Cheltenham in Gloucestershire is a town that draws visitors from far and wide with its constant stream of events, from literary festivals to the horse races.
But if you’re a resident or visitor to the town and haven’t been, I encourage you to gallop along to The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie.
This restaurant, catering to 222 diners, is pretty stunning with it housed within a Grade 1 listed rotunda building.
It is centrally located in town and less than a 5-minute taxi ride from the train station.
I popped to the restaurant on a chilly Tuesday night and was immediately struck by the warm atmosphere lurking inside, with soft lighting, rich colours and leafy palms giving an exotic feel.
We were shown to a seat in the main domed dining room, with a great view of the bar and a live jazz band (music plays on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays).
It had a good buzz in the restaurant with a mix of diners, from mothers and daughters to couples cosying up in booth-style seats and some on blind dates (an elderly man came to our table looking for his lady admirer!).
Service was swift and efficient with someone coming along to take care of drinks orders.
The drinks menu had some cocktails I hadn’t spotted at other Ivy locations with several names inspired by Cheltenham, including the Festival Breeze and Promenade Garden.
We opted for The Ivy Royale (Beefeater Gin infused with hibiscus and rosewater, sloe juice and Cocchi Rosa Vermouth topped with The Ivy Collection Champagne) and a Margarita Valencia (Olmeca Reposado Tequila, Grand Marnier, winter spice, fresh orange juice, lime and a dash of Bitter Truth Orange Bitters).
It wasn’t immediately offered, but I’d heard that there was a vegan and vegetarian menu on offer and our server confirmed my suspicions.
This menu offers a nice concise selection of goods from starter through to dessert.
To start we decided to share a portion of truffle cheese arancini and crispy courgette fries and we grazed on a small dish of plump spiced green olives while we waited.
If you’re a fan of truffle the infused arancini comes highly recommended with an intense, creamy flavour.
The portion of courgette fries also promises to satisfy the munchies, with enough slim vegetable batons to entertain a small party. They come served with a very moreish silver boat of lemon, chilli and mint yoghurt.
While we grazed away on the nibbles we dipped into the cocktails. The margarita was very sweet and had sugar on the rim, which was a first for me, but the flavours were nicely balanced.
The Ivy Royale was our favourite of the two drinks with a dryer, fruity taste.
For mains we plumped for the jackfruit and peanut bang bang salad featuring a medley of Chinese leaf, mooli, crispy wonton, peanuts, sesame seeds and coriander, and the Keralan sweet potato curry.
Our waiter also advised us to take a portion of the creamed spinach, one of the favourite picks.
To accompany the main event, I opted for a vodka olive martini (the house vodka is Wyborowa) while my friend Ellen went for a warming glass of pinot noir.
Our mains arrived swiftly and we were impressed with the sizeable portions and presentation.
Both dishes were bursting with flavours. The curry was rich and creamy while the salad had a good punch of chilly to warm things up. The jack fruit was well marinated, with a sweet taste and meaty texture.
We struggled to clear the plates, not because of the taste but because there was quite a lot to get through!
Feeling in the mood for something sweet, we went for something on the lighter side, a bowl of ice cream and sorbet.
We picked a ball of blood orange, and left the waiter to surprise us with the other flavours.
We ended up with a creamy dollop of strawberry and deliciously rich sphere of chocolate.
To finish things off we opted for a coffee. The band was still playing and the female singer was now tootling away on a saxophone.
The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie certainly transports you to a fairground world of fine fodder and top tipples, the central bar mimicking a merry go round.
Horse murals adoring the circular dining room add to conviviality of it all.
We’d galloped into the place, but took a reluctant trot back out into the cold night air.
The exotic wafting of palms swapped out for an icy chill. Thankfully the delicious warmth of chillies still lingered on my lips…
The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie is located at Rotunda Terrace, Montpellier Walk, Cheltenham GL50 1SH
To book a table call 01242 894200 or visit theivycheltenhambrasserie.com