[Prestwich, Greater Manchester] The Pearl

The Pearl has been on our “to try” list for so long I can’t remember where we first heard about it. It’s a bit of a schlep for us from the other side of the metro area – we haven’t been to Prestwich since the late, lamented Aumbry closed back in 2015. Located in a converted computer repair shop on Prestwich’s main drag, the Pearl describes itself as a “British Dining Room”. But, as you walk in, you might think you’ve been transported to one of those small back-street bistros you find in a small French town, where you surprise yourself just how good the food is.

The bar dominates but there’s still room to seat around 20 customers, albeit mainly at quite small tables. You might expect René , from ‘Allo, ‘Allo”, to be behind the bar but, instead, there’s a warm welcome from owner, Sam Taylor. What particularly appealed and made the trip round the M60 worthwhile was the menu. In a world where, seemingly, every new restaurant opening serves “small plates” that are served in no particular order, the Pearl sticks to the traditional format of snacks, starters, mains and desserts. A nice tight menu, crafted by chef Iain Thomas, with four choices at each, just as you might find in the great little place you come across in France. And it changes every few weeks. Yes, I know I keep mentioning France but it’s only to praise the ambiance. The food is very much British and there’s great play on its provenance (or terroir as Rene might have said). So, for instance, there’s salad ingredients from near Warrington, artichokes grown in the SK14 postcode, the lovely chutney that comes with a cheese course is made in Hattersley.

The provenance thing continued into one of the snacks. Curing Rebels are a small company in Brighton. They take free range pork, raised on the South Downs, and do lovely things with it. In this case, turn it into delicious air-dried ham with a thick rim of fat – as good as that you can get from Spain and Italy. Pearl serves the slices with a dollop of apple puree, which cuts the fat nicely. Now, if that was just putting stuff on a plate, then the other snack took some real skill and effort. The menu just calls it the “Pearl chips” but these are no ordinary chips. There’s maybe a dozen really thin slices of potato, compressed together, then a layer of long cooked ox cheek, then another layer of compressed potato slices. It’s then deep fried to perfect crispness and served with dill pickle and dots of French’s mustard. Each “chip” is a two bite affair.

For starters, there was a beetroot salad (something else from SK14). Different coloured beets, a beetroot puree and a beetroot sauce. Yes, it’s very beetrooty and lightened by some shavings of fennel. The other dish was an Omelette Arnold Bennett. Now I know that to be a classic dish but I’ve never eaten it before, so I’ve no idea how close the Pearl sticks to the Savoy Hotel original. But I do know it was delish. Each mouthful seemed to bring another of the main ingredients to the fore – egg, smoked haddock , Yorkshire pecorino cheese.

Then there was a main course of line caught (and northwest landed) bass. Perfectly cooked – the flesh flaking , the skin crisp. There’s more of the thinly sliced fennel and a few seafood ravioli. A langoustine sauce brings it all together. The other plate had a menu description of “haggis, neeps and tatties” but, again, this was no ordinary haggis dish. And, in fact, the haggis wasn’t the main element on the plate. And, in fact, it was the element which let things down a tad. I like haggis – it needs to be peppery and have a good flavour of offal. This was neither but there was a pleasant enough golfball sized helping , wrapped in cabbage. But also on the plate, some delicious long braised shoulder and a hogget chop. Now, hogget isn’t something you see that often but it’s always tasty. So, a take on the modern classic of “lamb three ways” – this really works. And yes, there’s neeps and tatties. A couple of blobs of swede puree and more of the fancy “chips”, although the thinly sliced compressed potato had been cooked but not fried.

At that point, we shared a cheese course., the selection coming from Preston’s “Crafty Cheeseman” who supplies a number of northwest restaurants. There was a Coolea – Irish but like a Dutch cheese, a young Stilton and a goat (name forgotten). There’s biscuits and a green tomato chutney made by Hattersley Projects ( a small community garden run by volunteers, in that part of Tameside).

We often pass on desserts, finding them not as good as the savoury courses but thought they would be worth a punt here. Good call. There was a deconstructed cheesecake – hobnob crumbs scatted over the plate, goats cheese mousse, poached figs and fig leaves from the chef’s own allotment. And Nanna Betty’s rhubarb and custard – a set custard, rhubarb compote and an iced rhubarb parfait. And for decoration, meringues shaped into long thin rolls – like folk of my age used to buy from the sweetshop as kids and pretend we were smoking cigarettes. We finished with good coffee.

We’re always excited to try a new restaurant. Not all are winners. But the Pearl deffo goes on our list of places to come back to.


Sounds wonderful!

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