03 Jan Food Finds: All day eats in Cheltenham
On my recent trip to England, I was keen to do something which I hardly ever do when visiting my family in the UK: I wanted to say no to homemade bacon sandwiches and takeaway Chinese food, and yes to discovering fun new places to eat out.
Because catching up with friends you only see a couple of times a year is even better when you’re sitting on a comfy chair with a big plate of delicious food in front of you.
Here’s what I found:
We had: brunch
You can have: brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks
My Christmas Eve morning was spent here, with my friend Bex and a gigantic plate of English Breakfast. It’s tough to say which one I was happier to see. The Bottle of Sauce is near the centre of Cheltenham, and although I arrived in the car from what my mum lovingly calls “the dodgy end”, it’s actually in a very convenient location.
Bex informed me that before becoming a restaurant, this place used to be the pub her friends drank at while underage, and there’s no mistaking that a pub is what it used to be. That said, it’s had an overhauland the interiors are pretty cool, with that ever-winning industrial/hipsterish vibe.
But there’s no faffing around with silly test tube breakfasts or anything like that, and portions are big. I went for the full English as it had been so long since I’d had real beans and real bacon, but honestly the whole menu looked great.
The Bottle of Sauce mostly serves comfort food like burgers, chicken wings, and pizza, but also does brunch from 10am on weekends, and drinks at night. We got there early for brunch, worried all the last-minute Christmas shoppers would’ve had the same idea, but were practically alone until about 11.30, which was a pleasant surprise! Quality-quantity-price ratio was great, and we practically had to be rolled out of the door at the end. A good start to my visit, it’s safe to say.
Where? The Bottle of Sauce, 7 Ambrose Street, Cheltenham.
We had: brunch
You can have: brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks
Just around the corner from the Bottle of Sauce is The Fire Station (no prizes for guessing what this building used to be). I’d heard about this spot through my friend and fellow gap-lifer Becca, who’d been promised by her mum that it was a good shout.
Since its days as an actual fire station, the place has had a bit of a makeover and, although you can still find clues to what the structure used to be, the building is now just a great looking restaurant, with great lighting, exposed brick, and strong tile game: all the ingredients for the kind of place I love.
Although you can opt for the bottomless brunch formula at weekends, we went for a more traditional breakfast – Becca got eggs, bacon and hash browns, while I went for something a bit more exotic – shakshuka eggs – washed down with a glass of prosecco, because it was at least 12:05 and still basically Christmas.
The Fire Station actually isn’t just a brunch place, but more of an all-day affair: there are only a couple of brunch dishes on offer, but they also do lunch (which you can order at the same time as brunch), dinner, and drinks. Prices are within a normal range (for Cheltenham, anyway), and the waitress we had was an absolute babe. The Fire Station is super stylish but the location is just tucked away enough to feel like you’ve made a little discovery too. A winning combo, I think we can all agree.
WHERE? The Fire Station, St James’ Square, Cheltenham.
I had: coffee & cake
You can have: breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee & treats
I visited The Find alone on Boxing Day, as I was in need of some time to myself and, perhaps more importantly, some coffee and cake.
I’d heard about this café through my friend Katie, as it was actually started up by her uncle. It’s right in the centre of town (just outside the Regents Arcade) and was actually super convenient for a mid-sales pitstop – I stumbled across it practically by accident.
Katie had described The Find to me as a cute little café with a co-working space on the floor above, which did sound like a great idea (take your laptop, spend all day in a cosy place with people on hand to feed and caffeinate you?) but I really wasn’t expecting the place to be as cute as it is.
It’s, again, a little hipsterish in style (beginning to think this is just my “type”) with a bike in the window, little rocking chairs in the entrance, and bright oversized-leaf-print wallpaper in the bathrooms.
There were tons of amazing looking cakes on display, but I ended up going for a slightly pimped-up Victoria sponge, which was honestly divine.
I had kind of forgotten that in England, it’s not very normal to just go and sit in a café by yourself for several hours, so suspect the other people in there all thought I was a bit weird, but I certainly had a lovely afternoon.
The Find is open every day, and does breakfast, lunch and dinner (although not all 3 every day, so check their website).
Where? The Find, 20 Regent Street, Cheltenham.
We had: drinks & dinner
You can have: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, drinks, or even stay the night
Katie and I were due a catch up over Christmas, and decided we deserved to treat ourselves (for what exactly, it is unclear, but let’s not dwell on that…) so booked a table one evening at a fancy restaurant considerably out of our usual price range.
No 131 is a huge, imposing Georgian townhouse on the Cheltenham promenade. The kind of place that you know from the outside that you can’t afford. But both Katie’s sister and my brother had been previously (not together, I might add) and had come back with rave reviews, and once we’d looked at the menu online and seen some pictures, we were ready to blow some money for a really, really good dinner. And a really, really good dinner it was too.
We arrived early, so headed downstairs to the Crazy 8s bar – a cosy little space with comfy sofas and mood lighting and excellent floor tiles – for a pre-dinner glass of wine. We then went up to our table, situated in one of the beautiful dining rooms, and ordered an enormous beef Wellington which was honestly one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.
Yes, it came at eye-watering cost, but it’s Christmas, and that means that all cash and calories are null and void, and our classy friend-date brought us both so much joy that it didn’t matter anyway.
The place is stunningly decorated (not that you can tell from my rubbish night-time iPhone photography) – it doesn’t feel excessively showy, despite being exactly that, and is full of super cool touches that make you want to Instagram every corner. No 131 does breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas, and dinners, and I’ve already packed up my belongings, ready to move into one of their cosy rooms and never leave again.