For over 20 years there has been a good reason to visit Cheltenham if you like good food and that is double Michelin starred restaurant Le Champignon Sauvage. Now, with Lumière, there's a reason to extend your stay. What's more, we have little doubt that Lumière will earn its first Michelin star in the very near future and that Jon Howe is a great British talent with a bright future ahead of him.
The restaurant itself has an unassuming front in Cheltenham town's centre, and spanning only 20 feet or so across, it is easily missed. Inside though, it is smart, clean and light with pristine tables draped with white table cloths giving a nod to the restaurant's aims and ambitions.
The first snack you receive at the table shows a more contemporary approach however: cajun popcorn and black and white potato crisp. A good selection of warm bread follows including an appetising sea salt and rosemary crusted roll, a nice change from the usual fare.
On the menu, there's a wide selection with not only a set lunch and an a la carte but two tasting menus also. What's more, so much of what's on the menu sounded very good indeed that we had trouble selecting. We opted for the five course tasting menu having been told that the seven course menu was unavailable at lunch because it takes too long, but in what turned out to be a quiet lunch service for the restaurant, our five course menu ultimately morphed into seven.
First up was Wild garlic soup, white beans, crayfish, smoked eel and olive oil. An excellent and encouraging start. Full of flavour, a great palate awakener, wonderfully cooked crayfish and the right quantity of food for the beginning of a tasting menu. Nicely presented too, as all the dishes would be over the course of meal.
The next dessert however was for sweet lovers though a strong salty contribution provided some contrast but could never fully balance such depth of chocolate - I loved it. In full, it was a Valrhona Guanajo dark chocolate delice, smoked salt, peacan, sesame, Bourbon 'cheesecake', brown bread ice cream. A lot going on here, sweet and salt, crisp and crunch and ice cream cold. The chocolate delice could have been served up alone and still have been good, maybe some vanilla ice cream on the side, but you feel the ethos of the kitchen in wanting to create not just a good or an acceptable dessert but a unique and stunning dessert, achieved by putting in the extra work to deliver something I would say was very special indeed. The brown bread ice cream here was also better I felt than that at Heston's Dinner where I found it excessively bready and where I didn't really enjoy it.
The pictures clearly highlight we think that this is Michelin standard food. Take our word for it that it tastes as good as it looks. At times, it's not far off 2 star standard and if Chef Jon Howe continues to grow his talents over the coming years, he will almost certainly become one of the Britain's top chefs. While Lumière was quiet for our visit, it has without doubt a very bright future as one of the Cotswold's top restaurants, a destination for those who love food.
Restaurant wise, Cheltenham is famous for Le Champignon Sauvage and we have advocated that people who live outside the area make the journey to try David's food. The food at Lumière is sufficiently good for us to advocate making a journey to Cheltenham to eat Jon Howe's food also, it really is that good. We're not the very first to discover Lumière in its new(ish) guise, but for once, we are early to the story. We'll certainly go back to Lumière, many times most likely, and we're thrilled at the prospect of eating here in the future to watch Jon and Helen, the next generation of Great British food talent bloom.
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