Excellent Cotswold Businesses - 'The Champignon Sauvage'
If there is one area of life in Britain that has changed radically in the last thirty years, it is food. When I consider that in my childhood it was thought of as acceptable for the average mid-range restaurant to serve 'fruit cocktails' from a tin; that a starter was almost invariably an uninspiring soup of some kind, or, on a good day, a prawn cocktail; and wines that are now bywords for mass-produced mediocrity were the height of sophistication; then the changes that have come about in a generation are remarkable. Not that that will stop the rest of the world continuing to believe that Britain and good food are, so to speak, chalk and cheese (I recently saw an article on a French website expressing amazement that the English have their own edible cheeses) but that is another matter – prejudices and stereotypes are as persistent as people want them to be, and, it seems, people do want them. Eating well may not be quite yet in our blood but we are getting there; and a generation has appeared now that takes nutritious, well-cooked food for granted. Restaurants of all qualities abound. In the Cotswolds we have a particularly bountiful crop and nowhere is more emblematic of the changes in atitude than the 'Champignon Sauvage' in Cheltenham, a two Michelin star restaurant (TWO stars, mark you, maintained since 2000) that should have the cachet of the Fat Duck or any other fashionable establishment, but which, I am glad to say, has confined itself to producing wonderful food at reasonable prices with no fanfare since 1987. Furthermore the owners are the same now as they were then; and in all those twenty-six years Helen (front-of-house) and David (chef) Everitt-Matthias have not missed a single service. That is dedication.
Whilst David has appeared here and there in the media, courting celebrity is not his thing. Just coming up with the goods is his priority and doing so using ingredients that are not commonly used in cooking but which are frequently just a step away. He forages: in fact he has demonstrated this to the Hairy Bikers by going into the courtyard behind the restaurant, plucking something growing (ground elder) between the paving stones and producing something delicious with it – a risotto beneath glazed chicken wings if my memory serves me well. Artistry so often consists of taking what is unnoticed in front of us and giving it a sublime twist. Some regard this sort of cooking as pretentious but that is a misnomer – it has no pretensions to anything other that excellence. It does not try to mislead or bamboozle. It is just a selection of ingredients blended inventively, with flavour and goodness the principal aims.
So, the food is wonderful, as I can testify from my several visits over the years. The quality never varies – it is always high, indeed the highest. Surely there must be a weakness somewhere? The price, perhaps? Well, it isn't cheap, that is true. But it would be strange if it were; and, anyway, the prices are surprisingly low. Have a look at the fixed price menus on the restaurant's website (http://www.lechampignonsauvage.co.uk) and you will see that in terms of quality, you will get something of a bargain. Accolades abound – among them the 2014 Good Food Guide Chef of the Year and the 2013 Observer Food Monthly 'Outstanding Achievement' awards.
To which I add my personal award for 'those that plough their own furrow and do so unwaveringly and well'
Cotswold Journeys can make bookings at the Champignon Sauvage on behalf of our customers – please ask.