Bombay & Co

Is it possible that this is the best place to eat in Cheltenham right now? For me, it’s probably the best place I’ve ever eaten in Gloucestershire. Bold words, but here’s my logic..

Bombay & Co excites me. London life bleeds my time and energy to write reviews at my former pace, but I’m simply compelled as thought it’s my civic duty to make a public service announcement. This restaurant excites me like the discovery of a lost city or a new species of butterfly – I’m desperately trying to soak up the moment and relive the details before it’s changed forever more.

Forget the menu; just ask politely to be fed and trust your host to provide you with an array of street food, carefully and thoughtfully sequenced for maximum culinary impact on your taste buds.

Gushing reviews make me nauseous, but don’t despair, there’s balance that adds to the charm. Bombay & Co would have passed me by if it weren’t for a local pal dragging me to the crappy end of the High Street. First impressions and the all-important curb-appeal? My self-confessed snobbish standards would likely have kept me from ever passing through the wonky doors between the tatty drapes. Actually, maybe it’s been there for years and I’ve simply never even noticed it.

I’d usually write lots more and wax lyrical about the dishes themselves, the flavour combinations and layout on the plate etc, but I don’t want to spoil your own personal experience. Just let them take you on a street food journey – it’s so ridiculously cheap and remarkably good value for money that you simply can’t go wrong.

Who would have thought that cheap and nasty white burger buns would marry so well with Dabeli or Pav Bhajji. They import all their spices from India and make everything from scratch; Pani Pooori, Bombay Mix, the works. They’re even opening for breakfast every Sunday folks!

The cobbled, basic setup and graffiti artwork decoration is brilliant. Even the spelling mistakes – bonus points if you can spot one. Eating is all about the experience and if anything, I’d say that it heightened the senses, making the delectable flavours even more surprising, like a ingeniously engineered juxtaposition. It’s not, but it makes me smile to think that we’re all being duped and there’s a Michelin-starred kitchen and highly-polished brigade on the other side of the swing-door. Alas the FSA hygiene rating confirms there isn’t.

It’s the balance of food, atmosphere, price and environment that makes an eating establishment truly great and stand out above the rest. Friendly, relaxed, welcoming, cheap and above all else, delicious. I beg you Bombay & Co, please don’t change a thing. It’s inevitable that they eventually will, as success and recognition lead to change, so make the most of it whilst you can; get your tiffins at the ready, the spirit of Mumbai has arrived in the Cotswolds.

pani poori at Bombay & Co Cheltenham
Dosa at Bombay & Co Cheltenham
Tandoori Pomfret at Bombay & Co Cheltenham
deliciousness

Bombay @ Co:

337 High Street, Cheltenham, GL50 3HS

dine@bombaynco.uk

01242584301

@bombaynco

Curing Egg Yolks

Sounds crazy right? Fear not, it’s remarkably simple and insanely delicious. In just 4 days you can transform an egg yolk into an umami-heavy delight with the characteristics and texture of Parmesan cheese.

The story starts as always with the freshest, highest quality ingredients you can afford. I normally use medium-size local organic free-range eggs.

Decide how many eggs you’d like to cure and select a dish or tupperware container large enough to house them comfortably without them touching each other. You’ll then need enough salt and sugar to bury them completely.

Separate your eggs and either freeze your whites (albumen) for later use, or make some meringues, omelettes or something useful.

Make yourself a curing mix by combining equal quantities of salt and sugar.  You may want to add in some other flavourings to jazz it up a bit: peppercorns, seaweed, mace, chilli flakes, cloves – whatever takes your fancy.

Put at least a 1cm of the mix in the bottom of your container, use the back of a spoon to make a little indentation for each yolk to sit in, place them in and then cover them all up with the rest of your curing mix.

egg yolk ready to be cured

Pop the lid on or cover your dish with cling film before putting them to bed in your fridge for 4 days.

Carefully remove the yolks and then rinse off any excess cure that sticking to them.

cured egg yolks ready to be rinsed

Next you’ll need to dry them out completely by placing them on a wire rack in a very low oven (50°C) for an hour or two.

drying cured egg yolks in a low oven

Your cured yolks will live happily in a container in the fridge for up to a month.

cured egg yolks

How to use them? Just finely grate them in the same way that you would use Parmesan cheese on pasta, asparagus, whatever you’d like. I just love it over buttered sourdough toast.

cured egg yolk on buttered sourdough

Sourdough Bread

As promised, here’s the recipe I’m generally following to make sourdough loaves. It assumes that you have a dutch oven, but if you don’t, you can use a large cast iron cooking pot with a tight fitting lid.

