Nigel Haworth has turned the kitchen reins over, but can the new team keep up the old standards?
Howarth turned Northcote Manor into a restaurant with rooms. Well over thirty-five very long years ago.
In those days Gordo lived in Alderley Edge, when footballers couldn’t afford to buy property there.
The reputation of Nigel’s cooking and Craig’s front of house hospitality had reached Cheshire pretty quickly and Gordo can remember leading the first expedition to Langho one Saturday night, which turned the party into loyal fans.
The boys subsequently won a Michelin star and became a member of the Relais & Chateaux hotel group; another trusted brand for the best of the best, as well as receiving four remarkable red rosettes from the AA Guide.
…like one of those chocolate balls filled with liquid caramel, but with less risk of diabetes
It’s fair to say that this is starting to sound like an advertorial, so let’s see if we can disabuse you from that notion pretty quickly.
Nigel has turned the kitchen over to Lisa Goodwin-Allen, who has worked with the boys for a number of years and is a good cook. Gordo has come to see just how good she is.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and Chef Allen’s bar snacks were dismal. Hummus with wild garlic, and crispy wontons (well, sort of) were poor.
The wontons were fine, but the emerald green hummus was screaming garlic and could only be described as pond-ish. It wasn’t particularly Lancashire, either.
Gordo was in the bar to get a sharpener and study the menus. Bit old school this, but it’s been several decades since the fat one and the rest of the very busy restaurant had actually been to school.
The menu is fixed at £85, or you can choose from a limited number of a la carte dishes. The website talks about a £35 menu as well, which looks outstanding value. Gordo went for the fixed.
The dining room, with Gordo in it, was (apologies to Somerset Maugham) a sunny place for shady people.
It’s comfortable, if a little over-designed and very cream, boasting white tablecloths and best bone china plates.
Staff are at their best once away from the scripts. I heard “this is your blah blah…” too many times, echoing as if you are dining in a lush valley. Get over that irritant and the service is superb, attentive, Lancashire and warm.
Two amuse arrive, described as ‘finger food’ which, roughly translated, means ‘don’t use knives and forks with this course, you muppet’.
These were good, in particular, the pig’s brawn ball; lovely and crisp, with a gooey deep meaty centre – like one of those chocolate balls filled with liquid caramel, but with less risk of diabetes. The potted shrimp had superb textures but no stand out depth of flavour.
Wye Valley chargrilled asparagus with sheep’s curd and sorrel was technically perfect.
Gordo doesn’t like grilled asparagus; if it had been poached it would have been more to his taste (he’s not going to score this as it would be unfair simply because Fatty doesn’t like something. Rare that, to be fair.)
“Would you like a description today?” asks the server. Yes please.
The course she was talking about was the sticky new season lamb breast, a scaled down brick with thyme and sweet onion. We have got into third gear here. It’s a take on pork belly, long slow cooking, crisp on top, beautifully glazed with the sweet onion purée playing a blinder as an accompaniment.
“Would you like a description today?” asks the server of the next table.