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Out & About

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Afternoon Tea at Jolly’s

A few Saturdays ago I visited the beautiful city of Bath for the day with one of my best friends. No set plans, aside from seeing Jack Savoretti later on that evening (you can read about that here) and hopeful for afternoon tea somewhere. We wandered around before stumbling across this hidden gem…

Côte Brasserie, French dining in Cheltenham

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As a Cheltonian born and bred I’ve seen restaurants come and go, but when Montpellier Brasserie closed down last summer I was disappointed. Their food and cocktails always raised a smile when I visited and I held fond memories of the place, but I was intrigued to find out who would replace this local dining spot.

Côte is a French chain inspired by Parisian bistros, putting together ‘authentic brasserie dishes with a modern twist‘. From steak to seafood and salads, there is something for everyone to enjoy and I couldn’t wait to tuck in and try what is on offer. Officially opening in Cheltenham on Monday 13th April, myself and a friend got to sample some of the delights a couple days early.

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Lunchtime on a Saturday: the atmosphere was lively in an informal yet elegant setting. Friendly faces greeted us as we entered (and departed), the service was efficient and we didn’t have to wait long before our drinks and complimentary nibbles were served. Supervisors were on hand to prompt some of the staff to ensure customers were happy, monitoring the room for further improvements, something that will probably be present for the coming weeks whilst they settle in to their new surroundings. Our waiter was lovely and he was extremely attentive and the quality of the dining experience shone through, even before food reached our stomachs.

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We enjoyed a bowl of juicy olives and crusty bread whilst perusing the menu, offering plenty of choice for most appetites. Whilst Sam chose the Boudin Noir as his starter (French black pudding with caramelised apples, poached egg and a frisée salad), I went with an old favourite – calamari.

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I was conscious not to fill up on too much fresh bread (despite how tasty it was) in fear of ruining my two courses. Thank goodness I did as the portion of calamari was particularly generous! I’m used to sharing this dish in other restaurants so on average I would expect 6-8 pieces between two people, but there must have been 10+ pieces in this cute little pan of breadcrumbed squid! As my stomach started to shrink I felt like I had been eating a main course, so left the final few pieces for Sam to finish off. Dare I say it it might be the best calamari I have ever had! I would recommend this as a sharing dish though, unless you are feeling particularly ravenous.

For my main I chose the Salmon Fishcakes, a favourite dish of mine, with a baby spinach salad, dill, a wholegrain mustard sauce, and a side of French green beans to compliment the meal. I was slightly full from the starter but found it easy to demolish most of the main course, the only thing I didn’t care for were the number of capers on my plate – perhaps an ingredient that should be mentioned on the menu. Sam ordered the roasted duck breast with gratin potato and a griottine cherry sauce, and after trying a mouthful of the tender duck I look forward to ordering it on my next visit.

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We were offered more drinks and handed the dessert menu. Everything sounded scrumptious! It’s a shame I felt so full up because the Praline Crêpes sound amazing, I will definitely be ordering this next time. We went with a coffee instead to end our lovely lunch with, and before we knew it it was time to leave.

From the decor to the service I was impressed with the experience and leaves you wanting to try more – great quality food for excellent prices.

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Will you be visiting?

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Jamie’s Italian, Cheltenham

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When I was approached by Jamie’s Italian a couple of weeks ago to review their restaurant here in Cheltenham, I leaped at the chance. As a lover of Italian food and a fan of Jamie Oliver’s I was looking forward to sampling some authentic cuisine with the rustic touches I know it is famous for.

We had a table booked for 7.30 on Tuesday evening and as we arrived on the dot we were greeted with a friendly smile within seconds of stepping through the door, I stated my name and we were swiftly taken to our table. The room was filling up slowly so it had a lively yet relaxed environment, perfect for a couple of friends catching up for the evening (nothing worse than having to shout above the noise to be heard).

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The restaurant is a former County Court with original features including the jury box and judges’ table, it’s a pretty impressive place to eat your lunch or dinner – whether you are dining with friends or family, it’s a fun experience for all ages. Situated in the centre of town with bars and restaurants including Bills, Copa and Slug and Lettuce on the one side and the Everyman Theatre on the other, it’s a great location and easy to find.

Once we were comfortably seated and our coats were kindly hung up for us, our waitress for the evening brought over the menus and took our drinks order. We decided on a carafe of Sauvignon Blanc to wet our appetite and were well informed about the Specials dishes. We studied the menu and decided on sharing two starters – the Cured Meats Plank for one and the Artisan Bread Basket.

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The plank boasts four types of cured meat, including fennel salami, aged prosciutto, piccante and mortadella. Served with a mini buffalo mozzarella, pecorino (thin crisp music bread) and chilli jam, a wonderful selection of pickles and olives and a delicious helping of kale slaw. Laid out on two tins, an idea Jamie himself picked up during a stay in Italy, the food was at eye level to us so it was much easier to see the contents on the plank aside from looking extremely well presented.

The bread selection was the perfect accompaniment, with homemade focaccia, ciabatta, sourdough, crackerbread and grissini sticks – served with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic and a tasty olive tapenade.

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The flavours of the bread, meat and accompaniments together were fantastic and I couldn’t fault any part of it, aside from there wasn’t enough kale slaw – it was delicious!

We chose to order our mains once we had consumed our starters, the menu has such variety we just couldn’t decide! After a lot of ‘umming and ahhing’, we eventually chose The Jamie’s Italian Burger with a side of Funky Chips and the Lamb Chops Scottaditta.

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When our mains arrived we were impressed with the presentation, especially with the lamb chops. My friend was given a separate plate to dish up the meal her own way, which included a flavoursome trio of herby red onions, toasted nuts and yoghurt with a side of posh polenta chips. I sampled a mouthful of the lamb and it was tender and flavoursome, something I would definitely opt for next time.

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The beef burger was delicious! With the mortadella, balsamic onions, tomato and smoked mozzarella (I removed the pickles and chillies), the combined flavours worked perfectly together. The rosemary and garlic chips were incredible, chunky and fluffy on the inside, the perfect chip – they are extremely garlicky though, so perhaps not the best choice if you’re on a date…

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I couldn’t finish all of my meal as it was so filling but that’s not a reflection on the food, just my small stomach. I always regret leaving anything behind, and an hour later I was craving those chips again!

We resisted dessert, as much as we were eyeing up the Epic Brownie, I opted for a cappuccino instead to round up our lovely evening. I was impressed that the cup of coffee tasted so authentic, it was like being back in Italy.

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Our waitress was extremely knowledgeable and efficient, continuously informing us throughout the evening on the food and thoughts behind the presentation of the courses which was a really nice touch to the experience. A far cry from your usual Italian restaurants, Jamie’s is a warm and inviting dining experience for most foodies.

You can check out the menu here and book a table for yourself – there is even an easy way to choose your meals according to your dietary requirements!

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