Chef owner Gareth Fulford’s independent Cheltenham restaurant, Purslane, has been quietly impressing gastronomes across Gloucestershire for six years. Guarded, a little selfishly, as a hidden gem, it’s fish dishes are unsurprisingly sensational, but it was the game that really blew our mind.
Wrapped in thick coats and scarfs and seeking refuge from a bitterly cold autumn evening, we were immediately enveloped in warm as we stepped into Purslane – both from the pleasing blast of central heating and the friendly welcome.
With just 34 covers, Purslane feels like the sort of restaurant you’re lucky to get a table at, and the approving nods and smiles from diners on nearby tables, seemed an almost collective recognition of ‘oh you’re in the club too!’
While its label ‘fish restaurant’ may deter some from making a reservation at Purslane, we soon discovered there was ample variety on the compact menu: with tempting choices for carnivores and vegetarians too, as well as incredible-sounding fish options.
Classic Oban scallops with an autumnal twist proved an impressive start to the dinner: with thin slivers of Jerusalem artichoke, roasted hazelnut, chanterelles and black truffle. A hearty salt-aged pork terrine packed a powerful meaty punch, with burnt apple and pretty hunks of Romanesco broccoli and cauliflower, and an incredible homemade black pudding.
For the main course, the light and delicate Cornish plaice was not only Instagram on a plate, but melted in the mouth, accompanied by plump langoustines, colourful smoked rainbow carrots cleverly done three ways, and sprinkled with seedy ‘granola’ for a pleasant contrast in texture. It would have been dish of the night had it not have been for the game…
The tender hay-baked Cotswold partridge with ripe blackberries, cobnut and rich celeriac dauphinoise was a sumptuous affair – the best traditional Sunday roast you could ever imagine, particularly accompanied by creamy cauliflower gratin and black cabbage sides. My husband described it as ‘the best game of my life’ which was high praise from someone who, almost with annoying habituality, always chooses the game option. Washed down with a pint of Corinium Ales’ pale variety, he was in foodie heaven. And he didn’t want to leave!
While the term ‘seasonal’ is so ridiculously overused, each course at Purslane was like an autumnal walk in the woodland, with fantastic quality ingredients capturing the flavour of Britain’s wild larder, and impressive workmanship seen on each and every plate. The desserts continued this theme: with the cinnamon doughnut, apple sorbet and honeycomb topped with crisp apple slice proving delightful; and the local cheese selection rather impressive.
Reassuringly lacking in faddy menus, lavish interiors and marketing gimmicks, chef owner Gareth Fulford really lets the food do the talking, and Purslane has become a prized sanctuary for Gloucestershire’s gastronomes – with many regulars confiding that they’d rather keep this secret gem to themselves!
Opened since 2012, while we are seriously cross at ourselves for waiting so long for a first visit, sharing our evangelical enthusiasm for this incredible eatery feels like a worthy recompense. Simply put: book a table at Purslane right now and prepare to be wowed.
Purslane’s tasting menu changes monthly and sounds sensational: featuring six courses of seasonal dishes, as well as homemade breads, coffee and petit fours, at a cost of £60. It’s not only a great way to sample a cross section of Purslane dishes, but is perfect for a celebratory dinner. There’s also an accompanying wine flight too, costing £38 per person.
If you’re pushed for time but still want quality dining, Purslane’s express lunch option promises two courses turned around in under an hour. We love the sounds of the beer-battered ling on a Friday.
By Michelle Fyrne
Friday 16 November 2018
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