d go all out and say you probably need ‘sides’, but they are pleasingly plentiful. And then, for pudding, we are offered a huge choice: we go for chocolate hazelnut and polenta cake, and a plum crumble which innovatively includes crumble.

So the bill (with its ‘discretionary’ 12.5 percent (which I’d say is pushing it, in this case)) is *whispers* £140-ish. We both weep with horror at this, though my tears are more fearfully abundant as it goes on my expenses.

But – my very large butt – as I say is that this is one of the utterly best meals I’ve stuffed myself with in a g-f of a long time. Ab Fab. I’d definitely return, though preferably to continue the trend of someone else paying.

Food: 8.5

Ambience: 7

Service: 7.5

Value for money: 6

131 The Promenade, Cheltenham GL50 1NW, 01242 822939; theluckyonion.com/property/no-131

1 comment

  • The slow service for drinks is customary ... you shouldn't be surprised ....

    Report this comment

    Simon Roylance

    Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

More from Food & Drink

Monday, December 10, 2018

Veganism is the latest food trend to hit the Cotswolds but it’s something we can all enjoy a bite of

Read more
Monday, December 10, 2018

Alleviate the stress of hectic Christmas preparation and endless shopping trips with a festive afternoon tea in one of these gorgeous Cotswold settings

Read more
Friday, December 7, 2018

Find a fabulous gift for everyone with Whatley Manor’s monetary vouchers.

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The hotel in Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire is offering free lunch or afternoon tea for the first ten that book for December 19

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

A perfect gift where rest and relaxation is required.

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

Applications are now open for a new competition that will give people from Gloucestershire the chance to see their food and drink products or ideas appear on supermarket shelves across the county

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dark and chilly winter evenings are perfect for huddling in the corner of a country pub with friends, catching up over beer and supper. The Cotswolds have cosy pubs aplenty – here are 12 of our favourite places to go...

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

The most famous Bangladeshi restaurant is celebrating an anniversary

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Amid the season of turkey and tinsel Whatley Manor are throwing in a festive curveball, an evening of lobster, fizz & fries!

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wine Wednesday’s with Vintopia of Tetbury.

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Festive a la carte menu launches in Grey’s Brasserie from 26th November.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you’re after something for an adults’ stocking filler, a little something while you slave over the turkey dinner or a tipple to enjoy with your festive party guests, we pick 9 drinks from the Cotswolds you need to try this Christmas

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

If we can continue to show our support for talented and industrious jam-makers like these, we might just pull our favourite preserve out of the sticky situation it’s supposed to be in!

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

‘If its autumn in Gloucestershire, then it must be time for Apple Day when we celebrate cider’

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search