An eating out blow out

So much in life, for me, is eating (and drinking)! Recently I have enjoyed a truly gluttonous but thoroughly enjoyable few weeks, mostly to celebrate a birthday (not a particularly special one)

So let’s split it into two segments. Here and abouts and London.

I’ve had two truly great experiences recently.

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In my last post, I mentioned a new pop-up restaurant in Cheltenham recently opened by Andrew Kojima, a previous Masterchef finalist. I have got to know “Koj” over the last few years and appreciated his real passion for Japanese food. Koj felt that in many cases the British perception of Japanese cuisine finished at Sushi. He had a desire which would promote the really delicious and varied cuisine of his home country. He had the opportunity to live his dream when he opened a pop-up called Koj earlier this month.

Ive been along twice now, the first time was for dinner and secondly to a launch party. Koj has taken on, certainly someone who must be the most acclaimed mixologists in the area, Jamie Campbell, to run front of house at Koj. I’ve known Jamie from The Daffodil days and he is a really great host. although I am known to both of them, its clear they have a really welcoming and warm atmosphere. Its a lovely restaurant, with much thought gone into the original and creative design. As an old bloke, is it right to call it ‘cool?’ you judge.

I confess, I’m not that familiar with Japanese food. The one striking thing is the sign that says ‘no sushi’ on the front window. My lack of familiarity lead me to suggest to Jamie that he choose what we have to eat.

It’s all about grazing plates – small plates either to share or just as many as you want to yourself.

This is was we ate:

KFC (Koj Fried Chicken!) with kimchee mayo
Sukiyaki beef with carrot and daikon salad
Plaice, miso butter, seaweed
Crispy shitake, yuzu dipping sauce
Pork belly and green pepper Kushiyaki (grilled skewers) cooked over charcoal on a barbecue
Fish fingers with Japanese tartare sauce
Crispy kale and sesame and Japanese slaw, sweet and sour dressing – as sides
Tasting dishes of Sticky toffee pudding with miso caramel, Tiffin, Pumpkin and cinnamon cake with rosemary ice cream and Yuzu posset

Does it sound good? Well it was truly delicious. It has to take top rank, certainly in Cheltenham, as one of the best dining experiences in a long time.

There is a menu and there are daily specials, a good but small wine and drinks list and an excellent selection of Japanese style cocktails, conceived by Jamie. In theory its a pop-up and is only open until the New Year. on the QT, its going to be there for a long time, I hope, but go there soon! Best of luck Koj. Brilliant!

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Now this was an experience I have wanted for many a year. I first went there in its first month of opening and have received a lot of flack from the lovely owner, Judy Gardner, for not having been back. So this was my actual birthday choice. Judy is well experienced in the business, having previously owned and run The Bell House in Pershore.

The development of Eckington, since I was last there, is quite remarkable and they have a lovely restaurant now which is situated adjacent to the renowned cookery school.

One of the most exciting things to happen is that Head Chef, Mark Stinchcombe has been the most recent Masterchef winner, and well deserved too!

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