A Regency town like Cheltenham is not necessarily somewhere you’d expect to find a diverse selection of Indian restaurants. However, its connection to India goes back to the time of British rule in India, when many serving families had strong ties to the town and re-settled here after Independence.
With March’s Cheltenham Races in mind, here are the Indian restaurants that feature in the MICHELIN Guide:
Owner Michael Raphel is the third generation of a family from Southern India who settled in the Cotswolds almost 50 years ago. It was his grandfather, Appacha, who originally came to work on a farm in Burford. Word soon spread around the county about his authentic home-cooked dishes and not long after he became a private chef in Cheltenham.
The restaurant may have recently changed its name from Bhoomi to the more casual sounding Bhoomi Kitchen yet it has retained its sumptuous and eye-catching blue and gold décor.
The menu takes most of its inspiration from Southern India with a variety of curries and biryanis. At lunch and early in the evening they offer a range of thalis – the perfect balance of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy. Northern India features a little too, with BBQ dishes from the tandoor and here the chefs still use Appacha’s original recipes for the rubs and marinades. To end the meal, don’t look further than the indulgent chocolate and cardamom samosa.
This spacious modern restaurant, decorated with authentic Indian artefacts, is only a few minutes’ walk from the city centre – just follow the wonderful aromas.
Owners Shamsul and Seleha Krori opened it in 1977 and consider it one of the oldest Bangladeshi restaurants in the UK. Their daughters Monrusha and Fatiha are also involved in the business, making this a real family affair. Shamsul still prides himself on never missing a service and is on hand in the kitchen each morning to oversee the roasting of the day’s spices.
The menu is a roll-call of time-honoured classics, some named in homage to the famous faces who have dined here over the years. The mantra of the kitchen has never really changed – it’s all about preparing simple, unfussy and satisfying dishes. There’s also an emphasis on using seasonal, local ingredients, many of which come from small, artisan producers across the Cotswolds. The flour for the samosa pastry, for example, comes from Cirencester and the beef from local Longhorn herds.
Along with their credentials, reputation and great tasting food, the thing which really shines through here is the sheer pride of the Krori family doing a job they clearly still love.
EAST INDIA CAFÉ
Do not be fooled by the word ‘café’ as this is very much a restaurant and, despite its basement location – albeit in a Georgian terrace in the heart of busy Montpellier – it’s a rather smart one too. Starched white tablecloths and highly polished chairs help create an elegant atmosphere and the look of a formal colonial-style dining room, inspired by the days of the British Raj.
The owners have meticulously researched the dishes favoured by the British between the 1880s and the 1940s and have created their own Anglo-Indian style, which is an appealing blend of innovation and authenticity.
Start with a glass of their homemade East India Gin which is presented in an eye-catching way with an array of herbs and botanicals in the glass, or check out their Memsahib Gin and Tea Bar a few doors down. In the words of one of the inspectors who recently dined here “this has to be some of the most interesting food I have eaten for some time”. If you are of the same opinion and want to learn more, then sign yourself up for one of their Masterclass cookery courses.
After a temporary relocation, this restaurant has now firmly re-established itself at its original, refurbished premises on Bath Road. The smart new look, with its emerald green and gold colour scheme, certainly adds an elegance and warmth to this intimate space.
The sophisticated cooking combines subtle hints of French technique with Indian originality. This results in some unique combinations which deliver plenty of flavour. Most diners wisely choose the well-balanced 5 course ‘Tour of Prithvi’ tasting menu in order to enjoy the full experience.
The wine list has not been overlooked and offers some unusual choices from Cyprus, Brazil, Hungary and even Herefordshire. There’s also no shortage of champagne if you’ve just had a big win at the local races.
A mention must go to the owner, Jay Rahman, who moves gracefully between the tables dispensing charm and advice. He and his personable team go a long way in making a meal here such a memorable experience.