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A visit to the impressive No.131 Hotel

Nick Valentine visits No.131 Hotel, Cheltenham.

 

Looking for an indulgent break in the Cotswolds? You would hard pushed to find a better place to lay your head than No.131. This impressive 36 room Georgian hotel with an eclectic, super luxe interior, hosts two restaurants and a myriad of vibrant bars and is spread over a trio of townhouses. It’s a stone’s throw from the upmarket Montpellier district and is a one-stop-shop for your epicurean adventure.

The accommodation is quirkily graded as Superior Suites, Family Rooms, Outstanding Rooms, Excellent Rooms, Very Good Rooms and Cosy Rooms and all feature Wi-Fi, HD TV’s, fluffy bathrobes, Bramley and Aqcua Di Parma toiletries and a select few, original artworks from the likes of David Hockney and Banksy.

We are shown to our Excellent Room, where I immediately feel at home. It has high ceilings, a Bang & Olufsen TV, a Dyson hairdryer, a well-stocked mini bar, a coffee machine and fabulous glassware. The bed’s the size of a tennis court and in the bathroom a roll top Victorian bath sits majestically alongside a glass panelled walk-in shower. The rich colour palette and overall ambience strikes the perfect mix of rock n roll and country estate. I love it.

 

Throughout the hotel the devil is indeed in the detail and everything in view looks meticulously chosen and wonderfully tasteful. The staff are courteous, knowledgeable and all appear to love working here which in turn is infectious.

 

Tonight, we dine in the on-site Japanese Sushi/Asian YOKU restaurant which partners the neighbouring, resplendent Bar Tokyo, which is equally perfect for a pre-dinner aperitif or late-night nightcap. The inspiration for YOKU is born from its translation from the Japanese desire to do things exceptionally well, with kindness and care.

I order a selection of dishes which covers my pescatarian and my partners vegan palate. An Open Spider Roll of tempura soft shell crab, avocado, tobiko, sweet chilli sauce, chilli caramel crisp and flying fish roe is a crunchy explosion of delicious flavours while the Hosomaki salmon and Nigiri spicy tuna are succulent and heavenly. The Ponzu Hamachi Carpaccio of thinly sliced Yellowtail, radish, pomegranate and truffle dressing is my personal favourite, although I resist a second portion to save space for an Udon Noodle Soup of Sanuki udon noodles, prawn tempura, fried scallop, Narutomaki, Menma, Ajitama egg and spring onion, the broth of which alone is a stand-out dish.

 

My partner opts for a Yasai Itame of tender stem broccoli, Enoki mushroom, crispy leak and soy dressing before diving into a Yasai Tempura of deep-fried seasonal vegetables and Dendashi. She rounds off her vegan selection with a Vegetable Gyoza of pan-fried vegetable dumplings, green onion and crispy ginger. This last dish is such a hit, that she joyfully orders a repeat serving.

 

We are both now stuffed, so unfortunately have to side-step a choice of Yuz Crème Brulee, Passion fruit Fuji Bombe, Crispy fried bananas in coconut tempura batter and a white chocolate and orange mousse for dessert. This of course and the extensive list of sakes yet to be tried is a perfect reason for a return visit.

And so, without leaving the confines of the hotel we merrily take a seat in No. 131’s award winning Gin & Juice Bar. This and the Rum & Fizz Bar are inside, but lead on to various outside satellite terrace options, one of which is about to be transformed into a Winter Wonderland for the festive season. It’s a party atmosphere with rotating DJ’s, banging tunes and a pleasure-seeking party cavalry. I fancy a gin and tonic, when in Rome, but with a choice of 412 different gins on offer… it’s going take a while. I finally decide to start with Superdry Blood Orange Gin co-created by No.131 owner Julian Dunkerton, while my partner sets her sights on the extravagantly named Sir Robin of Locksley gin. This is going to take a while…

 

And so, to breakfast. With raging hangovers, we start with obligatory Red Cleanse and Detox Orange health drinks. They are beautifully presented and kick off the rehydration process. It’s a full veggie breakfast for me with double Halloumi and an extra order of potato hash. For my partner, field mushrooms on toast with an avocado side-order. A relatively simple breakfast is so easy to get wrong, whereas here, with the food, the presentation and the great selection of hot drinks, it’s a straight 10 out of 10.

 

A day pottering around the bustling town, by way of the street market, enough coffees to test the Thames barrier, a restorative shower and we’re feeling almost human again. It’s time for pre-dinner cocktails at the Gin & Juice front of terrace bar. An exploratory Palm Style Martini and a Negroni and we’re back in the game.

 

The dog friendly Terrace restaurant serves modern European, locally sourced, seasonal food under an open marquee, among country chic, botanical surroundings. Much to the delight of my partner, executive chef Pete McAllister has produced a separate stand-alone vegan menu from which she chooses Wild Mushroom Arancini as a starter, while I stay on-piste and choose the Scallop Rockefeller with spinach and a bechamel and herb crumb. We both nod in unison. Fabulous.

 

For a main my partner decides on a slow cooked Aubergine Parmigiana with vegan mozzarella, spinach and tarragon. It’s a massive portion and gleefully devoured. I continue the seafood theme and order South Coast Brill on the Bone with brown shrimp, samphire, capers and burnt butter with a side of roasted new potatoes in garlic and rosemary. The fish is firm, yet succulent, the meat easy to remove from a solid bone structure and to my salivating delight, absolutely delicious.

 

For dessert I dive into the classic that is Sticky Toffee Pudding… Perfect. While my partner finishes off our gastronomic weekend with a Winter Berry Pavlova with whipped coconut yogurt. A couple of French 75’s for the road and we’re done and dusted. It’s been a wonderful weekend and No.131 can certainly add two more satisfied customers to its ever-growing fanbase.

 

No.131 now has a license for civil ceremonies with space for up to 56 daytime guests with access to a private opulent dining room and lounge and bespoke menu packages. Alternatively, the rooms can be utilised for business meetings.

 

No.131131

The Promenade, Cheltenham

GL50 1NW

 

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