Burnt Truffle – Heswall, Wirral

“It’s above average so I reckon you should go”

The Flame and I finally kick-started our way over to the rather quaint little hamlet of Heswall on the Wirral.  Previously known as golfing territory for the scouse footballing hierarchy but now known as the locale of Head Chef, Gary Usher’s latest bistroette ‘Burnt Truffle’. Burnt is the younger sister of the now infamous ‘Sticky Walnut’ of Hoole (reviewed here). Burnt also has some significant media history in that it bagged hundred grands worth of Kickstarter crowdfunding in record time.


We were greeted by young Emma one of several, very pleasant, aproned up helpers and whisked up stairs to our blonde table for two. I was mildly disappointed* that the red Formica topped tables; a relic from a previous eatery had been jettisoned! It was all dead smart now. On trend chalky blue walls and soft comfy seats.


As I had already stumped up a fifty note pledge to get the gaff up and running we presented our voucher. This quickly turned into two glasses of very welcome fizz. A cracking start. Seconds later, oil soaked sourdough with truffle infused butter. Oh my lord. The Sunday lunch menu running from 12 – 2.30 was up next. Just up my street. Single sheet of crisp A4. Four starters, four mains, four desserts and some trimmings. £18 for two of ‘em, £22 for three. Boom, what else do you need?


The two starts were superb. Flamed mozzarella with beetroot, raisin and pine nut dressing. I’ve never had flamed cheese before but it needs to be had again. Looked pretty as a picture too, unlike my image which is blurred!

I had the sea bream, pickled mooli, with samphire, courgette and basil. What a stunning little offering this was. The flavours were still resonant** hours later. Never a fan of pickles but I’m getting there, and when placed with the hot fish it was indeed a thing of real beauty.


I went fairly trad for the main. Roast beef, carrot puree, green beans, red cabbage, spuds and Yorkshire coupled with a side of honey roasted carrots. Beef pink, veg hot and seasoned, carrots historic. Perfection.

The flame loves chicken and endlessly complains when it’s not on as a choice. Here it’s done many ways. Moussed and truffled, poached and rolled, with pancetta, fat potato, shitake mushroom and caramelised onion. I managed to purloin the odd forkful before it was eagerly devoured. Total ‘chickeny’ heaven.

Chicken, roast beef, carrots and a jokey truffle!

Sweetie bits to finish, and it’s all as good as the first two. Orange and almond sponge with butterscotch and quenelle of crème fraiche. Topped with fruit The Flame was in raptures. Piping hot, moist, sweet, sticky, you name it, it was all here. I had one of my favourite sweetie bits of all time, lemon curd with blackberry and apple. It came in a freezing glass complete with a cigar of marshmallow, crisps of coconut meringue and a few other ‘textury’ bits. All totally historic.


Couple of strong, dark coffees and we were done. Three sublime courses, all perfection. Another aspect we both felt was just right, was portion size. Morsels of quality rather than quantity. We were pleasantly satsiated as we biffed off for a pleasant stroll down nearby Parkgate prom. And its look out Chorlton, latest sibling Hispi is waiting in the wings. Eyes peeled to help get this one going.


So if it’s Burnt, Sticky or gone a bit Hispi you can’t go wrong. This Usher chap and his team have got the bistro business sorted. Get there pronto.

*I wasn’t really
**Nicked from Marina O’Loughlin


Burnt Truffle
CH60 0AQ

0151 342 1111


Market House/Altrincham Market – Altrincham, Cheshire

“Listed building, listed food, listed drink, listed atmosphere, it all should be listed, what a great place!”

I can see it now, councillors meeting across the great towns of the North West, head in hands, next on the agenda, “how do we fill our 1970’s concrete, litter strewn, windswept, soulless shopping centres with eager punters?”. Ever since we bulldozed our ornate, Victorian, colonnades we seem to have lost a touch of quintessential England. Well hats off to the powers that be in Altrincham, either by blindingly, sure footed foresight (or maybe just plain luck) they kept their ancient market structures and have now put them bang centre of the regeneration of a great little Cheshire town.


