I visited the Daffodil in Cheltenham with my parents recently, and was wowed by the incredible building it sits in. Customers are greeted through and old fashioned glass box-office as they walk over a black daffodil mosaic. The decadent art deco entrance opens up in to a large theatre with sweeping stairs up to the balcony where diners sit in leather booths. The Daffodil is impressively grand, black and red tiles checker the floor, black and white pictures of films greats adorn the walls and the menu reads like a drive through cinema screening schedule. These touches would be tacky in other venues, but in this huge old picture house, they feel entirely at home.
The menu had some good choices for vegetarians, including a heritage tomato salad with goats cheese and a interesting sounding vegetarian chilli. To start I had the twice baked double Gloucester soufflé with English truffle oil. I personally prefer soufflés when they have been baked just the once as they are usually a little lighter, however, this soufflé was still lovely. It had just the right quantity of truffle oil so it wasn’t over powering and it went surprisingly very well with the double Gloucester.
For my main course, I had mushroom and spinach wellington with roast pepper, rocket and green bean and parmesan salad (…presumably not entirely vegetarian then??). The roasted pepper was very tasty, it was stuffed with a tomato and both had been rubbed with plenty of garlic. The wellington pastry was crisp with a succulent flat mushroom with spinach inside. It could have done with an extra layer of taste, perhaps with some slightly stronger tasting types of mushrooms, or maybe some blue cheese, however, the dish did work and was very enjoyable, despite the vast amounts of rocket that came with it.
The desert section as a little strange with some rather odd combinations that my parents couldn’t quite get their head around. Chocolate fondant with mango sorbet? While some of the deserts sounded interesting, there wasn’t an option for those wanting more ‘traditional’ puddings. I opted for popcorn pannacotta with honeycomb and salted caramel. I am a total sucker for salted caramel – I absolutely love it, and was therefore pretty disappointed with what I was given. The pannacotta itself was a touch too sweet and the salted caramel wasn’t at all salty. If fact, it was just sweetened caramel. The popcorn that was placed on top was very bland and had no seasoning. The only part with any distinctive taste was the honeycomb, which there wasn’t enough of. My father also was unlucky with his desert. He picked the walnut frangipane with red wine poached pear and lemon thyme sorbet. The poached pear was very hard and the frangipane resembled a sort of Ryvita biscuit rather than a gooey frangipane he was hoping for.
But the Daffodil offers so much more than just food. Aside from the art deco salubrious surroundings there are jazz nights, networking lunches, and, of course, it can be hired for private parties and weddings.
Unfortunately, the Daffodil has been the victim of bad reviews that keep coming back to haunt it. Just Google ‘Daffodil review’ and Jay Rayner’s rather scathing words seem to stand out. However, that review is now six years old, and a lot has changed at the Daffodil since then. Overall, I believe the Daffodil should not be a write off just because it still needs to make a few tweaks. Aside from the desert, everything else was lovely and it is worth going, if only to see the venue. It is frustrating, because the restaurant has got it almost right with its dishes, it is just a few light touches away from fantastic food. And the staff were great; discrete yet attentive – exactly how they should be.