The Queens Hotel, Cheltenham

6632v00The Queens Hotel is Cheltenham’s most iconic building. It has dominated the main thoroughfare, the Promenade, since it opened at the height of the town’s fashionability in 1838. It is therefore fitting that the hotel should have a top quality restaurant. The Napier, as it is known, is just that.

The restaurant is named after Field Marshal Robert Cornelis Napier, a distinguished soldier in the Indian service who took his dinner at the Queens when in town. A full-length, life-size portrait of the great man hangs over the fireplace.

We sat in the sunny dining room, with views across the colourful flower-beds of Imperial Square and down the elegant, tree-lined Promenade. One thing I like for lunch is a properly laid table, white table cloths and good service, which one certainly gets here.

In the evenings you eat à la carte, but at the time of our visit there was a lunch menu. Fresh, crusty brown bread and some delicate garlic butter arrived almost instantly.

As a starter I chose a finely seasoned and juicy pressed chicken and leek terrine accompanied with the thinnest, crispiest garlic bread you’ve ever seen. The dish was so pretty it seemed almost a pity to plunge my fork into it. My companion decided on the Egg Benedict, equally well presented and garnished and the egg on ham was just right. It came with a toasted muffin and hollandaise sauce.

The main lunch dishes range from the classic French beef bourguignon, a variety of pasta dishes, stone-baked pizza and risotto to classic British beer-battered haddock – so there really is something for everyone.

I picked the Fresh Market Fish of the day, a fillet of lemon sole served on a bed of new potatoes, crunchy broccoli and baby leeks. My companion, who had chosen the Piri Piri Chicken Breast, was a little surprised to find that it came in a bun which was a bit similar to his starter. The fries that came with it were good and crispy. This dish seemed somewhat modest compared the ‘fine dining’ aspect of my fish dish. All in all, there is something for everyone here, from the simple to the sophisticated.

I finished with a super-light Brandy Snap Basket with forest fruits, cream and coulis and my partner could not resist the Eton Mess with fresh strawberries and crunchy meringue.

I tried a glass of the house red which was a very good Merlot Pays d’Oc while my companion had a glass of the excellent South African Cabernet Sauvignon Nederburg Manor. A three-course lunch comes in at around £55 for two, plus wine.

Also on offer are Little Plates, with each item at £4, which sounds like fun. I was told that this was rather like tapas in style.

If you want a slightly more informal, less substantial meal, the Queen’s afternoon teas are something rather special. You can choose from the Traditional at £14.50 or the Queen’s High Tea at £16.50. Teas are served between noon and 6pm and would therefore be ideal for a pre-theatre light lunch or supper before a leisurely stroll down the Promanade to the Everyman.

The Queens Hotel can perhaps appear a little daunting but do not be put off. Although quite posh, it is comfortable, friendly and everyone is very relaxed and welcoming. Recommended.  – Astrid Burchardt    July 2013

The Napier Restaurant at the Queens Hotel, The Promenade, Cheltenham GL50 1NN     Tel. 01242 514754    www.mercure.com