12 Courses, 10 Tables, 2 Chefs…1 Journey

As I walked up the stairs to Restaurant Journey, I could feel instantly that this was a special place…
12 Courses 10 Tables 2 Chefs 1 Journey

The Genesis of Restaurant Journey

Head Chef Jeff Lewis tells a story of humble beginnings, working in the Finance Industry for a large part of his career, before turning a hobby into a full time profession and obsession.

Jeff has always had a passion for food, constantly researching and exploring all of the incredible restaurants up and down the Country brings real pleasure to both Jeff’s, and his wife Kenni’s, life.

When Jeff decided to turn to full time cooking, he wanted to enrol in a cookery school to improve his skills and learn the discipline behind being a good Chef. He messaged his mentor at the time, Karl O’Dell (formerly of one star ‘Texture’), on the off chance that he could offer some advice on which school to enrol in. However, Karl had different ideas and offered Jeff a role working with him in his kitchen, in London. Obviously, Jeff jumped at the opportunity.

Having spent time living and learning in London, Jeff has also worked under the watchful eye of critically acclaimed Chef Gareth Ward, at the two Michelin starred restaurant, Ynyshir. From there, he worked with Oli Williamson, Head Chef at The Fat Duck, a 3 Michelin Stars restaurant. This was attractive to Jeff due to their creativity, playfulness and imagination – it is there where the team encourage you to “question everything”. Jeff still lives by this mantra, every day!

After spending many hours in various restaurants, learning relentlessly from the best of the best, Jeff and Kenni then had the unique opportunity to travel to Asia – namely; Singapore, Bali, Thailand and many more exotic destinations! They consumed the culture, Jeff got involved with various cooking schools, restaurants, street food sellers, etc, and developed a deep appreciation for the ‘ground to plate process’.

Jeff told me a story of where him and Kenni stopped the car when they saw workers in a paddy field gathering rice and asked to join them. Jeff mentioned that it was a fantastic and humbling experience, being involved at such an important stage of the food manufacturing process and was surprised to learn how much energy and physical strength it took! He talked about having a whole new appreciation for food, and where it comes from, meaning that nothing should be wasted!

His cooking style has been influenced by his experiences and travels, with a particular interest in Asian flavours, which can be found throughout the menu.

Jeff works along side Alex Truelove – Alex is Restaurant Journey’s Sous Chef and was also not always a Chef, beginning his career in accounts and sales.

Alex also chose to follow his true passion in life and earned an opportunity to learn under Andrew Birch at the (then) 3 AA Rosette Ellenborough Park Hotel in Cheltenham. This was followed by a stint at Lumiere in Cheltenham (3 AA Rosettes), where he refined his skills.

He remains fascinated by Classic French techniques, as well as East Asian flavours. He loves to spend his time exploring flavours, combinations and new recipe ideas.

When not in the kitchen, Alex can be found with his daughter, Florence, who, coincidentally, really enjoys baking. The talent is clearly genetic!

The Journey

Jeff envisioned a restaurant where everyone would genuinely relax, have a great time, enjoy a high level of service and, where the chefs got the chance to “punch you in the face with flavour after flavour” …..I am not sure if it’s maybe obvious, but Jeff is a huge Rocky fan! Haha!

The venue itself has been through it’s own ‘journey’ – once being a busy nightclub in the heart of Cheltenham, where Head Chef Jeff himself remembers many a beer.

When Jeff finally took the plunge and decided to open his own restaurant, he spent a month renovating the inside, until it took on the look it has today. Small intricate details set Restaurant Journey apart from others, like their own personal playlist, (Spotify – @JourneyRestaurant) streaming, for lack of a better phrase, absolute ‘bangers’, but not so loud as to take away from the diners conversations. The lighting is low and each table is spotlighted and, when combined with the music, it gives a feeling of intimacy and privacy, despite other diners around you!

One side of the room is covered from floor to ceiling with a 10m wide artwork, hand painted by Dan Kitchener, who is a world renowned Japanese inspired street artist.

Jeff and his wife Kenni are huge fans of Clos Maggiore, London, and their wonderful decor that forces you to pause and appreciate. Jeff found the very same ‘pause and appreciate’ effect with Dan Kitchener. The walls are dripping with talent, illustrating the streets of Hong Kong, Tokyo, and more.

The other side of the restaurant hosts the ‘Living Wall’, where you’ll find jars of pickles, fermentations, and other concoctions, even their own Soy sauce and house miso is slowly fermenting away! They will often use ingredients from the Living Wall on a nightly basis.

