Lucy Self dines at The Montpellier Chapter in Cheltenham and finds that three is most definitely the magic number.
The number three is a recurrent theme in cooking. There’s the holy trinity of ingredients (from the French mirepoix of onion, carrot and celery to the Spanish sofrito of garlic, onion and tomato), the standard number of courses, the basic required cutlery and then there’s the cheffy thing of serving one ingredient three ways. We’ve often found the latter to be a mixed bag, resulting in a dish where so much effort has gone into the idea – the sum of parts get lost along the way.
We came across the concept twice at the Montpellier Chapter, a hotel, restaurant and spa on Cheltenham’s Bayhill Road housed in a building that looks like something out of Jane Austin, and found our doubts thoroughly silenced.
First though, the interior, which takes on a slightly more contemporary slant one you are through the pillar-flanked entrance. Whilst we’re ushered to the lounge for an aperitif we spot some dramatic modern art in the lobby, a gorgeous conservatory complete with high-backed wicker chairs and lush planting and a library tastefully draped in shades of the 70s.
The dining space itself is, in comparison, fairly plain. Though perhaps this is an intentional move to highlight both the room’s lofty proportions and the beautiful dishes that come from the open kitchen.
We start with a tiny pile of haddock risotto and are immensely glad we did. Each grain definable with a glossy, butter coat, topped with a flakey fillet of fishy haddock with a few dots of a daintily curried oil to cause a stir on the tongue. Even better is a homemade terrine – a patchwork quilt of game meat retaining the taste and texture of each respective bird. It’s so good, that we feel bereft when it’s gone.
By this point, we’ve had a pre dinner drink and the best part of a bottle of Riesling but we’ll maintain that followed was even better. Pink slithers of duck, paddling in crimson gravy infused with star anise, was very good. But the real star was the first of the dishes done three ways. Every part of the rabbit, a breast stuffed with crunchy savoy cabbage, confit of leg stuffed into a golden croquette and the gravy tasting of pure thumper, was a joy.
We usually coerce our dining companion to order differently for variety but there was no stopping either of us following suit with a dessert of apple, you guessed it, three ways. Repetition on a menu isn’t always a good thing, but when you’re talking a parfait, ice cream and mini pie – all alight with autumn’s finest British export, we are more than willing to make an exception.
Sadly we didn’t get to poke around The Montpellier Chapter’s rooms or check out its REN Spa. But if the quality of cooking is anything to go by, it’s well worth a return visit. Hell, we might go even back twice for the hat trick.
The Montpellier Chapter Hotel – Bayshill Road, Montpellier, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 3AS