Muse Brasserie can be found on a quiet side street in the centre of Cheltenham. Just a stone’s throw from the city’s Regent’s Arcade, Gardens and central cinema, its location on St George’s Place gives it the feel of a quiet haven in the midst of a bustling city.
Inside, that feeling of relaxation continues, as the décor is reminiscent of a zen garden. When you walk through the doors, you’re greeted by a beautiful blossom tree, while to your left you’ll see a pastel blue feature wall covered in blossom, birds and butterflies and glass lit in the same pastel blue hue. To the right, the walls are an impressive display of their wines. The restaurant itself is furnished with dark wood tables, juxtaposed with white leather seats.
To me ‘brasserie’ implies French food, but that’s not the vibe I got from décor and that’s not what you should expect from Muse. The restaurant describes itself as offering ‘creative, modern, European cuisine, but when you look at the menu there’s a lack of consistency in its theme, and you ask yourself is it going for French, Indian, Thai? There’s a feel like it’s trying to be too many things, and perhaps struggling to find its identity, but things do click into place when you hear the story behind its creation.
Muse Brasserie – Food with a twist
Muse is the brainchild of old friends Franck Grillet and Pramod Tirungari, who have worked in everything from Michelin star restaurants through to corporate catering for many years, wanted to branch out and launch their own restaurant. This is Muse – a fusion of their French and Indian influences, plus some art direction from their other financial partners. They’re not looking to follow the norm, instead they want to create “food with a twist”, and make an impact on the Cheltenham food scene with their “quirky plans and crazy ideas”.
Many of these are still being kept quiet as it’s still early days for Muse – the restaurant only opened this May, so for now they have a small menu, which is a mish-mash of dishes with no distinct theme. But we’re intrigued to see how they evolve…
Karis and I visited on one quiet Tuesday evening and tried Muse’s a la carte menu (they also offer lunch, Sunday roast and vegan menus). Starters ranged from soup of the day and a warm rataouille salad through to coconut chilli calamari, roasted scallops, and a ham hock terrine.
I went for the Loch Fyne smoked salmon with caperberries and crème fraiche, while Karis was intrigued by the Indian mezze platter. Both were beautifully displayed – Karis’ mezze came out on a long thin plate, while my salmon was served on soft bread circles, one diced and the other in the shape of a rose. I enjoyed my fish, which went well with the strong flavours of the berries, but I did think the diced salmon was a bit heavy on the dill. I also struggled to find the caperberries, which turned out to be in the pot of crème fraiche.
Karis’ was a mixed bag – some dishes were hot, others cold and some even lukewarm, but the flavours were great, particularly the minced lamb and the potato dosa.
A mixed bag of mains
For main course I went for a classic, beef fillet with fondant potato and a red wine gravy – which they kindly made for me without shallot, as I have an intolerance. On a side note, I was very impressed with how Muse Brasserie dealt with any special dietary requirements. On every table is a special allergens card explaining what they offer, and the menu clearly states which dishes are gluten free, nut free, vegetarian and vegan. They were also happy to help with any special requests, which was great for me and my low fodmap needs!
I was rather disappointed with some aspects of my meal – although tasty my fillet was overdone and the fondant potato was pretty bland. To be fair though, this was my first fondant potato, so that might just be what they’re like! On the flipside I absolutely adored the veg, and I’m not a big veg eater. The wilted spinach was delicious, the asparagus crisp and the colourful carrots enjoyable to even this picky palette!
Karis opted for the blood orange glazed duck breast, served with baby vegetables and sweet potato mash. Sadly, although a nice piece of meat, Karis felt her duck was also overdone and it looked as though the breast had been sliced open and returned to the pan for a period. She also wasn’t so sure of the flavour combinations – the orange sauce was sweet enough to be a dessert while the sweet potato didn’t work as a mash in her opinion; in her words it was just too “claggy”.
For dessert, I went for another Keri classic but with a Muse twist – both my chocolate fondant and ice cream were vegan. For me this dish was a bit disappointing. Although my fondant was tasty, it wasn’t very warm – and therefore not gooey – at all! It tasted fine though, just like a Gu chocolate melting middle dessert to be fair, but I had hoped for more.
The vegan ice cream was tasty, although chocolate ice cream paired with a rich chocolate dessert was just a bit too much for me to handle. The biscuit crumb saved the day though, as this was a cute little palette cleaner!
Karis’ was disappointed that the one dessert from the menu that she did want (lemon meringue tart) wasn’t available. Instead she opted for the mango and passionfruit cheesecake with mango sorbet. While the presentation of the plate was nice, the rest of the dish was fairly average; the sorbet was sufficiently mango-flavoured and was probably the best thing about the dish. The cheesecake itself was boring with very little flavour and all the wrong textures – it was more like a creamy dessert than a set cheesecake and the square shape made it look like it had been purchased externally.
The Muse Brasserie – what I thought
Overall our experience of Muse Brasserie was a bit of a mixed bag, with some big hits but also some misses. Food wise, some of the combinations worked while others didn’t, but I give them their dues for trying something different. The main down point for me would be the overcooked meats and the undercooked fondant.
However, when things worked they worked really well. For example, although my fillet steak was overcooked I loved the flavour and for someone who isn’t big on eating her ‘five a day’ I devoured their vegetable sides.
Those pluses, coupled with the great service we had from Neil and Bindasu from front of house, means I would give Muse a second try. There’s always teething problems in the early days but the team is keen to learn and improve. Both chefs came out and introduced themselves to us and were eager to receive our honest feedback.
I’d be intrigued to return in a few months time to see how the dishes have evolved, and what other quirky offerings they’ll have added to their menu…
Full disclosure: our meal was complimentary for the purposes of this review. However, as always, all views are my own.