We used to enjoy going to Mary-Ellen McTague’s old restaurant in Prestwich, although it always divided us a bit and it’s fair to say that I was keener on it than my partner. It’s also fair to say that the Creameries divided us, but the positions are reversed with my partner being the keener of the two on our evening. We did agree on the positives and negatives, although we gave different emphasis to them.
As for the positives, service was engaging and friendly. And the food was generally good. And they’re only charging £35 for their set dinner, or supper as they call it (no, it’s not a Rich Tea biscuit and a glass of milk before going to bed).
But there are negatives. They’ve done their best to make the room as attractive as possible but, to me, it still looked like it was an old storeroom, given a coat of emulsion and decorated with a few plants and photos. And, let’s be frank here, bench seats are never going to be comfortable. They’ll be OK if you’re having a quick lunch in a noodle bar but if you have to sit on them for getting on for 3 hours to have dinner (sorry, supper), it is damned uncomfortable. And you’re sitting there for getting on for 3 hours because there are big waits between each plate of food being brought.
It’s set menu with alternatives only at starter and main course, where there is a vegetarian dish or an omnivore one. There’s some snacks to start. A cheese gougere was really tasty, using Old Winchester – I’ve had it elsewhere and recall it being like a mature Gouda. Then there’s a single bite of nicely seasoned potted rabbit on bread and, for my partner who isn’t keen on game, their “chips” made from split peas crispy fried, with mushroom ketchup. A sharing plate of lightly pickled vegetables is next – beetroot, kohl rabi and something now forgotten. At this point they bring bread, two slices each of a good sourdough. The bread is very welcome. You’ve been sat there for the best part of an hour and really only had two mouthfuls of snack to eat. You’re hungry! This fills you up a fair bit. Which is a good thing as the “proper” courses” are, disappointingly, of general tasting menu size and, without that carb, you’re going to go away wanting a bag of chips on the way home. In fact, you may want chips afterwards in any event.
There’s then a small fillet of smoked mackerel, perfectly cooked. It comes with a very poky mustard cream, pickled beetroot and the crunch from a couple of rye bread croutons. A successful take on North European flavours. Beetroot makes another appearance as the star of the show in a soup, enhanced with smoked apple and a swirl of sour cream. More successful North European food.
A main course plate of roast pheasant was, frankly, miserly even if this had been an actual tasting menu. Maybe four wafer thin slices. Cavolo nero works well here. A liver parfait perked up the flavours here but it didn’t have the absolute smoothness of texture that you might expect. For the non-game loving partner, there was a potato and shitake butter pie – a Chorlton take on the traditional Lancashire pie which usually just has potato and onion in it. And it’s absolutely delicious. Cavolo nero also works well.
For dessert, there was the intriguingly named “Quire of Paper. It’s not a stack of 24 leaves but two small, crisp pancakes, which top a quince custard – lightly fruity and not overly sweet. There’s a roasted damson and a sprinkling of almond brittle. It’s the sort of dessert which made you wish The Creameries charged a bit more and gave you decent portions.
Mrs H said she’d be happy to go back. I’ve told her she’ll need a different dining companion.