Restaurant Review: Purslane, Cheltenham

Purslane restaurant

Purslane restaurant - Credit: Archant

Cheltenham is miles from the sea so who would have thought that we could enjoy such amazingly fresh fish at Purslane on Friday night? Julia Reilly found out

We’d heard wonderful things about Purslane so we arrived with high expectations. On the outside it looks like a friendly neighbourhood restaurant, and on the inside the decor was classic yet simple. The atmosphere amongst the diners was vibrant as you’d expect for a Friday night and we were welcomed by friendly, attentive staff.

Stephanie Ronssin, the Restaurant Manager, originates from France and she has trained in one of the best hospitality and catering schools in Paris. She’s experienced and knows exactly what her Cheltenham customers want. And Head Chef Gareth Fulford, has a background catering for royalty and a passion for fresh, locally sourced food, so we knew we were in safe hands.

Stephanie, along with Gareth and the rest of the Purslane team get together every month to brainstorm and create the new menu. The January menu was quite small and not exclusive to fish with plenty of game featuring too. But of course, with Purslane being a fish restaurant, seafood did dominate the menu. All of the ingredients Gareth uses are seasonal and local – where possible, and the fish are caught by day-boat fisherman in Cornwall.

The combinations described on the menu are imaginatively put together and we were curious to try them all, so it was tricky deciding what to go for. In the end, we couldn’t resist the home-made breads served with smoked taramasalata and seaweed butter for starters. I chose the citrus cured Scottish halibut, which was served with apple, fennel and Tobiko caviar. It was light, healthy and almost too pretty to eat. Peter, my husband, took the hand dived Oban scallops with fregola and ham hock, served in a shell on a bed of pebbles!

The wine menu was exceptional and competitively priced with a broad selection from across the globe. After a lot of ‘um-ing’ and ‘ah-ing’ we settled for an excellent red from Costiere de Nimes.

The mains were served on hot plates. My main resembled a luxury ‘surf and turf’; Cornish cod with braised shin of beef, surprisingly good partners. Pete tried the Gurnard, (an ugly fish, but it tastes great!) served with mussels in a delicious sauce.

Stephanie tempted us with the dessert menu and we happily obliged. But as it is January, we decided to go for the lighter options; sea buckthorn parfait and a lemon parfait both served with amazing twists of flavours. The lemon parfait was served with Douglas fir ice cream and a delicious pistachio crumble.

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Purslane is a hidden gem in Cheltenham which you need to discover for yourself.

* Purslane was a finalist for the ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at the Cotswold Life Food and Drink awards

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