It seems like I'm reviewing The Tavern all the time, which is true to a point because for the last couple of years it has been searching for the identity that it has seemed to have lost in the last year or so. I'm happy to say, I think it has found it again.
It's a year since The Tavern reopened after a fire heavily damaged the pub in May 2016. It was to be the perfect opportunity to rebrand and reinvent both the interior and the menu, and for a time there was a real buzz. The classic dishes of the past were replaced by many different burgers, chicken wings, sides and fries. It worked for a time and was the first diner-like restaurant in the town. The burgers were awesome (especially "The Hog" and "Chili Cheese") as was the chili fries and mac 'n'cheese. But that was it. They were serving food until midnight to try and capture some late night visitors. Again, this worked for a while.
Fast-forward a year and we have a brand new menu, one which comes with high expectations with former Soho Farmhouse's Ronnie Bonetti who is now the Lucky Onion's Executive Chef and The Tavern's Head Chef James de Jong.
Gone, are most of the burgers, some of the sides and all of the shakes. You could tell that their days were numbered when a new "undercounter" menu was introduced a couple of months ago. From that we were treated to the devine lamb, roast garlic and mint meatballs (£8) (pictured above) which have found a spot on the seafood-heavy list of starters which includes scallops, clams, tiger prawns (£9.50) (pictured), salt 'n' pepper squid and half a pint of prawns (ask your parents). Two vegetarian salads and a bavette tartare complete the line-up.
The size of the menu is impressive. There are four steak options including the 32oz Tomahawk, all served with fries and all from West Country cattle and dry aged for a minimum of 30 days. I went for the slow cooked Hereford beef blade off the mains which was beautifully tender and served with the smoothest celeriac puree, carrots and topped with more carrots that sat in vinaigrette and served cold with a delightful kick.
There are seven other main options with lamb rump, monkfish tail, Old Spot pork Milanese, Loch Duart Salmon, Ricotta dumplings and spatchcock poussin all featuring as well as the aforementioned "tavern classics" of burgers, wings, a caesar salad and sides.
If you had to ask your parents about the half pint of prawns then call them back over to talk you through the pudding menu which screams retro with its truly spectacular Banana Split (£6) (pictured), Sticky toffee ice cream sandwich, Caramel Burnt Cream, Tonka bean panna cotta and a decent selection of ice creams.
The service was very good and there is a bartender eager to create cocktails from the menu and any others that are not on there which is never a bad thing.
The Tavern has found it's mojo again mixing the best of the old and new and creating an outstanding menu while putting itself well and truly back on the ever-growing, and ever-improving, Cheltenham food map.
5 Royal Well Place, Cheltenham, GL50 3DN