Whether you’re looking for a cosy café to grab a quick and comforting meal, a family-friendly eatery or an elegant restaurant for a special occasion, there’s a dining option you’ll love in Cheltenham. Here’s our pick of the best restaurants the city has to offer.
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Baker & Graze
While topped toast is on menus everywhere, a plate of it in all its buttery glory is surprisingly hard to find these days. Baker & Graze, a bakery/deli/café on Suffolk Street, serves toast topped with smashed avocado & smoked streaky bacon as well as more creative options like fennel sausages, cavolo nero & anchovy butter or nduja, labneh & pickled fennel, plus a host of delightful salads, sandwiches and delicate pastries. But, it also elevates its tangy homemade sourdough from sideshow to serious menu option by offering it with a simple smear of homemade jam – a confident move that proves just how good the loaves here are. Need more evidence? There was also a recent appearance by Mary Berry, who dropped in for a loaf and a spot of lunch.
MasterChef finalist Andrew Kojima spent years earning his stripes in eminent kitchens before opening Koj: a Japanese ‘grazing’ – read ‘sharing plates’ – restaurant that eschews sushi in favour of dishes such as panko cauliflower, pork donburi (simmered pork mince with soy-pickled greens), spicy peanut miso aubergine and shiitake okonomiyaki. The food is deeply pleasurable, vigorous and innovative but accessible enough to those unsure of Japanese cuisine. The cocktails are punchy – as is the sake list – and the atmosphere is joyous. Koj was some time coming, but in it Kojima has truly proved himself a master chef.
The Coconut Tree
The Coconut Tree is the brainchild of five Sri Lankans who grew up together in Colombo, then all wound up in Croydon when they moved to the UK. They soon moved to Cheltenham, and spent every evening for six months converting a knackered boozer into The Coconut Tree, a restaurant serving Sri Lankan street food in blue-and-white enamelware. The service is friendly and fast, and the food is a carnival of curries heady with coconut and turmeric, warm roti, battered spicy cuttlefish and of course hoppers (coconut milk pancakes) served with fruity, spicy sambals.
The Royal Oak
While The Royal Oak is just outside of Cheltenham, there are plenty of reasons to make a visit. It’s next to the race courses, has log fires, a beautiful garden and a menu offering veg from its own allotment as well as – it’s a Butcombe Brewing Co pub, after all – a range of local beers. Provenance lies at the heart of its modern British menu, which rests on sustainably caught fish, deliveries packaged in recyclable containers and bespoke products from local producers. There are Butcombe beer chutneys made by nearby Rose Farm, plus cider-cured salmon from Severn & Wye Smokery in Gloucestershire to enjoy. Go for the Jazz Festival, but stay for the confit duck leg croquettes with pickled carrots & fennel and tarragon mayonnaise.
Offering ‘an antidote to the often impersonal experience of modern supermarket shopping’, Cheeseworks offers a modern variety of farmhouse cheeses and exceptional customer service. Gruyères to gloucestershires line the walls, ready to be sampled, hand cut and wrapped in wax paper. While you wait for your order to be prepared (there are, needless to say, no self-service checkouts) you can browse a selection of chutneys, ales and ciders – many of which are produced in the region – and enjoy the family-run vibe of the place. You’ll find that all of the staff are friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about cheese.
Coffee shop Black Gold might look like a saloon bar from the outside, but inside you’ll find petrol-blue walls, filament bulb fixtures, James Bond-esque wing-backed armchairs, and single-estate, sustainably sourced coffee alongside a variety of cakes and treats. We like that Black Gold is so rooted in the community – the cakes are made by a Cheltenham resident, milk is sourced from the Cotswolds and even the crockery is made by a local pottery business. It’s a long and welcome cry away from the soulless coffee chains that dominate the high street.
Sixways Wine Bar
There aren’t many bars that strike the sweet spot between sophisticated and laid-back, but in its debut wine bar and shop, Sixways Wine Bar, local wine supplier Cheltenham Wine Company has nailed it. Its verre du vin preservation system means its entire range can be offered by the glass, allowing customers to try a variety of wines without committing to a full bottle. Its philosophy of ‘enjoying wine without taking it too seriously’ means the atmosphere is approachable for everyone from the serious connoisseur to the average wine drinker. It’s a perfect spot to while the night away with a drink and sharing cheese or charcuterie board.
Le Champignon Sauvage
It would be remiss not to mention the venerable Le Champignon Sauvage, one of only a handful of restaurants in the UK to hold two Michelin stars for over a decade. While they lost one last year, you should still sample the cuisine of David Everitt-Matthias – one of industry’s most revered chefs, he’s been widely credited with cooking years ahead of the curve. He and his wife, Helen, have run the restaurant since 1987, and David has never missed a service. His food unites the principle of terroir and classic French fare with flashes of originality – think roasted wood pigeon with black pudding cream & choucroute of kohlrabi, duck egg custard cream with rhubarb & hibiscus and mango & Thai-spiced cream served with his famous Thai green curry sorbet.
Well Walk Tea Room
With its trinket-filled shelves, polka-dot tablecloths and bountiful floral prints, Well Walk Tea Room, just off Cheltenham’s Promenade, is as much twee room as tea room. Even if the decor isn’t your thing, the scones will be: plump, slightly craggy, moist without being doughy and served warm with homemade strawberry preserve and clotted cream. In an age where every mouthful is Instagram-ready, its sandwiches and cakes are a welcome relief: generously filled and thickly sliced, they’re the work of a baker – Isabelle – whose primary objective is flavour. This is afternoon tea, not art, and it’s all the better for it. It’s a celebration of local ingredients treated with love and talent, served up with a smile and a hot pot of tea.
Emboldened by the success of his Mancunian joint, WOOD, MasterChef 2015 winner Simon Wood opened WOODkraft in 2018. It’s a more informal ‘artisan eatery’ compared to WOOD, and is a place where guests can enjoy Sunday lunch ‘sharing boards’ breakfast and brunch, or shop at the small, in-restaurant deli. Here, Simon’s signature passion for democratising quality dining meets with Gloucestershire’s wealth of local producers and growers, resulting in a menu as intent on flavour as it is accessibility. Expect ham hock and Hereford hop cheddar sandwiches, Old Spot sausage rolls, longhorn beef patties in brioche buns and the delectable fondant potato-esque hashbrowns that are truly worth the trip themselves.
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of December 2019 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out of date information in this guide, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team attended these establishments as guests.
Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.