Cheltenham's sauvage face

LE CHAMPIGNON SAUVAGE; 24-26 Suffolk Road Cheltenham GL50 2AQ. Tel:02142 573449. Open Monday to Friday lunch 12.30 to 1.30, dinner 7.30 to 9.15, Saturday 12.30 to 1.30 5.30 to 10.30. Average price per person, pounds 40. Credit cards accepted

Idle and disorganised visitors to Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham should be warned. The Champignon is not the only thing that is Sauvage. The chef, David Everitt-Matthias, can be pretty savage himself. Last orders for lunch are at 1.30 on the dot, and the two plump literary ladies in tweeds and frothing curls who condescended to arrive at 1.35 without having made a booking got short shrift from the waitress. Very polite short shrift, but absolutely no hope of lunch. The lady with the more booming voice marched off, saying that this was the unacceptable face of Britain. I might easily have said the same thing, but by that time I was in awe, as much of the waitress as of the system.

We had been warned about the deadline when we rang to book, and found ourselves at one o'clock, stuck in traffic, five miles away. Being blessed with a mobile telephone, I rang Le Champignon Sauvage to warn them we might be late. A woman's voice answered. She was unrelenting: last orders were at half past one, but she was amazingly patient in explaining exactly how to find our way through the one-way system and up to Suffolk Road. By 1.20 we were in Cheltenham but lost, and I rang again. This time she talked me down street by street and said she would be outside the door to show us where to park.

We found her with only two minutes to spare. I threw myself into the restaurant while my wife parked the car, and she stood over me, pencil at the ready and insisting with an anxious eye on the kitchen door that I order for both of us. I then realised that she had been combining the street-by-street talkdown with serving all the tables. In the evening, she told me, last orders were at 9.15.

The restaurant, with a small bar, is a calm room with green-upholstered high-backed chairs, pale grey tablecloths and a bright little yellow-patterned border running underneath the cornice. It seemed entirely full of contentment, with customers ranging from the young parents of a happily gurgling baby to a pair of almost suspiciously happy married oldies. I hesitate to go any further than that as the last time I, or possibly my wife, attributed some fellow-diners' radiant happiness to adultery I received a cross letter from them, saying that in fact they had been married for 20 years.

There was a choice of three things for every course. The guinea-fowl confit with layers of crispy potato sounded a bit much for a starter so I risked ordering a cream of celery soup with a poached egg for myself, and as a surprise for my wife eel tortelloni with a watercress cream. For the main course there was something described in French as jambe d'agneau - the whole menu had a slight air of having been translated out of English into French and then back again - which figured in English as Cinderford lamb shank braised with honey and beer served with a roasted carrot puree, but I thought we should try something a bit more exotic. I therefore ordered the roti de saumon au chou aigre - "soured cabbage" - beurre rouge au genevrier, and spiced breasts of wood pigeon - supremes de pigeon ramier - served with a port jus and Puy lentils.

I made a minimalist but expensive decision on the wine, ordering a half- bottle of something called Beaune Premier Cru at pounds 18.80. Many cheaper wines were available, as well as some that were far more expensive.

Almost as soon as we sat down we were brought a little appetiser, a piece of "naturally" smoked haddock with cream and sweet corn, which despite my reservations in general about anything containing bits of sweet corn, could not have been better. My wife said it was "very good and wholesome".

She was initially satirical about the starter I had chosen for her, picturing the chef's expression of ecstasy, after hours of "What can we give them?" when he finally thought of eel tortelloni. Then it arrived and she became more respectful. The little packets of eel were very good, the pad of spinach underneath and the watercress sauce were delicious, as were the deep-fried shreds of leek that decorated it. My celery soup was light and peppery and full of flavour. The poached egg was a good idea, but could have been more lightly cooked.

Perhaps by contrast with our mad dash to get there, the mood in Le Champignon Sauvage now seemed leisured and almost idyllically peaceful. The lady at the next table said they ought to tape the baby's chuckles and play it as background music.

The salmon with soured cabbage came with a black olive polenta and won a good deal of approval. The soured cabbage was heading in the direction of sauerkraut, but much milder and sweeter and went very well with the moist, pale pink salmon and the polenta. I had two large pieces of pigeon breast. It was underdone, a pinkish-red, and came with a rich lentil sauce. We were also brought little side-dishes of mangetouts, carrots, broccoli and a tender cube of swede.

For pudding there was a warm chocolate tart with vanilla ice-cream. Again, rather out of curiosity, I ordered the cake de betterave - translated as "beetroot cake" - with a greengage sorbet. This was a little sponge- cake flavoured with something red and sweet I wouldn't have immediately identified as beetroot, with an equally delicious sorbet littered with sultanas that I wouldn't have immediately identified as made with greengages. But then I'm not an expert. My wife chose the cheese.

Lunch for the two of us, including coffee, came to pounds 57.70, without the tip. !

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine