Tag Archives: trifle

The Viking – West Kirby

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


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.


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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


See also Liberty Tavern, Greens, The Elephant,

The Viking
Black Horse Hill
West Kirby
CH48 6DS

T: 0151 601 1888

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

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


Sticky Walnut – Chester

“It was well above average”

A curious statement you may think. But in the world of Sticky Walnut average is a by word for social media stardom. It harks to a particular twitter feed whereby a disgruntled punter ‘Trip Advisored’ that SW had served up an ‘average’ meal. Gary Usher, head chef and owner vented his angered humour on the poor chump, to the hilarity of his many followers. The rise of Sticky Walnut was assured. Foodies flocked to sample the average offering.


However, as we all know, it’s been more than average. A restaurant cannot function on media savvy tweets alone. It needs to back it up with decent grub. The accolades have poured in. Local interest quickly morphed into National interest culminating in a prestigious ‘AA Restaurant of The Year’ for 2013/14. It’s been on my list ever since.

Last Saturday I managed to bag a six o clock table for The Flame and me. Given the heady, after dark mileage the fabled fifty fifty driving scheme (I drive there, the flame drives back) turned to a one hundred to me. This meant I couldn’t sample some of the craft ales that were offered on arrival. A full cooking, coke had to hold my attention.

We parked on the street. The place is settled on a narrow one way thoroughfare in Hoole. Hoole itself, is a small enclave on the outskirts of Chester. The restaurant is effectively a single shop width on two floors. It has a simple, freshly painted frontage. The glowing indoor lights cast a welcoming glow through the large window onto the cold, sleet laden street. We were glad to get in and set up on our quaint, street level table. We were the first in and spent a few minutes probing the impressive range of cookery books next to our table. I had quite a few of them!

The  welcoming interior
The welcoming interior

I could count maybe twelve staff including the chefs. They were all beavering away. It looked an impressive well oiled machine. As the kitchen was on a lower level than the dining bit, it was a bit strange watching the twitter stars heads popping up above the servery. FOH kept us well informed and we soon ordered from the single sheet menu.

First up, a bit of bread. I say bit of bread. What arrived was half a dozen sections of arguably the best focaccia I’ve ever had. Evocatively soaked in the finest olive oil and crusted with rosemary, thyme and the finest sea salt. I could have simply ate a few courses of this and gone away happy.

The menu, stunning bread and calves brains
The menu, stunning bread and calves brains

Next up the starters. The Flame went for the oven roasted beets with spicy pumpkin seeds, ricotta and sticky walnuts (£6); I went for the port and rosemary risotto with deep fried calves’ brain (£7). Both dishes epitomised the time honoured aim of applying tastes and textures that feature sweet, sour, smooth and crunch. My brains were smooth and rich, but quenched perfectly by a slurry of crimson, acidic, sweet rice. Stunning. The Flame loved the ricotta and the sticky, sweet, crunchy walnuts.

Lamb neck, hake, truffle and parmesan chips
Lamb neck, hake, truffle and parmesan chips

For mains I had the braised lamb neck, treviso, balsamic raisins and onion puree (£18). I don’t think I’ve ever had lamb like this. Simply resting my fork on top brought the soft pink flesh away from its clump. Washed in the jus and purees and mingled with sweet raisins it was exquisite. The Flame had butter soaked hake, kale, fennel with lemon and brown shrimps (£17) accompanied by truffle and parmesan chips (£3). I managed a fork full of the thick, fishy hake. A perfect specimen. The flame loved it. If I was being picky I would have preferred the crispy but soft inside, hot chips to have arrived without the truffle and parmesan. The Flame loved them though, so who am I?

Trifle, beets starter, cheese board
Trifle, beets starter, cheese board

I finished with the rhubarb trifle with sherry cream and almond crumble (£6). It didn’t look too special in fairness but the boozy cream and the sweet rhubarb soon ensured it was amongst the very best I’d had. The Flame had a super cheese board (£7), with homemade bread and chutney, each cheese passionately described by the highly efficient Adam. Two coffees finished and we waltzed off into the cold night.

We were £75 lighter for an hour and a half’s usage of the table. We both concluded it was a super meal and that we would be back. The idea next time would be to arrive by train in the daytime, have a stroll round Chester and make more of a day of it. We could either have lunch or an early tea again. Either way we’ll be able to sample the wine and the beer as well next time.

It definitely wasn’t average. It is much more than that.

Sticky Walnut
11 Charles Street

01244 400400