Tag Archives: Cheshire

The Pit Smokehouse – Culcheth, Cheshire

“Our very own dirty food emporium, right on our doorstep!”

The great burger revolution that has swept through, well err…. Manchester over the last few years has shown little sign of abating. Solita, Byron, Almost Famous, Reds, Five Guys and various Smokehouse empires have grilled into the fray with apparent success. Followers will know I am a fan of a well turned out burger. So it was with a welcome heart that I slumped into a relatively local joint called The Pit Smokehouse. Its housed in a sort of house/shop type set up in Culcheth. Culcheth is a fairly well heeled enclave outside Warrington in leafy Cheshire and only a few miles from my home town of Newton le Willows.


The site formerly housed a haphazard attempt at fine dining called ‘Duck Egg Blue’. The decor has been completely swept aside in favour of the customary ranch style set up that is de rigeur for a ‘smokehouse’. Big rustic tables, cow horns, logos branded into wood, you get the picture, its all to make you feel like you’ve hit the deep south, roped yourself a bucking longhorn, had its backside wiped and slapped on the barbie. Even had Lynyrd Skynyrd on the house PA!


I surveyed the menu. It’s a fine body of work, if you like grilled and smoked meat. I ordered a cowboy sized peanut butter shake (shouldn’t that have been a bourbon on the rocks? – Ed) and set about my order.


For starts I signed up for some smoked chicken wings in a Jack Daniels honeyed coat (3 pieces for £3.95). They turned up smarttish and crikey they were good. These chickens must have had a good life, I reckon they could’ve flown for miles. They must have been the biggest, meatiest wings Ive ever had. Cracking start.


From the impressive burger list I plumbed for a ‘Volcano’ burger, which promised to be hot with jalepeno and their signature chilli. It came in at £11.95 with skin on fries. It came, teetering on a board, stabbed in place with a menacing, but necessary sharp knife. Such was the ‘immenseness’ of the offer I had to deconstruct it to do it justice. For me it was probably too big. Most of the constituents were as expected. The chilli was hot and flavoursome, cheese oozed from various ports. The only slight disappointment was the actual beef patty (or should I say patties). They were a little dry for me. We know we can have juicy pink when the meat is of this quality. A shame really as this could have been a solid 9 out of 10. The dry beef making it a 7 at best. The chips were good, but I hardly touched them after all this!


I couldn’t fit a dessert in. All in all an encouraging find. I’d definitely give it another go next time I need a dirty food fix. Worth a try, just ask for the one burger, and make sure its pink!

The Pit Smokehouse
453 Warrington Road


PS One in Widnes too

The Lost and Found – Knutsford, Cheshire

“Cant really go wrong with bottomless prosecco and brunch. Especially at a smart gaff where ladies doth lunch”. Did you notice that rhymed?


Strange one this. Stumbled on it as part of my day job (as someone who specifies furniture). A rather creditable outfit called ‘Revivalist’ pointed out that one of their more recent successful fit outs was their conversion of a Town Hall into a high end bar called ‘The Lost and Found’ in Knutsford. They proceeded to pepper me with wonderful, high res images highlighting their craft of making places look smart. As a fan of Mr Osbourne’s part time residence I decided to treat The Flame once again and head over there for a light brunchette. We like Knutsford, you may remember me in previous blogs, like ‘The Old Sessions House’ and the wonderful ‘Makers Market’. Despite the early start (11.30am) the website recommended booking for brunch. So we did.


We duly arrived at the imposing old building, suitably spruced. We booked in at reception and admired the spacious downstairs bar. However, the receptionist radioed into a ‘walkie talkie’ to announce our arrival. Moments later we had trudged up several flights of stairs to the top floor dining room. Once we’d ventured through the smart navy doors you are greeted with a huge, naturally lit space. Divided in two along its length. A tiled mezzanine, sprinkled with Eames inspired wire side chairs sits to the right whilst the lower left half houses a series of booths, the bar, the pass and more tables. It is impressive. This could be the first restaurant review you read with the word ‘biophillia’ in its prose! Trees and various branches of foliage abound, bringing nature and the outside in. The lack of soft furnishings and the huge original windows make it a tad noisy though.


