I’m the first to admit that I’m not a terribly efficient blogger, at times shamelessly wheeling out posts on meals eaten weeks, if not months before. On this occasion I’ve outdone myself, writing up a lunch dating back to April when the chill in the air had just abated and asparagus were still in season. I briefly considered dropping it from the roster completely but Lumière surprised us so much on our long weekend in Cheltenham, outshining the more renowned Champignon Sauvage nearby, that I thought it a diservice to my readers if I were to not feature it.
Tucked behind a modest facade, the entrance simply adorned with a purple awning and framed menu, the restaurant lies just off the busy Promenade, with Jon Howe in the kitchen and his partner Helen running the front of house. It’s an intimate, unfussy setting and as Helen greeted us we almost felt as if she was welcoming us into her own home. Wanting to allow enough time for the 7-course tasting we arrived at noon and were the first to be seated.
To start us off were nibbles of Black Shetland Potato Crisps and Caramel Cajun Popcorn. Both were instantly addictive, although the former edged it for us – salted thin discs, mildly vinegared to allow the natural earthiness of the vegetable to shine through. I wanted to request another serving but thought better of it, only to kick myself later when nearly all the subsequent tables asked for seconds.
A grassy green shot of Wild Garlic Soup with White Beans, Smoked Eel and Crayfish kicked off the 7-course tasting menu. The beans and eel complemented the creamy soup well, but the flavour of ransom could have been more pronounced and the crayfish for us was one ingredient too many.
The next plate however was spot on. Succulent perfectly-seared Hand Dived Oban Scallops and golden slabs of Pork Belly topped with shards of Cumin Caramel, accented with a smooth purée of Carrot, Orange and Anise. Excellent textures, seasoning and execution – this certainly wasn’t your average token scallop course.
Asparagus with Béarnaise Flavours and Poached Egg Yolk showcased first of the season Evesham spears that were sweet, very fresh and tender with the requisite bite.
The deconstructed Béarnaise sauce – dehydrated butter, runny poached yolk and sherry vinegar sauce – was brilliant conceptually, but the yolks were surprisingly bland (easily rectified with a touch more salt) and I found myself longing for the fat found in the traditional preparation.
Neat pink slices of delicately tea-smoked Creedy Carver Duck was served with Confit Duck Leg Croquettes, Foie Gras Parfait (encased in a port jelly sphere), Apple Blossom and a Shallot Lime Pickle.
Possibly the funnest palate cleanser I’ve ever come across was their ‘Tequila Slammer’, consisting of salt tuile, tequila slushie and a lime sphere. Refreshing and very clever.
The main that followed, a Sirloin of Rose Veal, was nicely chargrilled and incredibly moist in the middle. Crunchy nuggets of Tempura Frogs Legs were a delight and worked in harmony with the accompanying Spinach, Baby Artichokes, Black Garlic Purée and dots of Parsley Gel.
Desserts didn’t let the team down. Pistachio and Olive Oil Cake with Macerated Strawberries, Honeycomb, Strawberry Jelly and Elderflower Mousse was light yet luscious.
And the richer Valrhona Guanaja Dark Chocolate Delice with Smoked Salt, Pecan, Sesame, Bourbon “Cheesecake” and Brown Bread Ice Cream was deeply satisfying, although the delice and brandy snap-like cheesecake were almost two separate puds.
Petits four of Mint Aero, Turkish Delight, Vanilla Fudge, Blackcurrant Jelly and Chocolate Passionfruit Lollipop closed a thoroughly enjoyable lunch. The chef has spent time in the kitchens of The Fat Duck and The Greenhouse, and it shows – his cooking is accomplished and in only two years of taking ownership of Lumière he has already developed his own unique brand of cuisine. Already garnering much local acclaim, we expect great things from Howe in the near future.
Cheltenham GL50 3PA
t. 01242 222200