Cheltenham is world renowned for its festivals and one of the calendar highlights, the annual Literature Festival, is about to kick off. More than 600 writers, actors, politicians, poets, sports personalities and leading opinion formers will gather in the spa town between October 7-16 to celebrate the joy of the written and spoken word. The full schedule can be found at cheltenhamfestivals.com. When visiting be sure to check out the many attractions this Cotswolds gem has to offer. Here are our suggestions...
Try a first class Indian dining experience with a twist
Set up in 2012 by cousins and restaurateurs Jay Rahman and Taj Uddin, Prithvi (Mother Earth in Sanskrit) has become a real staple in the area. The 28-cover restaurant ranks number one in Cheltenham on Tripadvisor and it is easy to see why.
The service is impeccable with passion and attentiveness at the core. The interior design is simple and smart. Here the focus is on the fine dining experience. Rahman explains that the reinvented Indian dishes are changed regularly. They like to push boundaries and introduce new flavours for the regulars.
Go for the excellent value tasting menu (£45 per person) which can be adapted according to dietary requirements. Highlights when we visited included the Cotswold Chicken, red chilli and Star Anise, with wild garlic; Halibut, sea purslane, mustard jus and sprouting broccoli and Pan- fried scallops, prawns, mango coulis with coconut jus. To finish the Croustillant, pecan and hazelnut, white coffee mousse and salted caramel is a delight. Each dish is an absolute joy with many of the ingredients sourced from the Cotswolds.
The locals rave about this place and a couple we met said they book up to four months in advance to guarantee a table. What are you waiting for, prithvirestaurant.com?
Check into the newly refurbished Queens hotel
Queens Hotel Cheltenham was one of the first purpose built hotels in Europe. It opened in 1838, the year of Queen Victoria’s coronation, and was later listed as a Grade II English Heritage building. The Regency property stands strong in the heart of the picturesque spa town, overlooking the beautiful Imperial Gardens and Promenade. A year ago the interior was given a major overhaul and the hotel now forms part of Sofitel's luxury MGallery Collection.
Guests are greeted by a striking tiled floor which balances the high ceiling. Calming blue walls, a statement fireplace and sumptuous seating adds to the cosy atmosphere. There are many nods to the heritage, notably a dramatic staircase decked out with wallpaper designed by Pugin 175 years ago. The same wallpaper can be spotted in the Houses of Parliament.
Comprising 84 rooms, some have beautiful views stretching The Promenade. Beds are very comfortable and style is balanced with function. A wholesome breakfast is served in the restaurant, the Orangery or even the garden on sunnier days. The Sherbourne Pump, the hotel’s ornate bar, is a great spot for a post dinner G&T. Look out for the listed solid carved wooden bar, a gift from India to Lord Naiper.
The Tiffin Afternoon Tea at Queens is a real treat. A relaxed take on the traditional kind, homemade savoury and sweet morsels are served with the finest infusions in the bar, lounge or in the summer garden. Much of the ingredients come from local producers. Every little detail is taken into consideration and the jams and creams are hard to beat. Chapel Down Champagne is a fitting accompaniment for such a quintessentially English setting.
The hotel is also one of three MGallery by Sofitel properties to have partnered with renowned scent historian Lizzie Ostrom from Odette Toilette, who has created a signature fragrance inspired by the heritage, personality and unique story of each hotel. From 31 October guests will be able to choose their fragrance as a finishing touch for their room or suite. Continuing their sensory storytelling journey outside the room, they can learn about some of the individual notes and materials that make up each scent, via smell and taste through a specially-created cocktail and afternoon tea.
It is the staff that really make the stay though. Brimming with enthusiasm from the front of house to the dining room, every member of the team goes out of their way to make guests feel at home. Visit queenshotelcheltenham.co.uk.
Pop into a cool new pop-up cafe
Coffee coniseurs Brew & Bake opened a premises in the Bath Road area but their latest project is a nine-month pop up in the city centre. A nifty use of space, the team takes over Aquavitae bar during the day, knitting it out with retro chairs, pretty floral arrangements and a logo that is projected onto the brick wall. Friendly and funky, it is a fun spot to visit in between shopping.
There is a delicious selection of dishes for a light lunch including flatbreads and mezze. In the evening, the room is transformed back into a drinking destination. What a brilliant double act. Visit brewandbake.coffee.
Soak up the ambience at Crazy Eights
The restaurant and bar at No 131 is a buzzing spot for a cocktail. On the lower ground floor of the Georgian Grade II listed villa turned hotel, the traditional features blend with contemporary design touches to create a den-like destination known as Crazy Eights. There is an impressive list of rare tipples on offer and the crowd is always up for a fun night.
There are special events coming up in for Cheltenham Literary Festival including a Q&A and lunch or dinner with Michelin star chef Pierre Koffmann (7 October) and a conversation with interior designer to the stars Kelly Hoppen (14 October). Visit theluckyonion.com.
Get lost in art
The Wilson, Cheltenham's museum and gallery, has a programme of exciting temporary exhibitions and permanent galleries displaying an Arts and Crafts Movement collection inspired by William Morris. Important Dutch 17th and 19th Century paintings, rare Oriental porcelain and English ceramics are also on display. A fun new exhibition, The Last Word in Art?, features works by modern and contemporary artists including David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein and Tracey Emin. Visit cheltenham.artgallery.museum.
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