Prithvi – Indian Infused Restaurant Du Jour / के क्षण
Please note that Prithvi Cheltenham is now in new premises at 38 The Park, part of the Lucky Onion Group (The Tavern/131 etc). Prithvi is its own thing though, not a hotel restaurant.
You’re unlikely to eat at Prithvi in a spontaneous, spur of the moment way. The restaurant currently rides a crest as one of the most booked-ahead restaurants in Cheltenham. It’s No.1 on Cr*pAdvisor too. For that reason, it’s taken us a while to get a table there, planning ahead not being our strong suit.
There were, in fact, at least three birthday tables on the night we went, so perhaps Prithvi will always be full of the kind of people who do plan ahead – diary publishers… anniversary couples… pension advisors. That said, the demand means that the place is full of people happy to have bagged a table, always a good start for any night out.
Cuisine and Layout at Prithvi
Prithvi’s cuisine style is tricky to define exactly. As as soon as you say ‘Indian’, that has a certain image and Prithvi isn’t that. ‘Indian-infused French or modern British’ might cover it. I’ve also heard Cheltenham locals refer to Prithvi as a ‘very expensive posh Indian restaurant.’ Point missed there too. Just think of it as a restaurant alongside Champignon and Lumiere, amongst Cheltenham’s very best.
The Sun named the restaurant ‘best UK Curry House’, thereby neatly missing the point altogether. Mind you it summoned up a nice image of Sun readers clamouring for a table*. Marco Pierre White recently claimed that service was more important than food in achieving his Michelin stars and, indeed, service here is very good. It’s a candidate for a star in my view.
Trivia Note: Prithvi is the Sanskrit name for the Earth, although it literally means ‘the vast one’, which is good going for a restaurant name. It’s also the name of a short-range ballistic missile developed in India. Take your pick.
Drinks were served in the bar and lounge, on the left as you walk in to No 38. Coats weren’t taken and the greeting was a tad autopilot. Nice space for a drink though, with a carefully random assembly of art on the walls. This place, which used to be the old “Hotel on the Park” has changed, much for the better I might add, since the last owner. Some sort of magic has been worked with the space available, so that there’s now a private dining room to the right and the restaurant itself is in a cleverly added area at the back, partly in what was some of the garden. No hasty conservatory job this, though. It feels ‘right’, as if it has been there for a long time.
The dining room is tastefully decorated and tables (there are around 28 covers) are well spaced. I’d say it’s one of the prettier dining rooms in town (Cheltenham has a lot of restaurants, but you’re often in a semi-basement or facing the street). You can see why Prithvi moved from the old premises.
I liked that the clientele ranged from twenty-somethings to, well, much older, with a couple of families too. Dress code is casual plus.
Restaurant service was impeccable all night, not too obtrusive. Staff looked you in the eye and chatted, not a trace of fawning.
Menu at Prithvi
Prithvi is the kind of place where you are served amuse-bouches (goat’s cheese with beetroot/shiitake with truffle oil/some spiced chick pea in a poori-style shell).
The menu is sensibly short. Basically, you’re going to spend about £60pp + drinks at Prithvi, whether a la carte or by signing up for the Taste of Prithvi (their five course tasting menu). A la carte options run on a 3:3:3:4 formation (starters/mains/sides/puddings).
Starter of scallops, Devonshire crab ceviche, mushroom purée, cauliflower bhaji (£13) was beautifully spiced. I tell you what, let’s save time here by saying that I’ll specifically let you know if anything wasn’t beautifully spiced. Duck (£13), perfectly cooked. I cut one piece with a fork, just because I could. Main course of halibut (£25) was slightly bijou, but again cooked to perfection and, have you seen the price of halibut recently? Venison (£25) with cinnamon jus and cauliflower bhaji, same high quality of cooking. These were ordered with sides such as Masala potato (£4) and basmati rice (£4). Puddings (£9), for example a spiced pear with cinnamon, salted caramel ice cream and a praline, were pleasant. Coffee was piping** hot £3.50, and came with petits fours, including a, presumably post-modern, Bailey’s chocolate truffle. A plate of good English cheeses costs £10.
Drinks at Prithvi
Prithvi has one of those wine lists that offers more value, the more you pay. At the lower end, wines are, shall we say, fully marked up.
On the other hand a 2014 Chateau Cissac was pretty good value at £43, although 2014 wasn’t the most brilliant of years. The only issue is how you feel about fine wines with spiced food. But don’t confuse ‘spicy’ with ‘chilli’. For what it’s worth, I’ve never had a problem with pairing a dry red wine with food like this, especially if the wine is slightly higher in alcohol. Beers are Vedett (that venerable-but-now-hipster offshoot of the Duvel family (£5.50)), Kingfisher, and Meantime Pale Ale (£4).
Wines by the glass start at £8.50 with a something new to me – Tsiakkas Xynisteri. It’s from Cyrus and all lime and apple and almond flavours. Bit of a find.
It was a real pleasure to go to a restaurant with a high reputation and find that it lived up to it. This might be my new favourite restaurant in town, if I can plan far enough ahead.
* Yes, Sun readers, I am bloody judging you. **By which I mean that I burnt my tongue.