Cheltenham Café Rouge pair go it alone to open first restaurant

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Café rouge, Chef, Restaurant, Menu

Tarragon restaurant in Cheltenham has been opened by chefs and now first-time restaurateurs Sadek Ahmed and Tom Johnson who met while working at a Café Rouge in the town
Tarragon restaurant in Cheltenham has been opened by chefs and now first-time restaurateurs Sadek Ahmed and Tom Johnson who met while working at a Café Rouge in the town
Sadek Ahmed and Tom Johnson, who met while working for Tragus Group at the Café Rouge in Cheltenham, have opened Tarragon - their first restaurant - in the town.

The pair acquired the Rotunda Terrace venue in the Montpellier district of the Gloucestershire town from former rugby star Olivier Azam who tasked specialist restaurant advisers Christie & Co with selling the site after coaching commitments in France pulled him away from the business.

First restaurant

The two-floor restaurant had been operating as modern French eatery Armagnac however Ahmed and Johnson, who re-opened the site less than two weeks ago, have developed a new more casual concept with a regularly changing menu of locally sourced produce complementing exotic meats such as wild boar, kangaroo and wildebeest.

Most recently the pair had been running the Grape & Olive pub in Swansea for Brains. However they met while Ahmed was the restaurant manager of the Cheltenham Café Rouge and Johnson was the sous chef there.

“I have wanted to open my own place for years,” Ahmed told BigHospitality.

“I knew of the restaurant anyway but we were initially looking at a place in Bath. That restaurant was in a prime location and a lot of people went for it. Because we didn’t have a restaurant behind us we couldn’t get that one.

“Getting the first restaurant is the hardest bit – we went for a place in Cirencester but the landlord kept changing his mind – so when this place became available at a lower price we came to have a look and that was it.”

Learning

The 60-cover restaurant needed a small refurbishment, mainly to the mismatched upstairs dining area, however the pair managed to spend just five days renovating the property before it re-opened as Tarragon on 28 June.

As well as exotic meats, the restaurant offers a diverse wine list supplied by Tom I’Anson which features a number of bins which are exclusive to the venue.

The pair were keen to offer a fine-dining environment and concept but at a slightly lower price point - they had expected an average spend per diner of £28 however that figure is currently around £33.

“I was already pretty good at the financial side of running a restaurant,” Ahmed explained. “When you work for branded restaurants half of the stuff you send to head office and they deal with it – all of those things I am learning now which is good.”

Both Ahmed and Johnson are trained chefs and are sharing responsibilities in the kitchen. If Tarragon is a success Ahmed is keen to expand his new business.

“All being well, we want to open another one around the Cotswolds – it will be of a very similar style with a daily changing menu,” he revealed. 

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