Restaurant Review: Lumière, Cheltenham

PUBLISHED: 17:19 15 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:02 20 February 2013

Katie Jarvis escapes domestic tedium at Lumière

Its the eternal dilemma of Woman. Part of me longs to work alongside Hawking, deciphering the mysteries of the universe, of multi-dimensional M-theory, of Time itself. While another part of me longs to get the house really, really clean. Like on those Mr Sheen adverts where surfaces go ting when you look at them.

The former part of my schizophrenic duality suspects that mathematics (no disrespect) seemingly the one solid truth in a shifting world of otherwise-partial theories is a circular argument. That we look for its proofs as we look for faces in clouds or on the underside of a lid of Marmite. And the other part of me suspects that you should be able to walk across a kitchen floor without actually sticking to it. Even the dog has begun to notice how filthy the house is. It wouldnt surprise me to discover that my home is now an isolated enclave, the only part of the UK to be mentioned in doctors travel literature under the section vaccines for typhoid, cholera and yellow fever highly recommended.

I do try with the cleaning stuff; I just lack time and ability. The other day, I vacuumed every room, not realising the cleaner was in between belts. (The thought had fleetingly occurred that it didnt look much better when Id finished.) Still, I felt Id symbolically cleaned the house, which, I think youd agree, is important in a different way.

Ian suspects the beginnings of a nervous breakdown (or, in his more optimistic moments, the end of one; either way heralds the pleasing dawn of a whole new personality). He whisks me off to dinner, partly because we want to try Cotswold Lifes restaurant of the year; and partly for the novelty of sitting down at a table where you can touch the surface and then detach yourself from it without needing skin grafts.

You could easily walk past Lumire without having a light-bulb moment; without realising what a shining example of culinary loveliness it is. Tucked modestly away in Cheltenhams Clarence Parade, just up the road from a charity shop (where the window was displaying a very pleasing wooden statue. But Id only have to dust it), it hides its light under a bushel.
Its not cheap (nor should it be), which is why its handy that there is a charity shop next door. Nevertheless on the night we dine, it gradually becomes nicely packed with people more than prepared to pay 36 for two courses and 42 for three. In fact, the couple at the next table, who constantly chat about their toddler (so, blimey: theyre having to pay for a babysitter, as well), each have the 55 tasting menu with the accompanying package of recommended wines on top. In any other establishment, this would be sheer, lunatic profligacy. At Lumire, its more a case of to-heck-with-the-money;-lets-pay-proper-tribute-to-the-talents-of-chef-Jon-Howe (and his partner, Helen, of course). I seethe with jealousy as

I see them tucking into most of the stuff on the menu, including the witty BLT deconstructed, croutons, bacon jelly, baby gem, Gloucestershire tomato consomm because Id wanted to try that as well as the beetroot and goats curd starter (chorizo jam, sweet corn and black pepper tuile) that I finally order.

Now Ian has what he calls the wow factor, only awarded to a tiny handful of establishments. Needless to say, its to do with flavours. Most places we visit offer pleasantness on a plate. The occasional one, however, produces flavours so fantastically well thought out and complementary, you have to stop yourself running round the restaurant bellowing out Nessun dorma at the top of your voice in case people misunderstand your motives and get you arrested.

Lumire is a Nessun dorma moment. As Ian tries his starter of scallops and belly port, orange and anise puree, cumin caramel, I can see him thinking, Tu pure, o Principessa, nella tua fredda stanza, guardi le stelle che tremano damore, e di speranza, but in a Gloucestershire accent. It takes a restraining arm to allow the Pavarotti moment to pass. The same can be said of the lamb chop, belly, fondant potato, spinach, pea and sorrel salsa; and the poached tenderloin (Jimmy Butler pork) with savoy cabbage, broad beans, onion puree and smoked eel bonbon. Perfectly executed. The extras, if anything, are even better. The gaspacho with water melon and feta is O Mio Babbino Caro.

And desserts? Well, anywhere else a blackberry and apple crumble might be your Val Doonican of puddings. At Lumire, with its jelly, mousse, parfait, doughnut and custard ice cream, its Mylene Klass. Strange mixing of metaphors, really. The bill is over 140 without even trying. Enough to pay someone to clean my house from top to bottom. But domesticity, unlike Lumire, is so overrated.

Lumire, Clarence Parade, Cheltenham. GL50 3PA, tel: 01242 222200,

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