The story begins with a sourdough starter. If you don’t already have your own, you can find my recipe here.

Ingredients:

  • 80g sourdough starter
  • 580g strong white organic flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 380g water
  • 15g salt
  • Rice flour for dusting
  • Semolina for dusting

Equipment that will help:

  • Digital scales
  • Measuring jug
  • Dough scraper – good for shaping and moving your dough
  • Large bowl
  • Shower cap/cling film/cloth
  • Banneton – wicker basket for proving
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Lame, razor blade or bread knife
  • Water mister/sprayer
  • Dutch oven or cast iron pot
  • Cooling rack

Method:

Sourdough is all about time. You can’t rush flavour.

  1. The night before you want to bake, combine 80g of your sourdough starter, 80g strong organic white flour and 80g water in a bowl or tupperware container, mix thoroughly, cover and leave at room temperature.  This will be your sponge.
  2. The following morning, add 300g water to your sponge and very roughly mix in 500g strong organic white flour. Cover with a shower cap and leave for an hour to allow the flour to absorb the water. This stage is called the autolyse.
  3. Mix in 15g salt and knead the dough on a clean surface for about 10 minutes. It will hold its shape and become less sticky as the gluten develops.
  4. Shape your dough into a ball, lightly dust with flour, and place it in a bowl. Cover and leave it to rest for 1 hour.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl, knock it back and reshape it into a ball by working the outer edges into the centre. Cover and leave it to rest at room temperature for a further hour.
  6. Knock the dough back and reshape a further two times, until it has spent a total of 4 hours fermenting.
  7. Dust your banneton or bowl liberally with rice flour, shape your dough for the last time, place it inside and cover with a shower cap or cloth. Leave your dough to prove for 4 hours.
  8. Preheat your oven to full temperature with your dutch oven or cast iron pot inside. I wait around 30 minutes for everything to heat up sufficiently.
  9. Carefully turn your dough out onto a piece of greaseproof paper dusted with semolina. ready to be slashed and baked
  10. Slash the top of your dough with a lame, razor blade or sharp bread knife.
  11. Very carefully place your dough inside your dutch oven and spritz with water.
  12. Bake for 10 minutes before turning the temperature down to 230 degrees centigrade and baking for a further 40 minutes.
  13. Carefully remove your bread and leave it to rest on a cooling rack.
  14. Admire and devour.

I find that a dutch oven creates a great environment for the bread to bake in the absence of a professional oven. The reality is that there are many, many variables in play when it comes to baking bread. Literally everything makes a difference, from the water, air and flour temperatures, to brand of flour and type of oven. For this reason, regular practice, keen observation and confident intuition are what truly makes great bread. The more you bake, the more you’ll learn and develop that all important feel for what’s going on with your dough.

Godspeed folks.

freshly baked sourdough bread

Sourdough Starter

Quite a few people have been asking me about Dave recently. This household pet that brings so much joy to my life isn’t a cat or a dog, it’s actually a natural yeast culture, cultivated right here in the Cotswolds. I made him by exposing an organic flour and water mix to the elements to collect the wild yeast spores that blow around on the wind. It really is as simple as that. The crossing of fingers helps a little too, but these dormant spores are even present in the flour itself.

Starters or leavens like this are beautiful things, as they’re unique to their surroundings in terms of their taste and behaviour. They’re also alive, and as such require a degree of husbandry. My sourdough bread is merely a combination of Dave, flour, salt and water. The most vital ingredient in good bread is without doubt, time. All bread used to be made with wild yeast, but mass produced commercial yeast is faster and much easier to store and control.

Now, I skip over the fact that our starter is called ‘Dave’, as I’m quite used to it now, but I must stress that it wasn’t my choice of name. Much akin to Boaty McBoatface and Brexit, be careful when asking children to make important decisions.

Fancy making your own starter? Just follow these basic instructions.

Ingredients:

  • organic flour of your choice (spelt, white, wholemeal, rye)
  • water

Method:

