The Tavern Cheltenham (Royal Well)
The Tavern, situated in the Royal Well in Cheltenham is a new-aged Gastro Pub which is attempting to enhance the eating / drinking experience with all the trimmings, though less is often better.
I’ve wanted to eat here for some time, and was really looking forward to the evening with a few male friends; we all received tickets from ‘Senior Management’ at home to go and enjoy the night ahead.
It had a total-refurb several years ago, and has aimed at serving good food in a cool and funky environment with a good selection of beers to wash down your grub.
The décor down stairs has some high sitting bench-type tables and more formal setting for groups to sit and swash ale down their neck at their chosen rate. Upstairs is more of a dining room, which features large tables, perfect for groups and various of types of stool-come-chairs to put your behind on; all this with an open kitchen where you can see the chefs cooking and plating up.
It seems to be the ‘to do’ thing in many gastro pubs; to tile the place as much as you can, but I always imagine these enamel looking small rectangular tiles used in a turn of the century morgue (1900’s not being our recent millennium); these tiles just have more colour, luckily The Tavern has kept using tiles to the toilets.
Upon the wall in the restaurant is a huge Union Jack flag that you might have expected Sharps Army to have come back with, and passed down through the generations. Maybe I’m showing my age now, but it does look good covered in its Perspex protected layer. I like that kind of thing and its origin is open to each person’s interpretation and bit of fantasy.
Before I go anywhere, I read the menu over and over and imagine what I’ll eat, and then get there and that generally changes. Unless the place champions some sort of meat, that is the way I’ll sway.
The Tavern offers several solid cuts of meat and also some larger sharing cuts, Chateaubriand, T- Bone, Porter steak, though subject to availability, of course.
The Tavern’s menu is a mix match of South American small dishes, i.e. chicken wings, corn on the cob, various salads and a curve ball of a rabbit pappardelle (one of my favourite pasta dishes, I’ll post this one soon). The menu was a bit like stick the tail on the donkey, and run with it.
I ordered a medium-rare rib eye, this was 24 quid and the small print said 10% service charge would be added. When did Gloucestershire slap on service charges? Maybe I’ve been away from the Shire for too long. The real cost is £26.40. Not cheap, though being 10 ounces, a hearty size for any meat fiend.
I expect my steak to be cooked as requested. I don’t believe that is too much to ask from someone whose job it is to cook things to eat for a living.
On receiving my steak I gave it a little poke. It was dead, that I was sure of, but was convinced it was overcooked. On cutting into it a few times it was obvious that the beast was overdone, more to medium-well. I politely asked for another one.
No questions asked, this was not an issue and my rejection was not questioned in the slightest. My second steak arrived. Oh dear, this was now undercooked to near blue. As all others had their food served by now, I can assume it was not rested enough, as it did land on my plate within five minutes. Not good for a £26.40 steak. The meat itself was good, with excellent marbling. The chef did not do this bit of dead cow justice.
The steak was served with fries in a little paper funnel forced into a metal pot; I dislike this and would rather they were piled high directly on the plate. The fries still had their jackets on which I’m actually a fan of, but these little fellas were pale and droopy, another failure.
My choice of sauce is always béarnaise; this was limp in texture and didn’t pack the tarragon hit you would expect.
Maybe I hyped this up too much in my mind before arriving and being realistic, on that evening this pub just didn’t live up to its expensive meaty menu. I’m not sure it actually knows if it’s a pub or a restaurant. Be one or the other and strive to be the best.
Oh, one last sad note as we were leaving, the top floor dining area got the pleasure of the manager’s (I assume the manager, but he obviously lacked this basic skill required of the job!) giving one of his waiting the staff the riot act.
We heard this rather than saw it. Don’t be an arse, but if you are going to discipline staff, go and do this somewhere quiet, out of earshot of the customers.
Would I go back?
Yes if I wanted a pint and some chicken wings. I’ve never had a bad chicken wing……
The Hungry Man score
Three Shields out of ten
Cheltenham, Gastro Pub, Gloucesetshire, Griddle, Pub, steak