Their crisp white tuxedo napkins, holding up the detailed tasting menu add that something extra. Being served by the chefs themselves adds to the feeling of attention, that this night was organised just for you. That they came into work with the sole focus of pleasing you and your tastebuds. It is that personal. You’ll be greeted by their sommelier who knows the menu inside out, can adapt your wine order to suit your mood on the night. Receptive and intuitive.

The cocktails are incredible. That is all I have to say on that.

Jim Collins mentions in his book ‘Good to Great’, that to make a company great, it is not about the people. It is about the RIGHT people. And the team at Restaurant Journey have spent time and invested in exactly that…the right people. All the staff are clued up on the menu, and work as a team, a team whose core focus is the diners experience.

The team rigorously go through all feedback, whether left through social media, email, or in person, and make sure all answered with a promise to action any reasonable requests. They love constructive feedback and open to any suggestions to making the restaurant even better.

The Menu

The Menu is wonderful and ever changing, cooked fresh every day. Jeff and Alex are known for adding ‘gift dishes’ to your tasting menu, exquisite dishes that they’ve created that night for you to taste. This allows the chefs to innovate every single night, to challenge themselves, plus receive real time feedback and an idea of whether to incorporate the ‘gift dish’ into their printed menu.

A menu favourite is the ‘Dragons Breath Popcorn’, where they cleverly use liquid nitrogen to create the breath of a dragon as you eat! Very creative and it immediately transformed me into one of Khaleesi’s dragons from Game of Thrones and I loved it.

Plenty of different flavours to blow your socks off from Crab, Cod, Scallops, to Wagyu and Pork Belly. I can guarantee that no socks will be left on after finishing this tasting menu.

Supporting The Local Community

Restaurant Journey firmly believes in supporting the local community, and so strive towards using only local suppliers where can. They understand that building the community around you is so important for the long term!

No Waste

Restaurant Journey have a strict no waste policy, which is contrast to the throw-away world we live in today, where everything is seemingly disposable. The team understand the importance of reusing ingredients where can, and it challenges them and their creativity, but they love it.

To give you an example, they have made ice cream from Potato peel…and yes, it’s delicious!

Now, That’s What I Call Fresh

Their food is as fresh as can get and Jeff and the team work with local, quality suppliers that can deliver time and time again. Fish is caught daily from the waves in Cornwall and delivered the same day!

The Mention

Having been open 6 weeks from when Guide2 interviewed Restaurant Journey, they had hopeful suspicions that they had been visited by The Michelin Guide, later confirmed with a tweet showcasing courses of the menu and a powerful statement reading ‘Restaurant Journey is making a mark in Cheltenham’.

To put this in terms that I can digest, it would be like singing a song and Beyonce tweeting on a great performance…

To be recognised by one of the elite guides in fine dining is such an achievement. The Michelin Guides’ mission is a constant and relentless search for unforgettable experiences, and it seems like they’ve found another one with Restaurant Journey.

The team have also been visited by other publications like the Good Food Guide, and cannot wait to keep pushing the excellence boundaries, to continue to get noticed.

Partner In Life And Business

Kenni has supported Jeff throughout his career and the launch of Restaurant Journey, even working front of house, to make sure the restaurant is a success!

When I asked Jeff who is the bad ass in the kitchen at home, he relayed that his wife cooks a dynamite Sunday Roast and an unforgettable Chilli.

Journey’s End

Jeff was kind enough to share future plans for the restaurant, and they involve a lot of cocktails which is always good in our books. It makes sense to have an end to the journey you have been taken on by Jeff and the team, and so Journeys End will bring you a Champagne and Cocktail Bar for members. More information to come soon.

What You Need To Know

Private Hire
If looking to book in a once in a lifetime event, or a memorable corporate event, Restaurant Journey can seat up to 24 for private hire.

Advance Booking
The team recommend you book your tables at least 4 weeks in advance, private bookings at least 6 weeks. However, always look out on their social media or give them an email as they do sometimes have last minute cancellations which you can jump right on!

Cancellation Policy
The team work towards a 48hr cancellation policy.

Service Time
Please allow 3.5 hours for your Restaurant ‘journey’.

Gift Vouchers
Email the team at reservations@restaurantjourney.co.uk to purchase a gift voucher and make someone’s day! You will receive your reservation in the post, with a menu and all details needed. All very personal. When ready to make the reservation, just email in to check availability.