The Viking – West Kirby

“The latest Simon Rimmer project is all about families and fun. It is by the seaside after all!”

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Been to all Simon’s places they are generally very good. Local produce with quality fittings. The Viking (Pub and Bakehouse) in West Kirby on the Wirral keeps up the tradition in spades. The Flame and I went on an adventure, the objective (as always) to end up with a decent pint and a good feed. A couple of train rides including a trip under the Mersey had us leaning on the railings, breathing in the wonderful sea air overlooking the sweeping sands of West Kirby. Its heady stuff. That said it was a 3/4 mile, uphill, fifteen minute walk inland before the freshly painted Viking homed into view. It’s a fine sight though. Like its local counterpart, The Elephant (reviewed here) it is liberally adorned with smart, simple, painted branding.

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It had only been open couple of weeks as we arrived for a bustling Saturday lunch. We hadn’t booked. Thankfully the youngster who greeted us prodded the iPad for what seemed like an age before finally declaring there was a spot available. As there was only two of us we finally took our place on the last table for six!

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It’s a big place, essentially there is a huge bar in the middle surrounded by wood based, Scandinavian influenced furniture. It’s a smart fit out. A viking ship is moored outside for the kids. Its very family orientated, and why not?

The place is manned by a platoon of check shirted youngsters. Our enthusiastic waitress Lucy was quickly on hand to guide us through the process. A Five Point Brewery pale ale soon had my thirst quenched as we sifted through the wipe clean, branded menu booklet. Its full of standard favourites and includes a decent pizza choice. It majors on brunch too, in fact its fair to say it’s a blinking good menu with plenty of decent choice. 

As its name suggests a worthy note is its bakehouse. The Flame’s hummus starter (£4.50) served with a raft of hot buttered, herby, charred flatbread soon confirmed that this is no gimmick. It was truly spectacular, probably too much as a starter, but gorgeous nonetheless. I had chargrilled halloumi (£6.50) which came with even more of it, mingled with onions and tomatoes. Both starters wolfed and loved, though The Flame doesn’t like food served in tins!

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For mains I had a perfectly decent ‘Budvar’ beer battered fillet of haddock, hand cut chips, minted mushy peas, tartare sauce (£13). The Flame her standard….fish pie (£13.50). It came loaded with Scottish salmon, North Atlantic prawns, naturally smoked haddock, peas, parsley and a side of buttered greens. The greens were incredibly salty but quickly replaced with a double portion with standard seasoning! The menu suggested a twenty-five minute wait for the pie. It arrived in its own curious little balsa wood tray and an inner sleeve of parchment. A little strange but proclaimed as a beauty by The Flame.

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As ever when trifle looms on a menu it has to be ordered. This time a cherry trifle (£5.50). Tons of plump cherries, lashings of cream and vanilla chantilly, Light on sponge but lovely all the same. A decent brew and we were ready to saunter back to conclude our wonderful adventure.

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I have to say well done to Simon and his team. They’ve weighed up whats needed and tailored the fit out to the market. Service bright and perhaps a little too enthusiastic at the moment. We were asked about four times whether we were enjoying our food. Perhaps lacking in confidence while its new? But it’ll settle down soon. I reckon he’s hit just about every trend going to ensure it hits the spot and has something for everyone. Its even got tank beer! A great family place, we’ll be going again. We loved the sea side and there’s plenty more delights on the menu to try.

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See also Liberty Tavern, Greens, The Elephant,

The Viking
Black Horse Hill
West Kirby
CH48 6DS

T: 0151 601 1888
http://www.thevikingpub.co.uk

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Cholmondeley Arms – Cholmondeley, Cheshire

“Take it from me, don’t use the M6 again! All you need is the A49 and The Cholmondeley Arms!”

The flame and I ventured south to the wonderfully named Shelsey Beauchamp. A young relatives christening the point of travel. A fabulous weekend was had in the Shropshire countryside. However, it was a tortuous trip south on the M6, so I vouched to head back using ‘A’ roads or to be precise the A49.

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I wont lie though, there was an ulterior motive. I reckoned we would be needing a feed after a couple of hours and recalled from years ago that an old converted school called The Cholmondeley Arms lay in wait. The grapevine had suggested it had been made over and was on ‘foodie’ form. It homed into view exactly as I’d remembered it.

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It made a fine sight. Spruced up brick, well tendered lawns, leafy foliage, a wealth of outdoor dining space. It was no less spectacular inside too. High ceilings, wooden floorboards, old school time accoutrements including roller blackboards! (remember them)? It’s a quality make over, the accessories budget alone must have run to a bit. Anyway, what about the food?

