Restaurant review: When the cows come home
PUBLISHED: 16:12 21 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:21 21 March 2014
Katie Jarvis can imagine Cheltenham's youth would flock to the Grid Iron, providing they're reasonably well-heeled, and thinks it is a good place to take a family
There’s a typewriter in Gridiron Bar and Restaurant, Cheltenham, sitting on a table, decoratively, along with some kitchen scales. I miss typing. I’m sure some of my best work was done on a typewriter. Des was the lovely editor who gave me my first job – he’d worked for De Beers and knew a diamond when he saw one. He valued my engagement ring for me, just to make sure getting married to Ian was a sound proposition.
The office was packed with characters: Bruce, a former newsreader for HTV; and Charlie, a diminutive salesman who’d once written his name on a brothel wall in Italy and was determined to go back to see if it was still there. I was shocked.
Dess was wonderfully protective. Even when my first interviewee – a man with the surname Morris – complained to him about my work. “Maurice has the cheek to claim you’ve spelt Mauriss three different ways in your article,” Dez tutted. As I improved, as you’d expect, my mistakes became far more sophisticated. At my zenith, I added up the figures for Cheltenham Job Centre incorrectly and wrote a shock front-page lead (that found its way into print; the editor couldn’t do maths either) based solely on this misapprehension. A colleague of mine, David, had a similar misfortune when someone at a local pony club meeting told him the old nag next to him was entered for Horse of the Year Show. David’s front-page story was a surprise to the owner, and a particularly big surprise to the horse. It’s never a good idea to joke with a local newspaper reporter.
Those were the Stroud years, where my regular contacts included an unusual man who constantly assured me he’d persuaded Elizabeth II, our dearly-beloved Queen, to open a local jumble sale. Ever polite, I’d stand in the front office, taking assiduous notes, while listening members of the public would give me exceptionally hard stares. My second boss – the wonderful Denis Mason – would always say, “Be sceptical but not cynical”, advice that has stood me in good stead.
Where was I? Ah, yes! Gridiron (or is it Grid Iron; very hard to say) and the typewriter. Clearly, I’m now old enough to be fashionably retro. It’s odd décor, really, but quite taking, in its way. Depending on your style sense, the bare ceiling was either created by a talented interior designer called Rupert, or is still waiting for the builders, who’ll be back in two weeks, swear on their aunty’s grave. The hanging ceiling lamps are perfectly positioned to nut guests. And then there are twiddly bits of a cow-based nature: cow skins, cow cushions, cow heads on the walls. I don’t dislike it, but it’s slightly limiting in the sense that you couldn’t really bring a cow in to dine. Not one you had feelings for, anyway.
Ellie is with us – this is a valedictory meal before she gives up gluten. She really likes the ambience; I probably would like it more if I wasn’t so tired. (NB Ian had woken me up at 4am to check on the lyrics of Long Haired Lover From Liverpool. This is actually true. He’d got stuck on ‘cut my hair or even wear a mask’ and couldn’t sleep as a result. He’s not good on songs. Genuinely believes Bananarama’s Love in the First Degree involves the cutting-edge line, ‘Guilty as a cup of tea’.)
For starters, we order a ‘sharing plate for two’, at £14.50, between three of us. Umm. If you like crispy Brussel’s (how do you write that as a plural?), then this is the dish for you; there are tons of them. There’s also chicken and salmon yakatori (yakatori, yakatori) (don’t you just want to chant that to Jackanory?) and bits of other stuff. But, to be honest, it’s not great for the price.
The mains are better. Ellie has a chilli hot dog and fries. Ian tries a Harlem burger - jalapeno, bacon and cheese (“I prefer the Weighbridge’s burger” he says – reference Nailsworth) – with extra onion rings, and I take sea bream with warm winter veg. It looks reasonable value on the menu, but I’d say you could do with a few extras if you want to feel nicely full.
For dessert, we have a Mississippi mud pie (excellent), a salted caramel cheesecake (very nice) and a rather enjoyable raspberry vodka jelly. On the minus side, there’s the sticky table (which, considering the place is nearly empty, can’t be explained away) and a rather soapy cappuccino.
It’s a mixed bag. I can imagine Cheltenham’s youth would flock here, providing they’re reasonably well-heeled. And it’s a good place to take a family – nice to have a burger joint that’s a bit more classy. But it wouldn’t be for everyone. Definitely not ideal for cows.
• Ambience 7
• Service 6
• Food 6
• Value for money 6
Gridiron Bar and Grill Restaurant, The Quadrangle, Imperial Square, Cheltenham GL50 1PZ, 01242 525666; www.gridirongrill.co.uk
This article by Katie Jarvis is from the April 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.
For more from Katie Jarvis, follow her on Twitter: @KatieJarvis