[Styal, Cheshire] Clink

Clink is a training restaurant and, as such, it’d be unfair to make comparisons with commercial restaurants. That said, if I did make comparisons it wouldn’t be at all unfavourable. There’s a lovely room. There’s friendly, smiling staff who give every impression that they know what the hospitality industry is all about. There’s a very competitively priced menu – Clink, of course, isn’t a profit making operation so can slice pounds off the menu price of dishes. And there’s a kitchen that can cook - easily as well as some local places – I have in mind a couple of favourites – Rose Garden and No. 4, both in Didsbury.

One of us started with a tomato tart – good crisp pastry, tasty filling, with a little leaf salad. A drizzle of kale pesto dressed the leaves and there was a sprinkling of blue cheese which, even so, left the tart slightly underseasoned. Grilled mackerel, served warm, was a good light starter. Pickled shallot rings and rocket perked it up considerably while the micro-leaves did absolutely nothing except make it look a bit prettier.

Roast chicken breast was perfectly cooked. It came with a rosti potato cake and charred leeks, which gave a bit of a savoury kick. There’s a strip of crisp bacon as well. A well conceived and well executed plate of food, all brought together with a rich, dark, sauce. The other main course featured a carb as its centrepiece – in this case a roasted slice of red pepper polenta. Underseasoning was a slight issue here as well. Grilled radicchio, red pepper puree and green beans all made their successful contribution. Like most foams, the soy one showed culinary technique but added little to the taste.

As often the case at this level of cooking, desserts weren’t really worth the calories. A pavlova was made with an overly thick meringue, topped with cream and insufficient raspberries to offset the cloying sweetness. There’s dabs of berry sauce round the plate. Grilled peaches, served cold, were fine accompanied by a raspberry macaron and sorbet – even better if they’d been served hot or warm.

So, yes, there are quibbles. But these are the sort of personal taste quibbles that you can have anywhere. It was a perfectly fine lunch and one where you have to hope the trainees have every success when they rejoin the community.