We’d originally booked to come in the summer but had to cancel due to us both having Covid. Payment is required, in full (except drinks and service charge), at the time of booking and is non-refundable. You can pass on your reservation to someone else or, as we did, roll it forward to another date. That meant , in place of a lovely summer’s evening, we visited when it was dark and throwing it down with rain which meant taking extra care navigating the very uneven alley that leads to the restaurant’s steep steps, up to the first floor of an old warehouse. This was our fifth visit, although we’ve not been for a couple of years. It is pretty much unchanged. It remains an interesting space – open to the rafters and with most chairs facing the very open kitchen. You are an audience watching theatre as much as diners. It’s an experience almost as much as it is dinner. There remains a commitment to “local and seasonal” food as well as Nordic influenced low waste and food preservation techniques. It can, at times, feel a bit “worthy” but it is always a thoroughly fun evening.
You’re reminded of the low waste commitment with the first thing you eat. They take outer leaves of a Savoy cabbage – the leaves you’d throw away – crisp them up for you to use for dipping in a miso based sauce. You’re reminded of the commitment to “local” in the next dish. Cherry tomatoes come from their own “allotment” created on the top deck of the Merseyway Centre car park, 5 minutes away. They serve them, some semi-dried, in a tomato water.
Next, a single oyster is served on the half shell, topped with apple and Thai basil (from the allotment) which gives it a hefty aniseed flavour. Then, summer squash had been marinated, barbecued and presented with a few leaves from the allotment. There’s also a scattering of their own ricotta. The latter is something of a thing for them. They buy milk from a farm in North Wales and do “stuff” with it. In the past, we’ve had house made yoghurt and halloumi.
Bread is served next, as a course in its own right. It’s their own sourdough, from down the road at their bakery, Yellowhammer on Lower Hillgate. It’s good bread and comes with homemade butter and a mushroom parfait. The parfait may have been the tastiest thing I ate all evening.
Now, to be honest, I can happily take or leave kohlrabi. They mince it, topped it with a thin slice of the veg, like a sheet of lasagne, and prepare a fairly sour buttermilk dressing. More an “interesting dish”, than a “love it dish”. That was followed by a “love it” fish dish. Pollock is a delicious sustainable alternative to cod. It’s roasted, served with crispy skin, with a sweetcorn and tomatillo sauce giving a slight Mexican slant to the dish.
I mentioned the outer cabbage leaves earlier and the next dish features the inner leaves. They were shredded, lightly smoked and then reformed into a compressed ring. There’s a little savoury sauce (soy) and a sprinkle of mashua leaves – peppery like a nasturtium. And, for the final savoury course, there’s local Cheshire mutton. It’s a very small, thin slice making it more a garnish, than a feature, to the carrot puree and barbecued heritage carrot also on the plate. Sauce, or should that be gravy, was lovely.
A palate cleanser was now served and it was fab. A crab apple granita, enhanced with the aniseed flavour of Korean mint. And, finally, the best dish of the evening – a plum tart. Thin crisp pastry, with the clean flavour of very seasonal plums and housemade (?) umboshi – a Japanese fermentation of salted plums.
It really had been a nice evening and, definitely, a place we want to keep coming back to.