Faced with a couple of hours to kill one Sunday afternoon, having dropped the wife off in nearby Knutsford for a girlie afternoon, I ventured the few miles to ‘Alty’. Mere moments from the standard, pedestrianised, shopping mall the fabulous, brick built Market House came into view. Adjoining is the aforementioned, wrought ironed market stall canopy. Today it was half full, with a mixed bag of craft stalls. As it was 3pm things were winding down, but a live duo was still in full flow. I’m sure earlier things had been a lot livelier. I managed to buy the last two pies from the Great North Pie Company, so it couldn’t have been too bad!


Still, given that I was hungry, it was the market house next door I had come to witness. This is where nine, pioneering, street food vendors ply their trade. A wonderful, chalked mission statement dictates the ethos. Indeed once inside it is pretty clear the blackboard sign writer has a job for life here. All the traders use the same bloke! Indeed branding, normally a key feature of the street food scene is strangely absent. Not that I’m complaining, each trader is set around the perimeter in their own, brown painted box, complete with gold, capital type legend. I casually wander round the edge to take in whose doing what.

In the centre is a series of large, rectangular, multi coloured, wooden tables seating around ten people. The place I reckon could seat around two hundred, and let me tell you they were all taken! The place was rammed. A wonderful cacophony of good natured banter, couples, families, young and old all mingled to create a totally beguiling atmosphere. The problem as a lonesome punter, how do I get served?


I decided to go for a steak sandwich with béarnaise sauce and caramelised onions on sourdough by the aptly named ‘Tender Cow’. A platoon of cheery youngsters manned the tight galley. First question, what’s your table number? Hmm, I haven’t got one. No worries, “get a pint of locally brewed real ale from ‘Jack in the Box’ and wait there. We’ll be over in twenty five minutes!”. Given the steak has to rest and I love real ale, we struck up a contract and I parted with a heady nine whole English pounds.


Some might suggest that one could acquire two steak sandwiches and two pints of John Smiths at a nearby Wetherspoons for pretty much the same money, but please, hear me out. Is their steak 28 day aged? Is it rested after being cooked? Is the pizza dough handmade and allowed to prove for 48 hours? Has Katie herself hand sifted the flour to whip up that light sponge? I think not. We are talking, passionate, young, artisan producers here, who know that if they fail here they’re not going to survive. This is quality stuff.

I manage to muscle on to table nine. The tender chap has noticed and delivers my sandwich. It is indeed a thing (a small thing sadly) of real beauty. The taste is sublime, pink juicy steak, sweet onion, tangy sauce. Totally delicious.


For something sweet I womble over to ‘Wolfhouse Bakery’ and pick a raspberry cheesecake brownie (£3.65). Delivered with a quaint fork on a painted plate, rather lovely. As with the mains the empties are quickly spirited away by a brigade of willing helpers. A pink pig, centre table, dictates the table number and doubles up as a tip collector. It’s all brilliantly organised.


A coffee from the ”Market House Coffee’ finished off a thoroughly enjoyable hour. It’s open daily (except Monday) until late, 6pm on Sunday. The market next door varies with its fayre and timings. The combination of food and craft is exquisite. You have to try it.


The market and the traders are all social media savvy. Wi-Fi wafts around. The food on offer is as follows

  • Tender Cow (rare breed, heritage steak based offerings, with chips if required)
  • Jack in the Box (purveyor of Blackjack beer and other craft ale)
  • Honest Crust (wood fired pizza, I resisted one of these as I have already sampled many times, and yes they are very good)
  • Wolfhouse Kitchen (cakes and Korean fried chicken based products. Will be trying these next!)
  • Great North Pie Company (as it says on the tin! I am a big fan, best pies ever)
  • Sam Joseph (chocolatier, macaroons, hot chocolate and ice cream)
  • Market House Coffee (artisan coffee and teas)
  • Reserve Wines (wine)
  • Little Window (small plates, olives and were doing all day brunch when I was there)

I am tempted to keep this little gem a secret, it really is a place you should all try. I’ll definitely be a regular from now on. Still based on my current stats around thirteen or fourteen of you will read this so it shouldn’t spoil things too much!

See the rather splendid website for more details
Altrincham Market/Market House
Greenwood Street
WA14 1SA

Top Dishes of 2015

I can see a bandwagon coming along. Yep, I’m on it. Welcome to my 2015 food review! It’s now customary to provide a small compendium of what has been quaffed over the last year. I did one for 2014 and that seemed to go down well. I’ve already read a few this year. They’ve generally been a more exotic round up than mine, but nonetheless the grub featured here is top stuff.

