This afternoon, it being warm and sunny in Cheltenham and with deteriorating weather forecast for the next few days, as well as having had a hectic day ‘farewelling’ departing guests, cleaning, shopping, and ‘fielding’ new guests, Veronica and I decided to stroll into town and check out the new Jamie Oliver restaurant. It has been open for about 2 weeks and is located in the old Victorian courthouse on Regent Street, which had been vacant for a number of years and is very close to the Everyman Theatre. The courthouse is a lovely honey-coloured Cotswold stone Victorian corner building surrounded by smart royal ‘crown-topped’ railings.
We entered and were met by young and very friendly staff who allowed us to wander round at our leisure and check the restaurant out for our guests. Downstairs was well appointed but not especially impressive, but upstairs was a revelation. This was the original courtroom, preserved just like a miniature Old Bailey. Centre pillars divided the outer court from the main auditorium which is beautifully panelled and still bears the brass labels indicating Jury Box, Press Box (opposite), Defendant and Plaintiff and in the centre a ‘bench’ with red upholstered judge’s chair at its focal point. Inside each box and along the judge’s bench it is laid for dinner, and between the pillars is a huge bar resplendent with hanging hams and bunches of garlic and other root vegetables – an impressive sight. In the subterranean passages of the courthouse, the steel shuttered cells still exist and house a very atmospheric ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gentlemen’s lavatories (or WCs as they are now). A combination of Jamie’s expertise and the historic environment should be a recipe for success in Cheltenham.
After we left, strolling along Regent Street, we observed the hoardings round The Everyman, set up while it undergoes its restoration, due to complete in September, and designed to revive some of its Victorian splendours. As we saw the poster on the hoarding, we made a mental note to come and see the first play due to show in the ‘new’ theatre – ‘The Madness of King George’ – very appropriate as it was he who brought Cheltenham’s delights to the notice of the ‘gentility’ and aristocracy and set the town on its path to popularity.
On our way home, we strolled up the Promenade and had a pot of tea at the tables outside Brasserie (Raymond) Blanc in the waning sunshine, before passing the pillared, porticoed and domed Rotunda, formerly a spa and currently a branch of Lloyds Bank, but soon, we believe, to be a branch of Brown’s Restaurants. We moved on, admiring the busy alfresco Montpellier Winebar as we headed back down the shady Bayshill Road past the Ladies’ College and home. A lovely walk in a beautiful, relatively unspoiled (so far) town – and with a plethora of fantastic restaurants, all within easy walking distance of Hanover House – lucky us!.