Click on photo to be taken the restaurant’s page
No. 131, Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1NW Tel. 01242 822939 www.131.com
The Ballroom, Bayshill Lodge, Montpellier Street, Cheltenham, GL50 1SY Tel. 01242 24176012 www.themontpellierballroom.co.uk
The Queens Hotel
The Napier Restaurant at the Queens Hotel, The Promenade, Cheltenham GL50 1NN Tel. 01242 514754 www.mercure.com
The new Yo! Sushi Japanese restaurant in the Promenade certainly gives a new meaning to the term “fast food” – in fact Yo! Sushi is so fast you don’t even need to order your food, you just reach out and take it. So it is ideal for a pre-theatre meal when you are eating to a deadline and don’t want to have to wait for a slow waiter to bring your coffee or your bill.
Japanese sushi restaurants aren’t new but it is certainly a novelty, and quite an exciting one at that, to have such a place in Cheltenham. I think the concept, though, is quite familiar. You sit at your table or at the counter and the food passes by on an endless conveyor belt. All the dishes are colour-coded for price, ranging from £1.90 to £5, so you can spend as little or as much as you want.
Behind the counter all the chefs are preparing the food at their workstations three feet away from you, so you can see exactly what’s going into each dish. If you’re not sure what they are doing, you can lean over and ask them, it’s all very interactive. Freshness is guaranteed because all the dishes have a time label attached to them and are removed from the conveyor after two hours if they are still there. Also, rather thoughtfully, on the menu, there is an indication of the calorie content of each dish.
Some caution is sometimes necessary if you are new to Japanese food. I remember the first Japanese meal I ever had. There was a very attractive swirl of something that looked like paté on my plate which I promptly picked up and popped in my mouth. It turned out to be horseradish. No chance of that at Yo! Sushi where a detailed description of each dish is given in the menu, so you don’t have to take pot luck.
I went along one lunchtime with Paul Milton, who is the Creative Director at the Everyman Theatre, to give it a try. We were welcomed by head-chef Stephen who gave us quick run down on how the food was sourced and prepared. To my surprise it turns out that virtually all the food is prepared from scratch on the premises, mostly in full view of the diners. We were shown to our table and Yo’d, as they call it, by the charming Amelia who explained how it all worked and who took our orders for drinks and hot dishes.
It is hard to know where to start – I mean choosing the food and writing this review. There are many dozens of dishes to choose from, all passing in a constant mouth-watering stream before your eyes. Amelia said that our hot food would be a few minutes so we took a couple dishes off the conveyor to be going on with. I had the Inari Pockets made from inari (fried soya bean), filled with rice, tamago, cucumber and pickled radish while Paul tried the Pumpkin Korroke, both of which were delicious. However, we had hardly started when the hot dishes arrived. Both the Hairy Prawns and the Tempura Prawns were excellent. The Hairy Prawns sound a bit strange and indeed they were. It was like two giant prawns wrapped in Shredded Wheat, but they were very tasty indeed. I think Paul and I most enjoyed the Salmon Teriyaki which was three small pieces of salmon cooked to perfection in a sweet, sticky soy based sauce.
The problem with Yo! Sushi is knowing when to stop. All the portions are quite small and it is so easy to keep on taking dishes that, if you are not careful, you can find yourself full-up. I reckon four dishes would make a good main meal and two a very satisfying light meal or snack. However, Paul and I threw all caution and constraint to the wind and really pushed the boat out trying many more dishes than I’ve mentioned here. We left just enough space for Chocolate Mochi; soft Japanese rice cake balls filled with dark chocolate ganache. Very unusual texturally and very succulent.
The restaurant was quite full when we were there and every time I pass there seems to a queue. In the light of all the other fast-food outlets in the centre of Cheltenham it’s good to see people opting for fresh, nutritious and quality food as opposed to the ubiquitous burger or over-stuffed sandwich. What was encouraging, while we were there, was to see at least three groups of Japanese having their lunch. Yo! Sushi certainly can compete as far as the convenience of fast food is concerned but is light-years ahead when it comes to quality and imagination.
While it’s not perhaps the place you’d want to go for a candlelit dinner to celebrate a wedding anniversary or take an important client for a business lunch, Yo! Sushi is unquestionably good food, very convenient and great fun and it’s only two minutes walk from the Everyman Theatre – you could almost nip out in the interval. Recommended. Michael Hasted, September 2013
Yo! Sushi, 5/7 The Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1LN Tel: 01242 851261 Opening hours Mon – Sat 11.30- 10, Sunday 11.30 – 9.30 www.yosushi.com
John Gordon’s Wine Bar
For the gourmand, Cheltenham is sometimes a hard place to be. However, if a decent bottle of wine or spirits is what you fancy, John Gordon’s, independent wine merchant, is there to help.
Situated in one of Montpellier’s prime positions John Gordon’s opened in 2007 as a wine and spirits merchant and bistro with live music at the weekends. Shelves cover the walls, straining under the weight of bottles of every shape and size from a dozen different countries.
John is jovial man with a mane of white hair and a ready wit. What did he think about Cheltenham’s lack of decent food shops? “I think it’s a great pity and, when you think about it, quite surprising. There is certainly a lack of niche shops here.”
And how did he get started? “I had a small trade company in St. George’s Place supplying wine to hotels, bars and restaurants. Soon after we opened that, these premises became available. It’s a prime position, a beautiful shop and we have the use of the arcade.”
“The arcade could be absolutely stunning but I’m the only one who cares about it. There are three landlords who own it and that’s the issue – getting them to agree, along with the tenants, about who will pay. The cost of redecorating alone would be huge.”
Nevertheless, the arcade is still something really special and has vastly improved since John has set up his tables there. “Absolutely, and we have live music, usually jazz, here every Friday and Saturday night in the summer. It’s a great atmosphere, it’s nearly always full and you could almost imagine yourself in Paris.”
What had been his grand design when he opened the shop, what was his mission statement? “To get people to realise that they could drink house wines that are good. That was one of my main ambitions. Frequently when I’ve eaten out, I’m sure it’s the same for everyone; the house red or white is undrinkable. But we British don’t really like to complain, so there you are.”
But it’s not just wines that John sells. “I suppose we specialise in whiskies. We have over 200 different ones at the moment. We’ve got single malt whiskies from Scotland, Ireland and Japan and bourbons from America. There are very few places that have as many brands as we do. Our wines are from all over but we have a particularly good selection of Bordeaux.”
How does he found his stock? Surely he couldn’t visit all the distilleries himself. “I wish.” he laughed, throwing back his head, making his mane of white hair glisten in the sun. “I get up to Speyside sometimes, where most of the distilleries are, but I’m really too busy here. We have an excellent supplier in Elgin and we also use half a dozen importers for our wine. But next summer I’m hoping to get off to France to select some for myself.” MH 2010
JOHN GORDON’S WINE BAR 1 Montpellier Arcade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 1SU