We are presented with our ‘bottomless prosecco brunch’ menu. As it’s not compulsory we elected to miss the £15pp extra for two hours worth of free plonk and settle for a quality black coffee and some tap water. It’s a great menu, small plates and mains, all done with a twist.


The Flame went for her favourite Smoked salmon, black pepper and lemon cream cheese, dressed rocket, open malted brown bloomer (£7.50). She also asked for some avocado which was duly provided for only a £1 extra. Have to say it looked very good if you like that sort of thing. The Flame was in raptures, loved, loved, loved it.


I went for their full breakfast which was Bacon, grilled Cumberland sausages, black pudding, fried, scrambled or poached eggs, roasted vine tomatoes, flat mushroom, house beans (£8.50). For research purposes I had Brown butter pancakes, banana, hazelnuts, chocolate sauce too (£6.00). The breakfast was fine. The sausage rather good, the bacon a bit too crisp for me. The house beans added a twist. The pancakes were hot and plump, sweet and nutty. A fine end to proceedings.


A little, local bird told me that the place had a rather stuttering start, inexperienced staff, cocktail making by numbers, poor beer stocks and lacklustre management. It would seem much has improved. Whilst it shouldn’t be too difficult to rustle up a good breakfast and serve unlimited prosecco, the staff we encountered, particularly Dianne our American? waitress was experience, warmth and ‘attentiveness’ personified. As I mentioned the place had started to fill considerably, with couples and groups of lunching ladies. The Flame was well impressed and has already earmarked some girlie events here in the future. Its on the list to try for a proper meal. Its worth a punt for the grand view alone. On a nicer day, you can always walk off the excess with a walk round Tatton Park. Give it a go.


The Lost & Found
Old Town Hall, Princess Street,
Knutsford. WA16 6BY
Telephone – 01565 760 096

The Roebuck Inn at Mobberley, Cheshire

“Im not sure its possible to get more ‘country pub’ than this. Mobberley in Cheshire seems to have ‘rustic’ and ‘quintessentially english’ completely wrapped up!’


The Flame and I used up a days holiday just before Christmas. A little scoot round Knutsford for last minute presents saw us heading out a couple of miles to The Roebuck Inn in Mobberley for a lazy lunch. It has been restored to an astonishing level of glory by the Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars. Apparently they have done the same to several others including its super neighbour The Bulls Head (reviewed here) and the A49’s The Cholmondeley Arms (reviewed here). You could say they are a sort of Alan Titchmarsh of pubs, transforming weedy patches of backyard into lush, vibrant plumage!


The Roebuck is a small hotel too. One can presume the rooms are pretty smart as the pub itself is a riot of homely comforts, red leather sofas, hanging plants, eclectic tables and chairs, log fires and a wonderful bar decanting local ales and fine wines. It even boasts a stunning mock ‘twitchers’ lair that leads on to a beautiful terraced garden.

We took a wonderful old table by the window and ordered up a local pint of ‘Buck’ bitter. Super stuff. We pondered the lunchtime menu. I suspect the plan is to get you to share? Sharing plates do feature as well as small plates, middle plates, main plates and sides. Theres quite a mix in terms of cuisine. Head chef Lloyd is Italian and so the sunnier European areas feature. If any help is needed in choosing, the artistic blackboard gives you all the pointers you need.


I wanted to start with Toulouse sausage cassoulet, but as the sausages were off I went for the French onion soup with gruyere croute (£5.95). After the initial disappointment I was soon back up to speed, the soup was delicious, sweet caramelised onion in a rich broth with melted cheese dripping all round. Glorious. The Flame had (at my request!) the warm crab and kalamata olive cakes with red pepper mayonnaise (£6.95). They also, were rather splendid. The taste of crab there in abundance.


