Tag Archives: fish pie

The Bird at Birtle – Heywood

“Nutters’ smart new eatery turns out some decent grub, but is it too loud?”

A rare day off, so it’s a drive out to lunch. The Flame and I decide on trying out Andrew Nutter’s recently re-opened gastropub The Bird at Birtle. It turns out Birtle is just to the right of Bury and a bit to the left of Rochdale. We plunder the dreaded M62 before settling nicely beside the wonderfully spruced up Bird. Nice plumage! The local stonework has been teased and sanded to a yellowish hue. Presumably, on account of the artistic masonry above the door it was once called ‘The Bird I’th Hand?”.

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We scuttle round the back to tie up the steed. Here we were greeted by a cathedral of glass! The old bird has had a big, square, contemporary block of architectural curtain walling grafted on the back. It’s a striking addition affording the diners inside a view of, well firstly the car park and then the wonderful green yonder.

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As it happened we had booked and we were warmly greeted and shown straight to our table upstairs via a huge bird mural. A touch of the Nutter humour me thinks! I reckon the place was half full. The tactic appears to be to secrete everyone, be it on the ground or first floor, in front of the aforementioned glass frontage. Our table indeed looked out to the rolling green hills, though not particularly well lit on this cloudy, drizzly day!

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We attempted to converse and select from the super lunchtime menu. Owing to the complete lack of soft furnishings coupled with the plethora of hard surfaces such as the glass, the tastefully stained panelling and black ash furniture we had difficulty hearing over the cacophony of clattering cutlery and people shouting at each other. A pint of Pride of Pendle calmed the shredded nerves!

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For starters The Flame selected the rather wonderful tomato and celeriac soup with rosemary focaccia (£5). Though she doesn’t go for the cream swirl it was in fact absolutely delicious. Noblets of pesto adding even more flavour. I went for the sticky slow cooked short rib beef and rochdale peas (£6.50). I rated this ‘historic’, one of the best starters I’ve had in a good while. The beef slipping effortlessly from its bone, the peas still having a bite set in a gorgeous ‘gravy’, describing it as a jus just wouldn’t do!

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For mains The Flame went for her (yawn!) standard fish pie (£13). In fairness, once again it was a good one. It looked good too, set in its own earthenware pot with a skillet of peas alongside on a wooden base board. As the skate special had just been sold, I went for the beer battered sole with mushy peas and hand cut chips (£12.50). Two delicately battered fillets set over each other, it looked super on the plate. The chips, so good they were close to Wiswell chefs and Hawksmoors!! such was the quality. A punchy homemade tartare sauce added extra points to the binge. All in all a corking lunch. Still the best was to come….

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Dessert! I went for the incredible blackberry, pear and almond frangipane tart with amaretto ice cream (£6.50) whilst The Flame went for Kirkhams Lancashire cheese, toffee apple puree and Eccles cakes, also £6.50. The frangipane came surrounded with dots of sweetness and oozed with glorious swabs of flavour and texture. The ice cream set on the chocolate cookie a particular highlight. The cheese supplemented by the apple and cakes of Eccles equally good.

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With decent coffees the whole lot came in at £62.50. A creditable fee for what was six excellent courses. The only slight downside for us was the noise. I think we got used to it after a while. It could be that things would have been a little quieter in the equally smart room away from the view? Still a minor quibble, but Im sure we’ll be giving the families other nearby restaurant ‘Nutters’ a go soon too. If the food is as good as this it should be reet!

The Bird at Birtle
239 Bury And Rochdale Old Rd,
Birtle,
OL10 4BQ
T: 01706 540 500
E: info@thebirdatbirtle.co.uk

Yew Tree Inn – Angelzarke, Chorley

“A drive out, hearty lunch and a pleasant stroll around Angelzarke reservoir. A perfect Sunday afternoon”

Its September, autumn is coming isn’t it? It’s a stunning Sunday afternoon, arguably one of summers finest, The Flame and I head up to The Yew Tree in Angelzarke. A chum has recommended it, he reckons this is classic Cooktwit territory. He’s not wrong. We bag the last spot in the car park and head inside through the happy throngs who are strewn over every table outside on the glorious sun kissed terrace. We have booked and are shown a table inside by the window. Bizarrely its rather cool inside, but we press on, assuming the clouds will come soon and that the outdoor revellers will soon be tripping back in. We assumed wrong.

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We settle to survey the menus. A Sunday one and the standard a la carte. An Angelzarke pale ale by Blackedge Brewery is set beside by one of the attentive, uniformed team. There are several cask ales to chose from but I go local.

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A quick glance round shows that the place has clearly had something of a spruce up. Stone floors and stone walls have all been suitably scrubbed, tables re-stained, re-lacquered, paintwork daubed in F&B’s finest heritage blue. Etched glasswork panels add even more of a contemporary edge. Its very smart. We can see head chef Oli Farrah (a Masterchef finalist) marshalling his kitchen in readiness.

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We select our lunch. We pick starters from the a la carte. The Flame selects the salt baked Lancashire heritage beetroot with homemade curd salad and walnuts (£6.95), I go for the salt and pepper squid with homemade sweet chilli sauce (£7.95). She drooled over the salad, loved it. Great colour and beautifully presented in a huge white bowl. My squid is equally terrific, hot, peppery, perfectly cooked. An extraordinary portion too, the salty bits offset by the acidic asian carrots and chilli jam. Super stuff.

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For mains, The Flame goes for her staple Fish Pie (£12.95). It comes with a soft poached egg, vegetables and lashing of buttery mash. In her words a match for her all time favourite at The Church Green (see review here). High praise indeed.

I plumb for the traditional Sunday roast, topside of Lancashire beef with seasonal veg (£15.95). As with most dishes, it came set in a huge bowl. The beef beautifully pink and lashings of it too. If anything probably too much! Whereas normaly the veg are a bit of a side issue to the main event , here they were worthy of special mention. They were fabulous, loved the way the carrots and courgette where ribboned and beautifully seasoned. The roasties and gravy equally impressive.

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As usual I had dessert, white chocolate and blueberry cheesecake (£5.95). A dream of a dessert. Exceedingly good.

Unusually the Sunday lunch isn’t a set price and ends up setting me back just shy of thirty quid. Even my current Sunday lunch fave The Freemasons at Wiswell (reviewed here) is £25 for three courses, but that’s a minor quibble. The bill came to £60. We then set off for a stroll around the magnificent nearby reservoir. Well, worth doing after the feed you’ll get at The Yew Tree. Give it a go…

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Yew Tree Inn
Dill Hall Brow
Heath Charnock,
Chorley
Lancashire PR6 9HA

T 01257 480344

http://www.yewtreeinnanglezarke.co.uk

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