Food 8 / 10
Drink 8 /10
Atmos 8 / 10
The Tavern Cheltenham Popular place. Had a fire.
The Tavern in One Paragraph:
Popular pub/bar/restaurant. Hipstery trappings and superior standard pub comfort food. Good Sunday lunch.
The Longer Read:
The Tavern – is it a pub? Is it a restaurant? Certainly it felt like a restaurant when we arrived on a chilly Sunday lunch time. The front of house guy gave the most momentary of frowny looks for not having booked (which always jars a bit when the dining room is mostly empty). We were asked to finish by 2.30pm. And we were also banished to a corner table, with one seat facing a wall. I suspect that this may not have happened if we hadn’t been wearing gardening clothes. It’s a nice pub, er, restaurant, though. There are wooden tables, Robert Welch cutlery and a good drinks menu. The place on this day held on to its pub credentials, with a good mix of punters. There was a man in a very expensive sweater (he got some coleslaw on it) and a chap who looked like he hadn’t held a fork before, much.
The Tavern has famously recently experienced the joy of no longer being on fire. After closure for a refurb, they made a few changes to the layout and dropped their irritating ‘under the counter’ menu (this is Cheltenham, not Shoreditch, FFS). They now offer a shortish menu which is actually the bloody menu, full stop. And it reads very well on this cold day lunchtime visit. Burgers remain the star of the show, salads, fries, and coleslaw in support.
Return to The Tavern, Bad News for Whisky Lovers
On a previous visit we’d ordered and bacon and cheese burgers and they had been very good. We also noted an underpriced Japanese whisky Yamazaki 12 (which is currently around £90 a bottle), at £4 per 25ml. Sadly, the price has gone up to £8 – the Lucky Onion accountant is clearly a Critical Cheltenham reader. The burger was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. It was cooked beautifully pink at my request, served with pickles as standard, as well as a range of classic but brilliantly executed garnishes. Its bun was rich, the bacon was smoky, the lettuce was crisp, and everything came together in delicious harmony*.
Lunch at The Tavern
This time we went for a Mac ‘n’ Cheese (£6), a Fried Buttermilk Chicken Burger (£10), Coleslaw (£4). The waiter explained, rather in the style of a sweetshop owner explaining that I’d won a Willy Wonka ticket, that I was free to change my fries for something else. So I switched to a Little Gem, Shallot and Radish salad. The chicken burger was delicious – I suspect that it had been given an overnight treatment in a buttermilk brine – really tasty – and the LGS & R salad was fresh and just the thing to take away some of the guilt caused by ordering a fried thing in a brioche bun. The Mac ‘n’ Cheese tasted like home-made and the coleslaw was another tasty gem (that isn’t a lettuce-related pun).
Service was a little slow (to be fair ‘relaxed’ is another word, although one item was forgotten from our order) so afterwards we nipped over the road to the brilliant Scandinavian Coffee Pod for coffee and cake.
The food at The Tavern is very good and we’ll definitely go back. I’d book ahead and smarten up a bit next time which, in my book, makes it a restaurant rather than pub. I enjoyed it more on this visit than before, though. There’s good comfort food to be had at The Tavern and it’s a nice, civilised and sophisticated place to be.
Return to The Tavern (again)
On a return visit, Sunday lunch (£17.50) punters around us seemed happy, huge Yorkshire puddings in evidence. You can have pork or poussin with the same accompaniment.
We sat upstairs this time. It’s a nice space with the kitchen fully on view. Chef and team work in a quiet unrushed way – interesting to watch. It does means that you have sit through things whilst you wait for your own order to come together. It’s torture for the over-hungry diner, better sit down stairs. Plus they have some intense air conditioning up there, which should make for happy chefs, but sometimes chilly dining. Vedette beer on tap. Coffee was on point.
I liked that although there was a sign saying Loo’s pointing upstairs, the apostrophe has subsequently been painted out.
The Tavern recently added a takeaway breakfast service, from 6am midweek. Smoothies, pastries, toasties.