If you read my blog posts regularly, you’ll know by now that I am most definitely not a food critic, but I do like to look for the best in everything. So, I’ve put together a few pointers of what, for me, makes a great meal out, along with some examples of where you can be sure of an excellent experience across the county (and a little further afield).
First up is communication. Good communication should I say. I can’t book a table if no one picks up the phone, responds to emails or social media; it really surprises me how businesses can continue to survive with a serious lack of communication! It drives me mad! I, of course, have examples of places which are fit into this category, but in the interests of remaining positive, I won’t share them with you here. I will, however, shout out about the great ones. The big boys like Hotel du Vin and Malmaison could teach others a thing or two in this area, but as for the indies…The Daffodil and The Enchanted Tea Room get the thumbs up from me.
Once you’ve got your table booked, it’s time to start the experience with starters. These should leave you excited for the rest of the meal. Too many places serve mediocre starters when it’s really a chance to leave a great first impression with diners. Two places which scored highly on my starter scale are The White Horse at Duns Tew (which is a little out of the county) and also The Ox in the centre of Cheltenham.
Service, of course, is key to a good experience. Staff should be friendly (but not best friends) and attentive but not overly fussy! No one wants to be constantly interrupted. The secret with impeccable service is that lots of it can happen without the customer needing to ask or needing to be asked. We have some really good examples in Cheltenham where service is executed ever so well and these include East India Cafe and The White Spoon. If you don’t mind travelling a little bit further afield then The Maytime Inn also impressed me.
It’s rare to come by true passion, but when you do it can take your dining experience to the next level. There are a couple of places that come to mind where people have shown their passion for good service, good food and ingredients, but there is one particular place that stands out – by a country mile – and that is Wild Beer Co at Jessop House. I arrived for lunch there with a strong dislike for beer and walked away with a belly full of food - and beer - and a heart full of energy and enthusiasm.
Of course, my list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the food itself. After all, you don’t want to go home from a meal out disappointed or even worse, still hungry! We are so lucky to have so many fabulous eateries in Cheltenham and indeed in the county. So many that I could make a huge long list here, but I am going to be very picky, very picky indeed, and just choose two examples: The Kings Hotel and The Kingham Plough. These two restaurants place great importance on the ingredients they use. The dishes are incredibly well thought out with stunning flavours.
So, what makes a good meal out for you? Have you eaten at any of the places I’ve picked out? And what made them special for you?