We then had the Roebuck sharing board (£14.95) featuring fennel salami, Toulouse sausage (replaced with a copper pan of pulled pork), duck liver and wild mushroom parfait, home cured ham served with coronations, sundried tomatoes, olives and crusty bread. This was all quality stuff. I also had an unusual dish of slow cooked curried lamb shank, rice, Dahl and coriander yoghurt (£16.95). As you would expect the lamb fell off the bone. Bucking my usual mantra to not have curry in a pub, it wasn’t quite spicy enough for me, but most rewarding all the same.


I then had probably the best tarte au citron (£5.50) I can remember. Homemade, as are all the desserts by Lloyd and his team, it was simply historic. It had the right ‘wobble’ and the right lemony tartness. matched with a blob of creme fraiche it was a complete must have.


With it’s sister The Bulls Head over the road it too features the idea of nipping for a brisk Cheshire country walk either before or after a sumptuous snack. A route map is provided. The meal for two came in at £54. Decent value for fresh, local produce cooked with style. It’s gone pretty close to the top of our list…….we’ll try the brunch on a sunday next.

The Roebuck Inn,
Mill Lane,
WA16 7HX
Telephone 01565 873939

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.


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.


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?


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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
NR Malpas
SY14 8HN
t: 01829 720300
e: info@cholmondeleyarms.co.uk

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

The Pheasant Inn – Tattenhall, Cheshire

“A thoroughly pleasant afternoon overlooking the fine plains of Cheshire with great food and fine ale”


Christmas is almost upon us. The Cooktwit is using up some leave and so what to do? Easy, it’s an hours scoot to some fine eatery somewhere. And so it came to pass, the steed was set to Tattenhall in Cheshire. Rumours abound that there’s a decent place called The Pheasant Inn. It took a blinking hour to get there, via some fairly tortuous ‘roadage’, but what a fine country pile it is. It’s a combination of ‘olde worlde’ charm that’s had a graft of new plumage to brighten it up and add significant yardage to its covers and accommodation credentials. It’s all rather smart.


We entered to a roaring fire and positioned ourselves in a large bay window overlooking the plains. It was rather murky for us, but one can easily imagine how ‘breathtook’ one would be on a crisp, clear summers day. The place was even more homely than usual as it was festooned with all things Christmas. Pheasant and countrified baubles litter the main rooms. A homely bar lines up a plethora of fine local ales. A Cheshire Gold (what else?) is brought forth.



The Flame and I selected from the large, high quality A3 card. Alania, our striking, well-spoken waitress took our order at the table. Two cracking starters get things going. The Flame, partial to smoked salmon went for the Loch Duart smoked salmon, traditional garnish, caviar and granary bloomer (£7.00). It arrives as a thin, square sheet with a deconstructed egg and a splash of caviar. It looked and tasted stunning.


I went for the Butternut squash risotto, toasted pumpkin seeds, goat’s curd and curry oil (v) (£7.00). It came piping hot, full of flavour and crunch with a hint of spice. A truly scrumptious start.

For mains we went for the Fillet of hake, ox cheek ragu, green kale, horseradish mash and parmesan crisp (£13.95), though The Flame (rather foolishly in my opinion) ditched the mash and had chips instead. She found it a little strange with the ox cheek ragout and could have done with some greens. The fish though, superb.


I went Pheasant breast, smoked streaky bacon, butternut squash gratin, with chestnut, blackberry jam and sage fritters (£14.50). Beautifully presented with a jug of meaty sauce. The pheasant maybe a ‘tadge’ dry for my liking but still very good. I topped it with a portion of truffle and parmesan chips (£3.95). These were ‘historic’. Getting pretty close to the best chip ever awards.


Whenever trifle is on the menu that is what I have. No different here. A Poire William and tangerine trifle, chocolate ganache, vanilla mascarpone and violet ice cream (£5.95). Simply tremendous a fine end to thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.


By the time we left the winter darkness was homing in. It wasn’t long before we were wending our way through darkened country lanes. The Pheasant Inn is another to add to the repertoire. I imagine we will be back in the summer.

