Purslane Restaurant British Fish, Cotswold Produce
Purslane in One Paragraph:
This restaurant is amongst the best in Cheltenham. Attractive dining room, friendly staff and thoroughly consistent, competent cooking. It also offers the best restaurant bread in town, we reckon, yep including Champignon Sauvage.
The Longer Read:
Tucked behind the banks and building societies of the High Street, Purslane Restaurant is a small (approx 26 cover), smart venture by Chef Patron Gareth Fulford. The name, Purslane, by the way, refers to the leafy vegetable. It’s sometimes foraged on the coast and so a fitting name for a seafood-based restaurant. Amusingly, Gareth is a butcher’s son.
We have been to Purslane Restaurant at lunchtime when the bright pleasant room was filled with ladies lunching. And we’ve been in the evening (as on this visit) when there’s also a lot to like. Expect pleasant candlelit atmosphere, comfy chairs, other ambient lighting and attentive staff. The welcome is formal, but genuine. Aside from some bloody dreadful background jazz, all is good.
For an example of where this restaurant goes the extra mile, look at the bread – which appeared as a slate of three. It’s much better than having a basket waved at you to choose from. A fennel seed bun sits alongside a slice of perfect sourdough, as well as my favourite, the soda bread. House-made taramasalata and seaweed butter accompany. In fact, the quality of the bread was so good that we liked it best with old-school salted butter.
Dinner at Purslane Restaurant
On this visit we mainly followed the restaurant’s 3 course for £17 ‘early supper’ menu. Set menus are a fair tactic in the drive to get value for diners, but don’t forget to buy a decent wine. A restaurant like this needs your support. And yes, I can confirm that if you order “Two set menus and two glasses of tap water please.”, you are being judged.
Pheasant terrine was loose-but-tasty, with celeriac and pickled mushrooms. This was pleasant and got no complaints.
The standout dish was a scallop dish. Carrots, buttermilk and gingerbread came together in a rich, harmonious sweetness that was a perfect foil for the shellfish. The quality of the produce shone through, and looking at the list of suppliers on their website, it’s not surprising.
Ling with squid ink tagliatelle was another example of fish cookery at its best. Plump St Austell mussels contributed a sweet, briny charm to the mix. As a result, it was a feelgood dish in every sense. Ling, by the way is a sustainable (if it’s not caught by trawling) cod-like Atlantic fish.
The Meat is Pretty Good Too
Pork loin with parsnip brioche, curly kale and quince was nudged from delicious to divine by a side of truffled chips. This was confident, tasty cooking – perfectly executed with enough charm and an all important sense of luxury. A bottle of Zweigelt (£30) paired up well, with bags of blood orange character and (bear with me) a kind of crunchy freshness that reminded me of Beaujolais. Zweigelt is a lab grape, developed by Fritz Zweigelt, an Austrian scientist. Apparently, the original plan was to call the grape ‘rotburger’. Common sense prevailed.
Puddings at Purslane Restaurant
Restaurant Purslane’s fixed menu had a single pudding option of Glazed Banana, Chocolate Mousse and Banoffee Ice Cream. This was a predictably sweet finish, but also delicious. Sadly, at this point, things came down to earth sharply, with a truly dud cup of coffee. Seems like just a one-off slip up.
Even without considering the extraordinarily good value that Purslane’s set menus represent, this food has to be ranked amongst the best that Cheltenham has to offer. Most of all, Purslane achieves a very, very high standard of food, with just the right amount of originality and invention.