WOODKRAFT MasterChef winner’s Cheltenham restaurant.
The reference is to Simon Wood, a winner of Masterchef*, that popular TV test of cooking under pressure. Simon Wood won it. He then opened up WOOD in Manchester and now WOODKRAFT in Cheltenham. Now that WOODKRAFT is now properly established, we thought we’d try it out a couple of times. We liked it.
The restaurant is in Regent Street, surely now Cheltenham’s most interesting foodie street, not least for Koj which is owned by Andrew Kojima. He was also a Masterchef finalist.
WOODKRAFT occupies the same sort of townhouse buildings as the nearby The Find. In fact the layout is unnervingly similar. WOODKRAFT has seating on three levels though – they’ve used the basement level as well.
First choice seating is probably upstairs, but the ground floor is a pleasant cafe style space too. On walking in, there’s a good impression – clean, tidy, genuine smiles from the staff – you feel welcome. I also like that the first thing you notice is the open kitchen. Let the chefs see the daylight I say. It inspires confidence amongst punters by countering my Law of Deliveroo, which is: the less contact you have with the kitchen team, the less likely they are to care a damn about what they give you to eat.
Before WOODKRAFT opened, I had expected it to be another fine dining restaurant focusing on evening dining. In fact what they are is an all day restaurant. WOODKRAFT is open daytime only (9-5 daily, (9-6 Friday and Saturday)). Sunday 9-4. You order at the counter. There are a few seats downstairs but the best spots are on the first floor, street side.
I like it when restaurants/cafes have a clear idea of what they want to be, so the all day restaurant format is fine by me. Very few places can switch from all day to evening operation (as opposed to offering lunch and dinner only) successfully. I’d say that WOODKRAFT has achieved a proper brasserie atmosphere, in the sense that I’d be happy to sit here with just a coffee or order a three course lunch. It’s a comfortable, unpretentious place to be.
Menus at WOODKRAFT
At WOODKRAFT there’s an all day brunch menu with breakfasts, pancakes etc. The lunch menu (from noon) offers the likes of pan fried gnocchi, chicken Caesar salad, minute steak and duck egg, super salads, a ‘WKB’ house burger or fish finger sandwiches etc. These are familiar menu items but, we felt, prepared more carefully than usual. An example would be the pancakes with maple syrup and bananas and walnut (£7). A relatively routine sounding item, which you see all over Cheltenham, but here it had been cooked rather than just assembled. Pancakes made from scratch (I think), bananas seared without the usual pool of maple syrup on the plate, plenty of walnuts. There was attention to detail here, when there didn’t necessarily need to be, which tells you something about the chef and the place. Same comments went for the apple, cinnamon and almond version. Best pancakes in town, we’d say, as long as you can accept quality over quantity. No squirty cream in sight either.
Similarly a fish finger sandwich (£10) was served cooked and delivered at the point of being ready to eat, crunchy and fresh tasting. Chips a bit disappointing though. Poached eggs with wild mushroom sourdough toast (£7.50), was also well prepared, and generous with the mushrooms. Coffee was fine.
Drinks are OK, wines from £20 a bottle(Prosecco £32). Good to see Cotswold Distillery Whisky (it’s always good to see Cotswold Distillery Whisky). There’s a nod to the local in terms of gins (Siblings etc), but it would be even better to see the thrilling Garden Tiger Gin. Beers like Hop House and Brooklyn.
WOODKRAFT is a welcome addition to the Cheltenham scene – we look forward to trying Sunday lunch, which I think might be really good, judging by the care on show here. Our scores are relatively high (you might think), but this reflects that WOODKRAFT chooses to do a few things well, rather than trying to be all things to all people.Some of the competition locally could learn from that.
WOODKRAFT operates on a walk-in basis only.
*Rendered unwatchable to me at least, by Greg Wallace (hey, it’s our website, our bias).