The Pheasant Inn
Higher Burwardsley,
CH3 9PF.

T 01829 770434


Bull’s Head – Mobberley, Cheshire

“Great food and quality ales on tap. It’s another for the list!”

After landing from a week away golfing with some chums, The Cooktwit needed to be in top form to placate The Flame. Country walks with a decent feed tends to do the trick. In stepped The Bulls Head in Mobberley. Mobberley is a quaint village set in Cheshire between Knutsford and Wilmslow. It tends to be one of the places the big North West football clubs use to house prospective foreign talent. I would suggest The Bulls Head lies at the centrepiece of the offer. It’s a perfect facsimile of the quintessential country pub. Set down a leafy lane it makes a fine sight, particularly when washed in the fine autumn sunshine that greeted us. The large outdoor garden (no doubt a former bowling green?) is lined with outdoor bench sets. Despite being only twelve thirty they are almost full of eager punters. Many no doubt slipped out from nearby offices.


I slip inside to survey the set up. Six real ales line up the bar. A ‘White Bull’ light ale by Wincle Beers is ordered up. As The Flame had already taken up residence outside it was the briefest of internal tours to determine the fittings. Solid tables with solid ‘seatage’ sets the tone. It’s exactly as you would imagine. I’m sure winter will bring plenty of roaring fires. It’s terrifically traditional, low beams, stone floors, jaunty signage, it’s great stuff, very comforting. I took out a couple of clipboards, each clipping a sheath of cream card. The menu is extensive and features British pub grub favourites. Sandwich of the day was crab. I was severely tempted but decided to test out the special ‘Pie week’ menu. I love a good pie.


We both went straight for mains. The flame went for her standard fish pie (£12.95) with a portion of chips. It arrived on its plank with some spinach and peas. She expressed a small initial disappointment when presented with the small rectangular tin, but it was short lived. It was packed with smoked fish, mainly salmon along with haddock and trout. She proclaimed it to be one of the best and a very close run thing to her all time favourite from The Church Green (see here).

The laden fish pie
The laden fish pie

I ordered up from the pie week menu. Smoked pork belly, Yorkshire chorizo and spiced apple cider with a mustard grain mash (£14.50). I prefer a full pie and was mildly disappointed to receive a cast pot with a puff pastry top. However, after forking a couple of luscious globules of pork belly and some cuboids of spicy chorizo, washed in a sweet creamy sauce I was back on track. I finally mopped up with the mustard mash. It was all rather good. The chips were decent enough, but we have been treated to the Freemasons at Wiswell versions lately and it tends to slightly taint anyone’s else’s.

Pork belly and chorizo pie
Pork belly and chorizo pie

I rounded off with a ‘Famous Mobberley Mess’ (£5.25). I’m not sure why it was famous but it was rather good if you like that sort of thing (and I do!). A decent green tea and black coffee rounded off.

The Mobberley mess
The Mobberley mess

We then took off round their three and a half mile pub walk. A natty little flyer is on hand to lead the way. As it was a glorious October day it was perfectly get ’roundable’ in trainers. I dare say wellies would have been needed back in August! A further ginger ale was imbibed on our return as recommended by the genial host. A couple of Manchester United players had settled next to us by this time. We enjoyed a truly wonderful few hours. Service was friendly and engaging. This is another one for the regular list for us. Fully recommended.


The Bulls Head

Mill Lane
WA16 7HX

t: 01565 873395
e: info@thebullsheadpub.co.uk

La Boheme – Lymm, Cheshire

“How do they do it? Superbly presented food with a huge choice”

Before I worked in Manchester, the only place I ever went for a special occasion was La Boheme in Lymm. Birthdays, anniversaries, christenings…you name it La Boheme was THE place. French cuisine delivered with a British twist is its game.  In some respects it’s been largely forgotten (by me), so it was with a welcome smile that ‘little sis’ announced that the family would be trooping back to celebrate Mum and Dads 54th Wedding Anniversary.

