Restaurant review: The Tivoli, Cheltenham
Last time I ate at The Tivoli I was one of a table of somewhat raucous women celebrating an important birthday.
This time it was an intimate meal à deux with my husband and an altogether much quieter affair.
The point I'm making is that, despite the difference in the style of the meals, The Tivoli delivered on both occasions.
By mixing surroundings that are both contemporary and classic with a lively bar area and relaxed dining room, this place has it all.
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Having undergone a £1m refit two years ago, The Tivoli was brought back to life with a smart wood and leather theme.
It all adds up to a relaxed atmosphere that feels equally welcoming whether you're popping in for a quick drink after work or a three-course meal.
When we arrived on a Saturday night there was already quite a buzz in the bar despite it still being early, although the restaurant had yet to fill up.
Although outside the town centre, Tivoli is within walking distance of many areas and has a well-heeled, fashionable feel about it.
The pub's interior reflects this with its neutral colours in the bar and more vibrant red for the restaurant.
We were shown to our table by a cheerful waitress, who was really helpful throughout the meal with menu and wine suggestions.
The subdued lighting which gives restaurants their intimate atmosphere can also work against you when your husband forgets his reading glasses.
I ended up having to read the entire menu out to him in a theatrical whisper to avoid disturbing other diners, although I fear it had the opposite effect.
It's not a particularly long menu – pretty average really – but it was the descriptions of the dishes, usually so helpful, that took the time.
And when I'd finally reached the end he asked me to remind him what the first choice was again – and he wasn't even joking. Eventually after much discussion we managed to make our choices and the starter arrived.
We decided to share a starter and dessert and were really pleased with our first choice of a warm chicken and bacon salad, with goats' cheese and balsamic dressing (£6).
There was all sorts packed in there, including gorgeous contrasting flavours like red onion and different salad leaves, making it one of the best starters I've had for a long time. The cheese in particular was really creamy and piquant.
As my husband is on a bit of a diet (which obviously doesn't include alcohol in its regime) he decided to have fish and choose the cod fillet with chorizo and mixed bean cassoulet (£15).
What I really liked about The Tivoli menu was that you didn't have to spend extra on potatoes and vegetables, they all come with the meal, which of course is as it should be. The cod came with wilted spinach and Lyonnaise potatoes and was beautifully cooked and deliciously fresh.
Not on a diet of any sort, I ordered the lamb rump (£15), pan-roasted with a red wine jus and rosemary roasted potatoes.
Indulgently rich and satisfying, my only complaint was the profusion of baby onions, which became just too much.
I got to eat all the pistachio crème brûlée (£5.50) which I chose for pudding and this was the only course I wasn't so keen on.
I think it must have been the addition of the nuts which made the brûlée too thick and dry.
But overall, this was a special meal in charming surroundings. We'll be back.