Like last year this isn’t all the top grub, but merely the ones that have stood out slightly from the rest. As ever, the joy of a decent feed comes not just from the food itself but from that certain feeling of well being that one feels as the plate, dish, tub, tray, slate (or even flowerpot) is first placed down in front of you and the experience starts.

The meals featured are in no particular order. Just generally great.

Early doors we went to Simon Rogan’s, The French in Manchester. This gives a reason to show some raw beef in coal oil again. I could have shown loads more. Suffice to say The French was very good indeed. But you already knew that.


I love a decent burger. A newcomer to Manchester this year has been Filthy Cow. Young Jordan has done really well there. The filthy beast is a beaut, and washed down with a Ginger Comfort milkshake you really are on a winner.


I love a good pud and have had many fine ones. Albina‘s (in Crosby) really hit the spot with their old school jam roly poly and custard.


We went to Jersey for our hols. Michelin starred Ormer was a highlight. Loved the steak tartare with a horseradish cream. Jersey is a fabulous place to visit and eat. Mark Jordan on the Beach another one to recommend.


Big treat for me is a Sunday Brunch. We had none better this year than at NewMoon’s spectacular, Scouse opening ‘The Old Blind School‘. Eggs Benedict and French toast, it was boss.

French toast, haddock omelette, eggs benedict



Bit of a Spanish explosion in Manchester this year. Had wonderful octopus at Levanter, which is a sensational tapas bar in Ramsbottom (but somehow seems to be considered as near Manchester!). Had a corking paella in Iberica in Spinningfields and wonderous Iberian ribs at the Barton Arcades Lunya. All three will be on the list again for 2016, along with my old faithful El Rincon De Rafa.





No year would be complete without a good steak. Didn’t have a better one that at Hawksmoor, Manchester. Sensational rib eye with anchovy mayonnaise and thrice cooked chips! Had a wonderfully indulgent lobster in a bun too.


Had a short break in Barcelona for my birthday. Glorious tuna at the infamous Pinotxo Bar in La Boqueria market. Finished off the break with a suckling pig dish at 4 Gats in the old town.


I love a Sunday roast, had none better than at Freemasons Wiswell. Simply stunning. Will admit though that The Bay Horse Inn (Lancaster) came up close.


If pizza is your thing, (and occasionally it is mine!) newcomer to Manchester, Tariff and Dale in the northern quarter do a pretty mean one. Check them out.


Best scallop and lamb meal was had in one sitting at The Cartford Inn (Little Eccleston) Pretty incredible really, never had lamb like it, totally historic.


The Flame (the wife!) loves fish pie. Couldn’t get by without mentioning The Bulls Head at Mobberly. She reckoned that’s the best this year. Full of fish, beautiful.


Love seafood. Who doesn’t? Didn’t have it prepared any better than at The Easy Fish Company in Heaton Moor. What a plaice this is! Well worth a visit. Has a lovely piece of plaice with a slash of Crustacea and shells. Incredible.

Plaice with all the trimmings


Working in Manchester as I do, I couldn’t finish without mentioning The Kitchens. A new, six pop up, street food outlet in Spinningfields. All six are ace, I had them all. Long time favourite Mumma Shnitzel maintained remarkable, consistent quality for their chicken based burgers. Young Richard at Bangers and Bacon (as well as Well Hung) rocked up with superb meat based offerings. Hip Hop Chippy Shop did what it says on the tin with a cracking fish and chip butty. Chaat Cart (Indian Canteen) with the wonderful Aarti at the helm delivered amazing chicken kati rolls. Yakuhama and Wholesome and Raw brought some slightly less carb loaded nutrition to the table.

Chip butty, bean salad, avocado scrambled egg breakfast, banh mi, kati roll, schnitzel.

All in all a fabulous year for food. I’m sure I’ve missed loads out. I could have added loads more too. Who will forget the Solita Christmas burger? and the lemon posset in a flowerpot at The Royal at Staveley? If you follow on Twitter you would have seen all this anyway. If you read the blog you would have had a bit more detail on these too. Read on if you really haven’t anything better to do!

Anyway that’s it. Happy new year. Let’s look forward to trying more great dishes in 2016!