Gourmet Life: No. 131 is a class act
PUBLISHED: 15:30 07 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:30 07 February 2014
Sam and Georgina Pearman have added the luxurious and eclectic No 131 in Cheltenham to their ever-expanding portfolio. Mark Taylor went to see it for himself.
Not content with having two successful Cotswold village pubs and a busy bar in Cheltenham, Sam and Georgina Pearman have now added to their rapidly expanding portfolio with the launch of a luxurious restaurant-with-rooms in the town centre.
A restaurant and bar with 11 bedrooms, No 131 occupies a handsome Grade II* listed Georgian villa on The Promenade overlooking Imperial Square and Gardens.
It’s the fourth opening in five years for the Pearmans, who also run The Wheatsheaf Inn at Northleach, The Chequers at Churchill and The Tavern in Cheltenham. They had wanted to open a larger establishment in the town centre and had earmarked the derelict building on The Promenade for a while.
“We had always had our eye on number 131 because it’s such a prominent and beautiful building but it had been vacant for a long time,” says Sam.
“It took two years to get it through the planning process and then it was a four-month build project so once we had the planning it was quite a quick turnaround.”
Once a house, the building, which was derelict for seven years and was last used by a furniture dealer, has been restored by the new owners to create a restaurant and bar split over two floors with the individually furnished bedrooms upstairs.
The property has been decorated with a mix of contemporary pieces and antiques sourced by the owners from shops, markets, auctions and reclamation yards across the UK.
The bedrooms, priced from £170-£330, are luxuriously appointed and decorated, blending classic comforts with modern essentials such as wi-fi, iPod docking stations and de rigueur Nespresso coffee machines.
The bedrooms have reconditioned, antique radiators and some of the bathrooms have Rogeat Lyon baths dating back to 1875, which the owners sourced and had refurbished locally.
The walls are decorated with works from British artists like Henry Hudson, David Hockney and Peter Blake, and each room has Egyptian cotton linens by Three Thieving Magpies and toiletries by 100 Acres.
The restaurant and Crazy Eights bar spans two floors. On the lower ground floor there is a courtyard with an outdoor fire, two private dining rooms, an orangery bar and games room.
On the upper ground floor there is a more formal and elegant dining space, a large bar, a small library, sitting room and a larger private dining room.
The food will be, wherever possible, English and in season and suppliers have been carefully selected by head chef Antony Ely, formerly of the Clarence Hotel in Dublin and the Michelin-starred Square in London.
Local farmers and artisan producers drive the menu, which focuses on prime cuts of meat cooked in the wood-fired ‘Josper’ oven. There is also an open, ‘raw’ counter where three salads are prepared daily alongside a range of fresh seafood.
Drinks at the bar include Bobby Beer and Dunkerton’s Organic Cider, whilst the wine list showcases international small producers and up to ten English sparkling wines by the glass.
Sam says: “The restaurant has a mainly casual feel to it with children very welcome, however the finer detail is classical such as silver pots for side orders, beautiful glassware and cutlery and fine hand-made linens.
“A lot of time and attention to detail has gone into the front-of-house offering, from the bespoke uniforms for the waiting staff to the beautiful British handmade crockery.
“The kitchen aims to serve food which is generous, relaxed and fun. The menu features mainly British dishes, sticking to seasonality with a daily changing menu.
“We are already selling lots of steaks as there are 16 on the menu, many of these are from Butts Farm at South Cerney. Welsh Wagu beef, highland cattle, Short horn and Aberdeen Angus are also all proving popular.”
The shellfish dishes at No 131 are also in demand, with popular choices including grilled Devon lobster and the ‘Old English’ clam chowder to share. Other sharing options include a whole devilled chicken and venison Wellington.
The menu is the same whether you eat in the restaurant or the bar, which opens on either side to courtyards so you can also eat alfresco all year round under heaters.
“We want No 131 to appeal to everybody, not just residents staying in the rooms. Everyone is welcome to come here, whether it’s for a drink, to eat or just to sit and read or work over a coffee.
“We’re not trying to attract a particular crowd or person but the Crazy Eights bar is a fun place to be and it gets very lively at weekends.”
And now that No 131 is up and running, the Pearmans are already looking at their next launch.
Sam says: “We are always on the look out for interesting buildings and places and we are currently working on a B&B in Cheltenham called The Pitt, which will open in time for Cheltenham races in March.”
Some of the biggest names in the world of food and drink will descend on The BITE 2014 festival, which takes place at a number of Cotswold venues this month.
The line-up for the festival’s second year includes chef masterclasses, demonstrations, talks, dinners and markets between February 1 and 9.
Chefs and food writers appearing include Matthew Fort, Elisabeth Luard, Claire Clarke, Dhruv Baker, Antony Worrall Thompson and Eric Lanlard. Local chefs making an appearance include James Graham, Emily Watkins and David Everitt Matthias.
Organiser Julian Ebbutt said: “We are delighted to be working with over 20 of the region’s leading hotels, pub and restaurants and are really proud of the programme we have put together. There really will be something for everyone who loves to cook - and even more for those who just love to eat.”
The full programme of BITE 2014 events can be viewed online at www.thebite.co
Cheltenham shop Favourite Beers has been nominated in two categories for the 2014 Drinks Retaining Awards.
The shop, which opened in 2010, is Gloucestershire’s only specialist beer and cider retailer and it has previously won trophies at both the 2012 and 2013 awards ceremonies held at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
For the 2014 awards they have been shortlisted for the ‘Independent Cider Retailer of the Year’ and the ‘Green/Ethical Retailer of the Year’.
Owner of Favourite Beers, Leigh Norwood, said: “We are delighted that we will be able to defend our title for the Independent Cider Retailer award and we are in a strong position as we have continued to improve over the last 12 months.
“It is also a great honour to be nominated for the Green/Ethical retailer of the Year as this is a category open to all retailers in the country, from large supermarkets to small family businesses like ours.
“Since we opened we have been very proud of our green and ethical values, we have refused to make use of plastic bags, instead recycling our packaging or offering Fairtrade hessian or cotton carriers. We have also always been mindful of trying to source a very large proportion of our stock from local suppliers and making efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.”
A new wine bar and bistro offering ‘a distinctive blend of authenticity and sophistication’ has launched in Oxford’s Castle Quarter.
The 1855 combines modern architecture with almost 200 years of history as the building is part of the city’s historic County Hall, with two of the landmark’s walls forming part of the bar’s interior.
The bar, which is run by wine expert Alistair Cooper, offers a range of carefully selected wines from award-winning independent suppliers.
In the kitchen at 1855 is Paul Bellchambers, who also owns The Late Chef catering firm. The food, which includes Cotswold cheeses and locally cured meats, is sourced from artisan producers and suppliers, and many of the dishes will be matched to the wines on offer.
This article by Mark Taylor is from the February 2014 issue of Cotswold Life