Cotswolds review: Prithvi

There’s unbelievably succulent Cotswold chicken that tastes of a life well led. Here it’s dressed up with red chilli and star anise, a streak of wild garlic adding another flash of flavour.

Amazingly fresh produce elevated by balmy, fragrant flavours, and served up by the slickest front of house team – it’s Prithvi, of course, says Charlie Lyon

We talk a lot about Prithvi at Crumbs. The name often crops up in our Little Black Book interviews, for one thing, as it’s repeatedly recommended by Cotswold foodie folk as the ‘best curry’ in the region. But calling it just that is doing Prithvi a disservice, really. (We should really change the question to ‘best Indian fine-dining experience’, and fill it in automatically for each of our interviewees.) Prithvi’s been open for four years now, but apparently people aren’t tiring of it. In fact, the restaurant’s going from strength to strength, winning gastro gongs in the last couple of months, including the ‘Fit for Foodies’ title in the National Restaurant Awards.

Part of Prithvi’s success is down to the fact the menu is regularly updated in line with the changing seasons, bringing repeat custom and encouraging a loyal following to build. Right now the summer menu is in full swing.

From the road, the restaurant is modest – fronted with windows encased in a plain black surrounds, the name whited out in an understated sans-serif font. It gives nothing away as to the grand experience you get inside.

On a warm Tuesday night we are ushered in to a neutral, clean and modern space that leaves room for the service and the food to take centre stage. The restaurant is full – couples celebrating anniversaries, and small groups toasting milestone birthdays.

Under the watchful eye of immaculately turned out manager Jay Rahman, the service is consistently swift and polished – no request is too big, and no detail overlooked.

The a la carte menu here is well-constructed, with four starters averaging £10 each, and a perfect mix of six mains to suit all tastes – land, sea and field – coming in between £14.50 and £19.50.

For adventurers, the ‘Prithvi Tour’ tasting menu is the obvious choice – five courses (with a couple of surprises) for £43 and an optional wine flight (mainly white today, to complement the light summer dishes) for an additional £36.

T – the Yorkshireman in tow – is probably happiest to see that, despite the frippery, poppadums and condiments (£3.50) are on the menu too. He’s more than crestfallen, though. when I forbid the ordering of them.

The meal kicks off with mini balls of salmon croquette balancing on a good dab of creamy raita teamed with mini shells of spinach and coriander mousse: two bites of fragrant moreishness to get the juices going. (Better than poppadoms, T? Reluctantly, he concurs.)

Next, an appetiser of brown shrimp consists of a huge spoonful of the fresh and fragrant salty crustaceans, teamed with baby asparagus and a perfectly creamy quail’s egg. Floral lemon balm wafts from somewhere in the dish.

There’s unbelievably succulent Cotswold chicken that tastes of a life well led. Here it’s dressed up with red chilli and star anise, a streak of wild garlic adding another flash of flavour.

There’s pani puri (Indian street food) next, fresh and cleansing with shallot and chickpea in a sour and spicy sauce. Meaty halibut is brought to life with a mustard jus and tangy sea purslane. Tender venison comes next, given back its sprightly youth with a soft fruit sauce and delicate plum segments.

For pudding, more French than Indian, is croustillant – buttery pecan and hazelnut crisps layered with white chocolate mousse and daubs of salted caramel. It’s a shame not to experience the more authentic-sounding cardamom-infused doughnuts or pistachio cake on offer, but, to be honest, this is a fine sweet.

With world wines to complement each course, every taste is a journey into the refined exotic. One meal here and you’ll be queuing up to join the band of loyal followers Prithvi has gathered in its last four years.

* Prithvi, 37 Bath Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53 7HG; 01242 226229;