Mum & Dad, 54 years
Mum & Dad, 54 years

The eight of us waltzed into the old house on a chilly Wednesday night. The place hadn’t changed. The white frontage and fret cut logo was still there. We ventured into the bar and settled down to a pre-dinner drink. I think elegance is the word. Dark wood, sage banquettes, cream coverings matched to a series of Parisian black and white images create a comfortable and safe atmosphere. The odd display of fresh cut flowers adding a further flourish.


We had a large round table for our party, superb for eight. We each took a large leather bound volume to survey the incredibly extensive menu. I recall Gordon Ramsay in one of his ‘restaurant helping’ programmes advising on a simple menu. “Prepare everything through the day” he preached, so that all that was needed at service time was a quick flash under the grill or a final dunk in boiling water. Chef Olivier Troalen must have eight arms and an ability to levitate to make this menu happen. There are at least twelve starters and twelve mains as well as specials to go at. The place is packed. Each dish has several ingredients and is presented beautifully and consistently.

image image

12 Starts
12 Starts, 12 mains, 14 desserts!

First up some ‘yellow’ canapés. Carrot and coriander soup was one. Savoury macaroons featured. Great start.

The entourage went for a variety of starters, too numerous to mention here. I had the pink pigeon breast or ‘Supreme De Pigeon A La Tom Pigeon breast pan fried to pink, served with a quenelle of blackberry risotto, aromatic carrot puree & Parmesan croquette, dressed with a robust game jus (Unlikely, but this dish may contain a pellet)’ to give it its full name! The Flame won with an ‘Assiette De Gambas Du Marche’ i.e. Fresh king prawn tails marinated in garlic & chilli, quickly pan fried & presented on a mango, pineapple, papaya, chilli, lime & coriander salsa, served with grilled ciabatta & a shot of king prawn bisque. I managed a slug of prawn with chilli, wonderful. The young nephew munched through frog legs (Les Cuisses De Grenouilles De Provence Crispy frog legs served on an aromatic tomato & chorizo compote, accompanied with a deep fried onion ring, served with a aioli dressing). He proclaimed it a revelation.

Canapés, frogs legs, king prawn starters
Canapés, frogs legs, king prawn starters
Pigeon breast, Monkfish,
Pigeon breast, Monkfish,

Main next, I went lamb again (see Cartford Inn! here).  ‘Carre D’Agneau Du Sud’ (£4.00 extra) Rack of lamb roasted to pink, served with pan fried new potatoes, baby stuffed aubergine & courgette flan flavoured with cheese, lime & thyme, finished with a rosemary jus. Stunning presentation, beautifully cooked. Everything on the plate really worked. Various others went monkfish, fillet steak, all looked rather splendid and all thoroughly enjoyed.

Lamb cutlets, perfect
Lamb cutlets, perfect

Desserts up next, loads of us including the main guests had the bread and butter pudding with rum and raisin ice cream. Others included Tarte Au Citron and Panacotta A’ La Fraise (Creamy vanilla panacotta served with a fresh strawberry & basil soup, garnished with a homemade shortbread biscuit).

Almond tart, strawberry tart, bread and butter pudding
Almond tart, strawberry tart, bread and butter pudding

The three course menu is £28 each, though a couple of the mains add a few quid. I have to say it is difficult to imagine how value can be bettered. To have such a choice of food prepared and serviced as well as this seems to me to be nothing short of a miracle. I’m sure someone has the answers but it’s a real hats off to Head Chef Olivier Troalen and his team. He even does cookery courses on the side. Apparently he hopes to be the “Cantona of cooking”! I think he is there already. Flair, passion and quality. It’s a heady mix.

If you want a night of sheer ‘old school’ elegance get yourself and your loved one down to Lymm and  La Boheme. You’ll not be disappointed.

