Brosh, Cheltenham - Restaurant Review
The quirkiness of Brosh is such that it divides diners between those who 'get it' and those who can hear a mysterious squeak in their car dashboard. Words Katie Jarvis.
"There's a squeak," Ian says, muffledly. "You must be able to hear it. It's so distracting."
What is distracting is the fact that we're doing 60mph along the road, with Ian's head below the dashboard, trying to find a squeak I can't even hear - but have to pretend to for the sake of marital unity. Oh, and he's driving.
"Look," I say, pseudo-tersely, (not tersely enough to cause an argument. Sort of ambiguous you-can't-quite-accuse-me-of-being-terse terse), "You drive and I'll find the squeak."
Ian raises his head from the dashboard, momentarily. It's like one of those bad 1940s films where the actor driving the car manages to negotiate hairpin bends while never taking his eyes off the passenger next to him. "How can you do that when you can't even hear the squeak?" he asks, witheringly.
This is perfectly true; while I can only hear half of any Mariah Carey song (50 percent good news), there are no high-pitched noises Ian can't detect. Clearly, he's part man, part horseshoe bat and, in an ideal universe, should live in a cave with a protection order. But in the present circumstances, his comments have the air of a competitive snub, and I rise to the challenge. "Yes I can," I say. And, in a moment of inspiration, I demonstrate rather guessily, "Eeeek... eeek."
What I feel like saying is, "Why don't we own a half-decent car instead of a series of interesting metal shapes that look like ex-stunt vehicles from The Bourne Identity?" The children now mark our cars on a humiliation scale or, more specifically, a Singer Chamois index (that being our most humiliating car). I should have protected my children from this because I went through a similar trauma as a child. My brother and I can still barely mention without weeping the time our father's Morris Minor backfired up Spring Hill in Nailsworth while driving past two nuns.
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Ian and I both consider the other to have OCD. He can't understand why I constantly clean under the toaster (even when no one has used it) and I don't get his obsession dashboard squeaks.
In short, he says tomato and I say tomato. How different can any two people be?
Brosh in Cheltenham epitomizes the divide. "It's cramped," he moans, "and stressy; the staff hurtle past you as if the kitchen's on fire." Oh, and he couldn't read the menu because it was too dark. It's a bad day; it's a dashboard squeak day...
Whereas I simply loved its quirky differentness. Anything that's in the Suffolks, de facto, has an air of stylish individuality about it that can be anything from mildly eccentric to outright Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. Brosh, to me, exudes an air of secrecy; a you-have-to-be-in-the-know quality that makes you feel you were just so clever to discover it. It's the sort of place that features in Richard Curtis films. The sort of place a core of interesting intellectuals - the kind of people who don't notice auto-squeaks (me, I think) - are devoted to.
It's the brainchild of chef Raviv Hadid, born on a kibbutz in Israel, and his wife, Sharon. Their concept is Eastern Mediterranean, but the produce is nearer home: local, natural, free range, with a deal of organic for good measure. If you want to encapsulate that in a taste experience, then try the wild garlic (from Dowdeswell) and watercress salad with roasted walnuts, parmesan cheese and wild garlic pesto. Utterly, utterly wonderful (whereas old grumpy drawers, with his falafel balls, says his mezze selection was 'unexciting').
The temptation to choose the haloumi for mains is a momentary distraction. Much as I love the taste, even I find cheese-squeaking a nails-down-the-blackboard experience. Instead, I have the Woodland Farm pork loin with crushed new potato and sweetened onion; while Ian has chargrilled spring lamb from the Forest, lentils with thyme and a caramelized garlic and honey jus. It's all wonderful in the taste department - fresh, clean, complementary - but if you're feeling hungry, you'd be well advised to order a side dish, too.
Now I would quibble about dessert. We could have gone for a white chocolate cheesecake with pomegranate sauce; or a haroset ice cream (cardamom, fennel, hazelnuts and sultanas). Instead, we try for a bonding experience with a selection of sweets for two with spiced coffee. The coffee is just gorgeous - syrupy and foreign; the sweets are beautifully made but unrelieved by sauces or creams: cakes and baklawa that feel more afternoon tea than puddingy.
In total, it's �100 for two, with a tip for three courses, fizzy water, coffee and wine, which is probably par for the course. If dashboard squeaks annoy you, then try elsewhere; but if you get the concept, you'll almost certainly love it.
Value for money 6
� Brosh, 8 Suffolk Parade, Cheltenham GL50 2AB, 01242 227227; www.broshrestaurant.co.uk