Kibou is an award-winning, independent ramen and sushi bar in the centre of Cheltenham. You could very easily miss this place as it’s at basement level next to Carluccio’s. Describing themselves as a bar certainly gives the right vibe about Kibou. It’s comfortable and relaxed with quick service.
Helen from The Cotswold Food Blog had a special milestone birthday meal here a few years ago, but sadly I don’t really remember the food, I mainly remember a shamefully naïve experience I had when I devoured a whole teaspoonful of wasabi paste in one go. I must hasten to add it was not for a dare, nor was I trying to show off, it was simply because it was purely down to my inexperience! So three years later, now my stomach lining has heeled and my taste buds are back from rehab, I decided to return!
I booked a table for a Friday night on the Tuesday before and the staff stated they only had one table left at 7pm, so I’d advise booking early if you’re planning to visit at the weekend. Our table was a window ledge with two seats next to each, but the space was certainly large enough for 4 dishes, 2 glasses and 2 serving plates. The staff welcomed us with a complimentary serving of lightly coated wasabi peas and took our order whilst helpfully offering us descriptions of all the different types of sushi on their menu.
We ordered 3 starters and 2 types of sushi to share and asked for it to be served all together. Rock and Roll! I’d say within 15 minutes our food was served. We ordered…
Salt & sansho garlic squid – Squid rings deep fried in Japanese sansho pepper seasoned batter. (6 rings). They were piping hot on arrival, the batter was crunchy and very tasty and they were seasoned delicately with sea salt. The squid itself had a clean taste to it and wasn’t chewy or rubbery. I would have been happy with just these all night long!
Pumpkin korroke – Japanese pumpkin croquettes served with a tonkatsu sauce and kimchi mayo. (2 croquettes). Crunchy like panko breadcrumbs on the outside and light and fluffy inside with a slight taste of sweet pumpkin. The sauce and mayo made the perfect accompaniment. I’d love to make some Kimchi mayo to serve with battered chicken!
Pork gyoza – Lightly seasoned minced pork, wrapped in flour skins, pan fried, steamed and served with KIBOUkitchen gyoza sauce. (4 servings). A yummy pork dumpling with a deliberately subtle flavour but dipped in the sauce and they come to life!
Futomaki sushi – Chicken katsu – breaded fried chicken (5 rolls – top left and bottom right).
ISO sushi – Chicken teriyaki – inside out sushi (8 rolls – centre).
The main event was neatly presented as you can see! Each sushi piece was consistent in appearance and a satisfying thickness. I ended up trading my friend the 5th katsu roll for her last piece of squid, but it was slightly annoying as every other dish we ordered came with an even number of portions except the katsu. In Kibou’s defence the menu does a good job of stating the portion sizes except for a couple of dishes. Flavour wise I was perfectly happy with the level of teriyaki although I did feel I needed to add a couple of drops of soy to the katsu. I do love breaded chicken in a sushi roll though! I found the rice super soft and thankfully these rolls were served at room temperature which didn’t kill the flavour like chilled sushi can suffer.
Some would argue Kibou is a tad on the pricey side but so can be Yo Sushi. Our bill came to £44 which included a large glass of wine and a soft drink. Considering the quality and the preparation involved in each individual bite and the flawless service we received on our visit, I didn’t think that was unreasonable at all.
Kibou’s score on Trip Adviser of 4.5/5 and 4.9/5 on Google+ is fully justified in my eyes.
I cannot wait to go back and as soon as Deliveroo extends to my side of Cheltenham I’ll be ordering their take out!