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Well that was spectacular too. Explained in a flurry of old time font on a thick cream card resplendent with the coat of arms the menu makes a fine read. It lists a raft of British classics with a twist. Whilst I drooled over the litany of pink roast beef tumbling from the kitchen, we both went fish for mains, as we had dined from the cow the night before. The menu was surveyed whilst quaffing gently from a pint of Red Willows Faithless, a particular favourite.

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Duck pate, buttered greens, devilled kidneys

I started with devilled kidneys (£5.95), each ‘offalic’ morsel licked with spice, and then based on a thick slice of sourdough slicked in creamy goo. An obligatory sprig completed the look. Wonderful start. The Flame went for the confit duck pate (£6.45). A lovely chunk set on an eventful salad and crunchy toast. She proclaimed it a total success.

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For mains The Flame went for her favourite fish pie (£13.45). It was beautifully presented in its own hot skillet with criss cross topped potato and supreme bowl of buttered greens. Plenty of fish in there but the sauce a little thin. Nonetheless a winner.

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I went for the cod loin with pine nut and herb crumb with sautéed samphire, new potatoes, mussels and a lemon and dill sauce (£15.95). The cod a little bland in fairness, but cooked well, the crumb adding some interest. Any shortcomings were more than made up with by the accompaniments. When liberated with a ham fist, dill can rather overpower things; here it was gently laced lending the dish a soothing edge rather than a ‘wham’ to the palate. Great stuff. Meaty mussels, salty samphire, best new potatoes completed a truly satisfying course.

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As ever a sweet finish was required. The homemade pud menu had me all over the place, could have stuck a pin in, but went for the strawberry gin and summer fruit trifle (£5.50). It arrived on its plank in a storage jar. The delivery just as God intended. A gin soaked base topped with vanilla custard and a slug of proper cream. Probably the best trifle I’ve had in a long while. Dessert of the year so far! The Flame had a very decent branded coffee complete with her own morsel of sticky flapjack.

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So there we have it. Fabulous meal and a great plug for the A49! Came in at £48, so its on top gastropub lines. ‘The Cholm’ is seemingly a bit of a gin champion as well as a magnet for classic car clubs. Plenty of events up and coming. Nearby is Cholmondeley castle too. I reckon this is worth an hour or twos drive for anyone. Well worth the trip…

The Cholmondeley Arms
Wrenbury Road
Cholmondeley
NR Malpas
Cheshire
SY14 8HN
t: 01829 720300
e: info@cholmondeleyarms.co.uk

Yorks Bakery Cafe – Birmingham

“In my brief, humble opinion eating brunch in Birmingham has no equal”

A gentlemen’s weekend had broken out. A rock gig at Birmingham’s premier ‘mega hangar’ the supposed centrepiece. However as subsistence director I was tasked with ensuring our humble threesome didn’t starve or become slaked with thirst. Thirst was sorted by local hostelries The Wellington and The Victoria, food came via the unlikely titled Yorks Bakery. Having travelled by train and being really adventurous you may be surprised to learn that all this sustenance was had within 200 yards of New Street station!

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We stumbled on Yorks first and foremost on the afternoon of said gig. We were enticed by a beer and burger for a tenner banner. We soon learned that this was a midweek special, however, undeterred the decor and general demeanour had us suitably hooked to sit in a try it out. I immediately recognised the place as a typical, urban, trendy type, ‘Northern Quarter’* cafe, resplendent in the obligatory exposed services and homemade tables, chairs and benches. A hip backing track and cool staff completed the look. A well stocked, stack of homemade cakes on the bar helped too!

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As it was we went for the burger and fries anyway, allied to a bottle of pale ale and a super boost smoothie. The fries gun powdered, the burger suitably sized, cooked pink but overshadowed for me by an over ‘garlicky’ aioli. Could have done with it on the side and not caked over the bottom bun. All in all though a super effort and enjoyed by all.

What really caught the eye for me was the menu for breakfast/brunch. As we were staying at the nearby ‘Nitenight’, breakfast was an extra that we had to fund ourselves. And so come 9.30 next morning we took our place back in Yorks whilst the young staff optimistically put out the kerbside tables and chairs. We surveyed the super A4 card once more to confirm our order.

