***This restaurant has now closed
In a nutshell
Opened in September 2015, Wild Beer Co at Jessop House is a relative newbie on the Cheltenham foodie scene. Set in a handsome Georgian town house on Cambray Place, this beer-centric eatery is the brainchild of Brett Ellis and Andrew Cooper, the savvy, passionate duo behind Wild Beer Co brewery in Evercreech, Somerset.
You’ll have seen their beers at forward-thinking bars all over the country, though, and beyond – the fanbase for their creations is spreading fast. So, how does brewing know-how translate into restaurant success?
Classically trained James Ball has been working at Cheltenham establishments for around five years, such as The Tavern. At Wild Beer Co, it’s his first time as head chef and he’s bringing plenty of youthful energy to the menu.
What are they cooking
The succinct menu prompted an intrigued eyebrow raise from us. Alongside Brit favourites like burgers and fish and chips (complete with Dublin Bay prawns and beef-dripping potatoes), the offerings sweep the international stage to bring home classics from around the world. On the small plates list (from £5 to £7, or three for £15), cured cooked Spanish sausages sit above a warm Asian salad and a Mediterranean calamari stew.
Fattoush salad and Spanish bean stew sit comfortably alongside each other as mains (these larger plates range from £12 to £16). This chef knows interesting flavours when he sees them, and that’s what’s led to this borderless menu – although seasonal, local ingredients are used wherever possible.
What’s the room like/atmosphere
Warm up with a jar or two in the ground floor bar and lounge – pick from the 20 draft beers on tap, as well as plenty of bottled beers, artisan wines and spirits. Cocktails are on offer too, best enjoyed in one of their velvet wingback armchairs or, when the weather finally cuts us some slack, in the hidden walled garden at the back.
Downstairs, there are 45 covers in laidback surrounds. It’s a broad church here: a mix of couples, families and friends settle round the tables. Stone floors are warmed with cowskin rugs, and tulip stems spring up from pretty beer bottles on each table.
Menu must-orders and misfires
Massive half-moons of crisp, battered pumpkin waiting to be slathered in Greek yogurt pleasantly surprised us, as did Canadian-style poutine. Chips glistened with chicken gravy and juicy slivers of cheese curd, with a nifty addition of chicken skin for contrasting crunch. Moroccan lamb tagine transpired to be a rainbow plateful. Pomegranate seeds jostled for space in a fluffy couscous bed, with crispy chickpeas and a silky tangle of rich pink lamb.
Puds are only a fiver a pop and the panna cotta with candied lemons and lemon syrup had that classic naughty wobble when tapped hopefully with a spoon. As soon as each gently lemony spoonful lands on your tongue, it is as good as liquid. Even more impressively, it’s flavoured with Sleeping Lemons beer. It works and doesn’t feel elbowed-in or gimmicky. Cloud-light ‘beeramisu’, topped with crunchy chocolate bits and soaked in Millionaire beer is another serious winner.
The clue’s in the name: Wild Beer Co takes discovering intriguing beers (and wines, spirits, and cocktails…) seriously. Handily, the draught list features tasting notes. They’re snappy, informative and without pretension, making it simpler to match each beverage to food, and to your tastes. The team are careful about glassware here, too. Each drink arrives in a vessel chosen to best present its individual qualities. Prices range from £2.60 to £4.50 for ⅔ pint.
The friendly staff are on hand with advice when needed, and my guest was brought a selection of IPAs to help him choose. The Fresh pale ale was his first pick: featuring hop harvests from both the northern and southern hemispheres, this was zingy and refreshing, with (surprise!) real characterful hoppiness.
Next, Ninkasi, the celebration beer at 9%, upped the ante. Aptly named after the Greek goddess of beer, this unique number features New Zealand hops and Somerset apple juice, plus it’s undergone a secondary champagne-style fermentation.
What else did you like?
It’s the little things that count here. Warm, clued-up staff keep the wood burning stove constantly stoked and crackling. And if you pop to the ladies loo, look out for a little pat on the back – ‘You look beautiful!’ is written on the mirror, along with a G&T cocktail suggestion.
We left feeling buoyed up in mood, and weighed down by plenty of lovely food: a good job for great prices well done, we say.
30 Cambray Place,
Gloucester, GL50 1JP
Words by Rosie Sharratt, written February 2016