  1. Thoroughly mix together 50g of flour with 50ml of water in a bowl and cover it with a cloth or a shower cap. Leave it at room temperature for about 24 hours. (covering it will prevent a dry crust forming).making a sourdough starter
  2. Feed your starter with another 50g of flour and 50ml water, whisk thoroughly to incorporate plenty of air, cover and leave for another 24 hours.
  3. By this point you should see small air bubbles forming and notice an odour developing. Don’t be alarmed by what it smells like – it will change dramatically as your starter culture matures. fermentation in action
  4. Tip half of your starter away and feed it with another 50g flour and 50ml water, mixing well. Cover and leave for another 24 hours.
  5. Transfer your starter to a large glass jar or Tupperware pot. As your starter becomes more active it will froth up and expand, so make sure your receptacle isn’t too small… otherwise you may find yourself in this position: dave the sourdough starter
  6. Feed your starter each day for a week, discarding half before whisking in another 50g flour and 50ml water.
  7. At this point you’re good to go.
  8. If you’re baking frequently, you’ll want to keep up this daily routine of tipping half away (or using it to make bread, pancakes, whatever) and then feeding your pet with a 50g/50ml flour and water mix, however you might want to pop it in the fridge (with the lid tightly secured) as this will slow the fermentation process down so that you only have to feed it once every week or so. You’ll save plenty of flour this way, but you’ll need a couple of days of feeding at room temperature to get it back up to speed. This is all about yeast farming, and to make really good bread you’ll want your culture to be really active and lively. 

Dave is born

Remember that keeping your starter small (in volume) means that it’ll be easy to manage; the bigger the volume, the more flour it will need at feeding time.

I’ll write a further post covering my favourite bread recipe (at the moment), but please do make good use of your sourdough starter instead of dried yeast in whatever bready adventures you embark on.

Check out: https://foodfitforfelix.com/2018/12/18/sourdough-2-0

Prithvi

Indian food, but not as we know it. The unassuming and understated entrance to Prithvi leads you into a welcoming and convivial environment inhabited by swans of the hospitality industry. Unexpectedly small, but perfectly maximised like an Ikea showroom space, my first impressions leave me feeling relaxed and excited at the prospect of what’s to come.

prithvi

My wife and I are at Prithvi for the first time thanks to a kind invitation to sample their new Autumn menu at a VIP lunch. How cool is that.

I’m very quickly appreciating why this Cheltenham restaurant is listed as No.1 on TripAdvisor, regularly referenced by my friends and colleagues as their go-to venue for a special occasion, and the source of eternal consternation as it’s so hard to make a reservation within the same decade.

Jay is the main man – move over Fred of First Dates fame. What a wonderfully professional and thoughtful host. Service at its absolute best; I was tempted to get up from the table just to see how quickly one of the lovely staff would appear to refold my napkin. There’s a point at which this becomes OTT, but in the finest of establishments as I would regard this one, you don’t even notice their presence until you need them.

So let’s talk about the most important factor – the food.

This is like no Indian restaurant I’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at; they’re taking Indian cuisine to a new level. Exquisite, refined and elegant. I’m so pleased to see the team adapting their menu to the season and making the most of the wonderful ingredients in abundance at this time of year.

We started with an amuse-bouche of crispy curly kale on a rice cracker with mango – so simple, yet so perfectly balanced and delicious.

kale cracker and mangoNext was a panipuri to die for, devoured in one mouthful to avoid the tamarind reduction decorating my shirt. Heaven.

gorgeous panipuri at Prithvi

Next to the big guns. Tandoor baked salmon with beetroot, cucumber and mango. Taking my time and sampling just a sliver of beetroot with micro-herbs as my introduction to this plate took me to somewhere very special. The thoughtfully selected 2015 Charles Sparr Gewurztraminer from Alsace was an inspired choice that balanced the spice like only a semi-sweet white wine can, it’s viscosity culminating in smiles blossoming around the dining room. The fine, fine details that elevate their dishes is what puts them on the map.

tandoor salmon

Welsh lamb, couscous and legumes paired with a delightful glass of Carménère and then the hearty and seasonal venison with butternut squash, ginger and cinnamon reduction. Oh take me back already.

I’m not a dessert kind of customer; give me a tray of starters or a cheese board any day. However.. The plate of sunshine that arrived with the precision delivery we were becoming happily accustomed to, rapidly vanished, much to even my surprise. Passion fruit cream, mango gel, coriander and honey crumble.

Passion Fruit Cream, mango gel, coriander & honey crumble

Honestly, what is this place? I’m starting to question myself and I’m not quite sure of anything anymore. One thing’s clear, I’m smitten. I’m happy, satisfied and remarkably comfortable (unlike as I’m sure you’ll agree, every visit to a regular Indian restaurant).  I headed down the road happy as a proverbial pig in shit. The plates were relatively small, yet they cleverly combined into a neatly balanced meal that left me undeniably content, rather than a bulging and belching all the way home.

I can’t stop thinking about what Jay and his excellent team could accomplish in a slightly larger purpose-built space. I sincerely pray that Prithvi maintains its trajectory as I desperately scrimp and save for our next visit.

For more information, check out bit.ly/lunchwithprithvi