Matching meals with music: The new restaurant 'putting the fun' into Cheltenham's fine dining scene

Bringing a kaleidoscope of cultures and flavours to its 12-course tasting menu, SoGlos spoke with Restaurant Journey's owner and head chef Jeff Lewis about his history at Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck and why Cheltenham is in for a treat...

By Emma Luther  |  Published

New Cheltenham foodie destination Restaurant Journey on Bath Road is bringing a creative culinary journey to Gloucestershire.

SoGlos catches up with chef Jeff Lewis to uncover how such a bold vision has come to life.

How did Restaurant Journey come about?

It’s a really long story, but in summary, I picked up lots of interesting ideas and inspiration from various restaurants I’ve worked at.

I planned to cook for private dinner parties; cooking good English and Asian influenced food, with a few little twists here and there. 

But then my wife and I decided to go and explore South East Asia, so I quit my job at The Fat Duck and we headed off - to Singapore initially, then Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

I cooked and absorbed knowledge everywhere we went, trying every kind of food and soaked up as much knowledge as possible. 

When we got back from our travels, the private dinner party work hotted up quickly, but then I got offered the restaurant premises and after a little think, decided to just go for it.

How is it different to other offerings in Cheltenham?

We have pushed ourselves to be a bit different. We do a heck of a lot of prep work and offer just one sitting, four evenings per week.

Our food is a kaleidoscope of cultures and truly reflects my journey as a chef and as a food traveller.

What kind of experience are you hoping diners will enjoy?

We are more fun dining than fine dining with good music playing, cool cocktails and our guests can wear whatever they are comfortable in.

The chefs also serve food themselves where possible, which gives them a chance to chat with the guests about the food.

Our lighting is dimmed and the vibe couldn't be further from a classic fine dining environment where you can hear a pin drop.

What are you most proud of?

The team that we have assembled - they are all such great, passionate people who feel the same way as me about hospitality.

We are here to put on a performance, care for our guests, give good service and do our utmost to make sure they leave happy.

I read a lot that many places really struggle with finding staff, so to work with the people I have around me makes me feel very, very lucky indeed.

What kind of feedback have you had so far?

It’s been 99 per cent really good and very encouraging so far, which is amazing and has exceeded expectations.

When something is new, it can obviously take a bit of time to find your feet, get into routines and make everything super slick, so little mistakes do happen - of course.

But the most interesting feedback, which has taken me by surprise, has been the mixed reaction to some of the most premium ingredients.

Take A5 Wagyu, for example - this is an incredibly expensive product to buy and for good reason, but some people have found it not to their liking, as whilst it’s very flavoursome, it’s also a very ‘fatty’ meat and not everybody is expecting that.

This is something that we’ve listened to and we've decided to turn A5 into an optional menu supplement, rather than it automatically being on the menu. 

How much does it cost?

Our 12-course tasting menu is £89. The 12-course menu, including A5 Wagyu, comes in at £125.

Why do you think supporting and celebrating hospitality is so important?

Eating out is a choice and one that costs hard-earned money.

If I go out, I want to know I’ll have a good time, be well looked-after and feel happy with my experience at the end of the night.

This is the job of all hospitality professionals and we do it with pride.

There are many amazing places to eat in Cheltenham, the public has a lot of choice and that makes the town a hotbed of talent, which is a cause for celebration for the whole town.

Wherever you choose to eat, you are supporting local employers, local suppliers and, hopefully, having great experiences at the same time.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

That’s an easy one - I love the freedom of being able to create and add new dishes to the menu.

It's also great to sneak in the odd cheesy track on the playlist because I can, but, most of all, to be able to do what I love, every single day of the week. For me, that’s a perfect life! 

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