It's All Alfresco at No 131 Terrace
The temperature fired to some 30°c today. All the excuses needed to go 'summerin', make as if I'm in the French Riviera. I played it cool, donned my voluminous, floaty, island green dress and styled it effortlessly with the biggest sun hat and shades I could find.
So where to? Cheltenham and
No 131 Terrace. This venue celebrates outdoor dining, a summer day right, recognises these summery days become balmy summery nights. Its generous shaded open-air terrace sprawled out in front of No 131 (the hotel it belongs to).
Open all day, every day, it is not just a summer fling. Heat lamps afford a toasty night out under twinkly lights in the winter and the privilege of making this venue a year-round and everlasting love.
Inside, its flagstones underfoot, the shaded marquée, a respite protected from today's fierce summer sun. Here, there and everywhere, planters supply pops of greenery in between mismatched iron and wooden garden furniture to what is otherwise a low-key decor.
An upbeat summer tune grazes in the background of fun conversations and laughter. And though hedged by The Promenade, there's almost non-existent midday traffic so does not distract.
At 13:30, it is busy, but no bustle. I try the job of multi-tasking, which in this heat, is no easy feat—slugging and swirling and slugging again on a clear glass of iced cold water while perusing the menu and conversing. A conversation no more different than any other time we'd been out to eat.
What are you going to have?
If I have that, you can have this.
Will you have dessert?
The answer to that last question, by the way, always starts with a 'no, but...'
The menu, chocked of 'crowd pleasers', starts with Cornish Crabs and moves to mains of Truffle Mac 'N' Cheese. It's gluten-free, plant-based and vegetarian too. I readily opt for squid ink risotto, but that is sold out.
It is quite the crowd pleaser. The waiter confirms.
Moules-Frites it is then, while Mr PWT opts for a Ceasar salad.
The Chicken and Avocado Ceasar salad arrive. The salad, generous with smoky grilled chicken, bacon, anchovies, crispy Romaine lettuce, aged Parmesan cheese, croutons and slices of avocado. So too, does my mussels, sluiced in a salty, garlicky Dunkerton cider, mopped down with 131 Signature Black Truffle and Cheese Fries. The dip of the latter leaves us divided.
I dig in. Conversation pauses, the food filling the empty spaces. It's simple but done oh so well.
We only came for a light bite but the atmosphere felt conducive for a lazy, long afternoon's lunch. A little illegal if we left, did anything else but sit back and enjoy the afternoon.
And so we did just that. Sat back in our chairs and mulled over the dessert menu we initially denied. And when a raspberry mille-feuille appeared halfway down the menu and I spotted a yuzu and pistachio crème brûlée at the bottom of it, we deny no more.
Under the fork, the raspberry mille-feuille crunched and, once in my mouth, crumbled. The raspberry coulis makes it a refreshing creamy mix along the way. Easily, we could have made it two.
Smack, crunch, scoop, taste buds excited, my spoon dived into the crème brûlée. So far, it's commendable. I'm expecting a uniqueness in flavour from the yuzu-infused crème brûlée but I find that subdued.
It is hot. It truly is but nothing finishes off a lovely meal like a good cup of coffee. This one filtered, smooth and unpretentious.
Sat back in our chairs, coffee in hand, we engaged in people-watching. Newly popped bottles of champagne replace empty ones in ice buckets at business lunches. Kids, smiling and happily mucking around in the company of their parents and grandparents at laid-back family lunches.
And when the sun goes down, I can see the venue taking on another type of buzz. The rose-sipping, gin-loving, sequined crowd floating in. The Thursday to Saturday night crowd, in for the DJ's spin and longer hems shortened to minis.
This could readily slide into an all-day affair, staying for sundowners and the night. Because next door (same property), the same shaded terraces, they take their gin seriously at their star-turned Gin and Juice Bar.
Inside, I've got my eye on Yoku Cheltenham for dinner (should I ever get a table) and a free-standing copper bath for later.
Away from the subdued yuzu crème brûlée, I effortlessly find a reason or ten to return to No 131 Terrace, the copper roll top bath, not one of them.
If there's another more eclipsing all-day dining al fresco restaurant in Cheltenham, we want to know about it. Until then, book yourself a table, a frosted glass of your favourite tipple and a moment's leisure at No 131 Terrace.
Beyond that, the picturesque town of Cheltenham is so much more than the annual horse racing pilgrimage.
Why go: The place to sit out, watch the world go by, with a cool glass in hand and flavoursome lite bites. Sufficiently relaxed for families, trendy enough for your friends and an ideal date venue.
Location: 131 The Promenade, Cheltenham GL50 1NW