La Boheme
3 Mill Lane,
Cheshire. WA13 9SD
T: 01925 753657


The Black Swan – Lower Withington, Cheshire

“Hope you’re hungry and like fast deer! Great country retreat…“

It’s a fairly drab Saturday afternoon in May, a shuffling sweep round the bathroom showrooms of Stockton Heath is not exactly getting the juices flowing. Still let’s not get too downhearted The Cooktwit had bagged The Flame a slap up binge at The Black Swan in somewhere called Lower Withington.

This black version is a stable mate of The Swan at Newby Bridge, a place The Flame and I have enjoyed on several occasions in the past. It’s a fair old romp to get there though. The M6 gets you thereabouts but then it’s a gentle swage through its leafier bits. Twemlow and Sweetenham are just two of the many haunts who gain your patronage on the way to this fine outpost.

They even do pizza outside in summer
They even do pizza outside in summer

The Black Swan makes a fine sight as you enter its domain. Its jaunty ‘swan with a cap’ brand lifts the spirits. There’s some serious hardware in the car park on arrival. Not too many beat up Mondeos here. I reckon some pretty hot horse, ‘rugger’ and ‘gunnery’ pastimes are enjoyed by the clientele here!

If you think the external branding is quirky, wait til you get inside! Whilst I am a fan of the industrial heavy metal of the Manchester scene it is a pleasant change to step into the chintzy country style of the Swan. ‘Sandersonesque’ prints swathe the comfy chairs and the odd wall. A flock of dead deer adorn one wall. They must have hit that wall hard! Mr Farrow and Mr Ball have done well. ‘Sagey’ greens get a good airing. The Flame is totally enchanted. It’s definitely a female setting, very homely. No harm in that, so its smiles all round as I quench my thirst with a pint of their very own local ‘Mucky Duck’. A light session ale with only three point six points on the ‘drunkometer’. It’s good stuff.

Chintz, Fast Sheep
Chintz, Fast deer!

We select from the ‘hand written’ black on white menu (always a good thing). For starts I go for the chorizo scotch egg with a saffron aioli (£6.95). The flame is teased into seared sardines with vine tomatoes, toasted brioche with salsa verde (also £6.95). At first my egg looks a bit lost and boring, but it soon livens up when I plunge in. Turns out it was rather good. The chorizo cover was lovely, particularly when married with the saffron aioli. I’m pleased to say the flames’ sardines are good too. She suggests the brioche is a little sweet for her, but all in all despite the long wait, we’re chuffed. image

Sardines and Chorizo scoth egg
Sardines and Chorizo scoth egg

For mains I am drawn straight away to the ox cheek ragout with pesto linguine and pecorino (£12.50). I’m partial to the cheek of ox (see recipe here). The ox cheek bit was plentiful and superb though I did detect a slightly curious, deep scented taste, which could have been basil or basil oil? Another pedantic note is that the sheer volume of linguine had even me quaking. I reckon at least a third less would have done me! The flame had the beer can chicken with chunky chips and ranch salad (£11.95). She elected to forego the sweet and spicy BBQ sauce. Again a good portion (I had to finish half of it!). We couldn’t really detect what the beer can had added. As expected it was good well cooked chicken. The salad was especially good being chunky and fresh.

Ox Cheek ragout, Beer can Chicken
Ox Cheek ragout, Beer can Chicken

As usual for research purposes I had a dessert. And boy what a dessert. Banoffee cheesecake with toffee sauce (£5.95). This really was good, as good as any I’ve had in a good while. Guaranteed as being homemade by Emma our young, smiling waitress it was a creamy and dare I say almost boozy triumph. A fine end to a most enjoyable hour or so.

Banoffee chessecake
Banoffee chessecake
More Chintz
More Chintz

Amongst the advertorial material on the country table was a notelet about a natty little walk. The suggestion being that one should troop round the advertised route and pop back to the swan for brunch (they are open at 10am). I think we’re on for this. That’s our next plot when we’re next in err……..Lower Withington. I reckon you should try it.

The Black Swan
Trap Street,
Lower Withington,
SK11 9EQ 01477 571770