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A couple of trendy teas, served in big glass urns and a decent ‘americano’ take the edge of the previous nights beer. The house breakfast here when shared is called ‘The gentleman’, which was highly appropriate, as my two esteemed cohorts took up the offer of a sharing plate. A fairly hefty £15 each with unlimited brews. But boy what a set up. Quality, local, artisan ingredients set on a huge plank that barely fitted on our table. Fine herby sausages, oak smoked bacon, huge shrooms, homemade barbecue beans (a particular highlight), fried eggs and wonderful sourdough toast and local butter. All done to perfection.

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I went off beam and tried the middle eastern breakfast ‘Shakshuka’ (£8). Peppers, onions sweated in garlic, cumin and Harissa with baked eggs, yoghurt and herbs. This came hot in its own skillet and sourdough bread. Absolutely wonderful, what a great start to a day. I followed with a bit of sweetness. Toasted banana bread, with espresso labne? Sweet dukka and a raspberry coulis (£5). Oh my, another triumph.

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Shakshuka, toasted banana bread

We were in the place for a good hour and a half. By the time we came out for our 11.20 train the place was packed. It would appear quite a lot of the Birmingham city dwellers are aware of Yorks, as they were all out getting their brunch. Even outside was full. So once again it’s a full recommend. If you ever find yourself with an hour to kill at New Street railway station you can either grab a snack from the chains inside or take the gentle 50 yard stroll to Yorks. I know what id do……

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Lovely cakes

Yorks Bakery Cafe
29 Stephenson Street
Birmingham

T 0121 643 4331
http://www.yorksbakerycafe.co.uk

Waddington Arms – Waddington, Clitheroe

“Hmm that’s another fine place you’ve got me into”

Lancashire once again throws up another place to drive out to. Truth be known Ive been passed The Waddington Arms a few times on the way to north west foodie favourite, The Parkers Arms (reviewed here). We regularly meet up with a couple from Leeds and often meet halfway. This time I suggested The Waddington Arms in (guess where)? Waddington as a decent meeting point.

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All the accoutrements of a fine Sunday lunch were in place. Sleepy idyllic village, check, good country walks, check, fine country pubs to stop off at, check. However, the sleepy village bit wasn’t quite as sleepy as anticipated. Being fathers day and the annual Waddington duck race it was far from sleepy. Indeed the place was cordoned off and suitably rammed with revellers intent on losing their mortgage on the dubious fate of a numbered plastic duck! Thankfully I had booked a table, and it was with a suitably smug swagger that we entered this fine establishment and took our place in the rather grand dining room. Set to one side of the heaving traditional stone floored bar, the space held host to several enormous, antique dining tables. Im sure one could seat twelve easy, indeed ours could have sat eight. We sat in huge comfy carvers and glanced out into the duck waving throng through heavy tartan drapes.

A couple of Harrier pale ales had the gentlemen in the crew purring nicely. We surveyed the enormous, cream and blue menu card. Along with a chalked specials board it covered all the British classics and a few other bits too. The card promised the best of the local produce.

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Black pudding, fish cakes, duck spring rolls

Starting off I was left slightly disappointed really. My confit duck spring rolls on a pineapple and a chilli chutney base were pleasant enough, but a poor second to the wonderfully peppery, chunky vegetable soup, the sensational black pudding, poached egg, haddock, bacon on a crumpet and the sublime fish cakes enlisted by the others.

I was much more enraptured with my main. A rather super fillet of sea bream atop an uncious seafood risotto, bursting with meaty mussels and flavour. Others had a creditable fish and chips and a rather good steak and ale pie with all the trimmings.

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Fish and chips, seafood risotto and sea bream, steak and ale pie

I ventured, as always for a sweet end. A cuboid of bread and butter pudding, slicked in cream for me. Would have preferred a grand, messy dollop courtesy of a shovel from a huge earthenware bowl, but hey it tasted fine.

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The finish line and merriment, bread and butter pudding

I should mention that after Donald (duck number 343) had romped home down the fast running village stream the heavens decided to disgorge its torrent. Waddington Arms being the centre of all the action became the natural refuge for the bedraggled hordes. Our previously civilised dining area became the place where tortured parents rested their weary and increasingly bored youngsters. We took the light hearted commotion in our stride. It went to show really just what community spirit is all about. Clearly Waddington Arms know their place in it, right at the centre. It’s a super place and I’m sure with kinder elements and a less frenzied pace it is a definite thumbs up and one to get to again.

Waddington Arms
Waddington

Clitheroe

Lancashire

BB7 3HP

01200 423262

http://www.waddingtonarms.co.uk