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

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