Sitting pretty on the western edge of the Cotswolds, just a mere two hours’ drive from London, the smart regency town of Cheltenham has undergone somewhat of a revival over the past five years with the openings of Lucky Onion’s hip boutique hotels No 131 and No 38 The Park, and a flurry of slick new restaurants.
Top of the list for well-heeled locals in-the-know is Prithvi. Meaning ‘Mother Earth’ in Sanskrit, the restaurant serves up seasonal Indian-inspired fare in an intimate 28 cover setting. Grey cream walls, crisp white tablecloths and local artworks lend it an elegant, contemporary feel – much in line with the food concept.
With dishes such as pan-fried scallops served with mango and coconut jus, curried parsnips with leeks and apple, and Gulab Jamun served with cardamom infused doughnuts and pistachio kulfi, this is no souped-up curry house and if you want a table at the weekend, you had better book in advance.
We visited on a balmy July evening to be welcomed by owner Jay Rahman. Young, sharp and incredibly well-mannered, his experience working in Michelin starred restaurants is demonstrated from the quality of the food to the faultless team of waiting staff. We settled comfortably into a corner table, Hendricks and cucumber in hand, and pored over the menu.
Aiming to enhance and elevate the Indian classics, there is plenty to tempt à la carte, but the five course ‘Privthi Tour’ with accompanying wine flight looked too good not to try.
First up was brown shrimps beautifully plated with radish, asparagus and quail egg, paired with a champagne so biscuity and delicious that my dining companion later ordered several cases. This was followed by tender Cotswold chicken with red chilli, star anise and wild garlic, and halibut with sea purslane, mustard jus, broccoli and lime rice. The last of the savoury dishes was mouth-watering duck with jersey royals, carrot julienne, lime, coconut and nan. Between courses we snacked on salmon croquettes with minted yogurt, spiced mushroom with tamarind sauce and crispy poppadoms served with smoked tomato, chilli and cinnamon dips.
After all of that we weren't quite sure how we found space for the desert – a delectable croustillant with pecan and hazelnut, white coffee mousse and salted caramel – but we're so glad we did. Refined, aromatic and never trying too hard, the food was sublime and the wine pairings spot on.
If you're looking for a chic, easy-going getaway then look no further than Cheltenham, for Prithvi alone is worth the trip.
Words by Christina Stewart