Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Glynne Arms, Hawarden, Wales

For many, hearing the phrase “The Prince of Wales” will conjure up images of big ears, talking to trees and conspiracy theories involving motorcycle riding hitmen in Parisienne underpasses.

These days, the title is traditionally granted to the first in line to the throne but it has held a long and complex history. The last ‘prince’ to use the title as de facto ruler of an independent Wales was a boyo called Dafydd ap Gruffudd (David, son of Gruffydd). In 1282, Dafydd made the mistake of attacking Hawarden Castle. This riled the Norman king of England, Edward I, whom he had hanged, drawn and quartered.

Some years later (17th century), Cromwell ordered the castle to be slighted. Sir John Glynne subsequently built the ‘New Hawarden Castle’ nearby. Through marriage, the estate passed into the family of PM William E Gladstone. The family still owns the castle; Gladstone’s library; the Hawarden Estate Farm Shop and the Michelin rated Glynne Arms.  

What Michelin say: ‘200 year old coaching inn opposite Hawarden Castle; owned by the descendants of PM William Gladstone. Choose from 'Family Classics', steaks from the estate or more modern dishes with ambitious flavour combinations. Desserts are a highlight.

Although still retaining character, the modern décor is lighter and airier than you’d expect from a 200 year old inn. In places, random arrangements of objects made it feel a little like a still life art class was about to commence. Complementing the design scheme, the menu too presented a considered blend of tradition with contemporary touches.

To start: as opposed to ordering separate starters, my wife and I decided to share three of the ‘Bar Snacks’ and a small portion of mussels.

From the selection on offer, we went with: Farm shop pork pie, pickles / Whitebait, citrus mayonnaise and Farm shop scotch egg, brown sauce. All were done well but I particularly enjoyed the quality pork pie with the splendidly sharp and aromatic pickled vegetables.

The locals, seasonal Menai Strait Mussels with marinere sauce were good. The one disappointment was the “crusty bread” which, although fresh, was not crusty.

My wife’s Pork belly, garlic potato, savoy & scratchings was a lovely dish. The pork and crackling were spot on and the dauphinoise-like potato was delightful – good hit of garlic without being too creamy.

Roasts in pubs can never beat a home cooked jobby but this was pretty good – Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, vegetables & jus. Fab beef, a proper Yorkie, decent roasties and the horseradish was a beaut! Eye-wateringly strong!

I had eyed up the ‘Treacle Tart with gingerbread ice cream’ but sadly they had sold out of this popular dessert. There was another in the oven but rather than wait I sent for the Chocolate stout pudding with single cream (I asked for ice cream too). Deliciously rich and moist, this proved to be a good choice.

My wife’s Honey & lemon pannacotta was a little firm to be called perfection but the flavours were very good.

We will definitely be visiting The Glynne Arms and the estate’s nearby Farm Shop again. It’s less than 1 hour’s drive from the centre of Manchester.

The Glynne Arms are rated at No.44 in the #top50gastropubs 

The Glynne Arms on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Albion Farm Shop & Café, Saddleworth

As I sit to write this blog post, my twitter feed is pinging with messages of congratulations for I just tweeted this: “@HungryHoss: Started my blog 4 years ago today. Have written 484 posts (100+ re Michelin star places) & had 1.3m+ views. Happy Blogday to me!

To celebrate, my wife and I are going for lunch at The Box Tree, Ilkley.

Whilst a Michelin Starred restaurant with a such a rich culinary history may seem an obvious choice for a celebratory meal, choosing a farm shop café in the hills outside Oldham as the subject of my 485th post may appear a little out of place.

Although my main motivation for writing Hungry Hoss was to document and share my thoughts on many enjoyable meals throughout the UK and on my travels, I have always taken satisfaction from being able to ‘use’ my blog to champion quality local independents.

Often, without huge wads of cash for advertising, these places have to rely on word of mouth to build reputations and this can take time. I’m not claiming to be hugely influential but I like to think that my blog can help to accelerate the ‘word of mouth’ process.

Through the lack of a ‘rating/scoring’ system and never making a direct recommendation in what I write, I always insist that I do not write “reviews”. I do not see myself as a restaurant ‘critic’ and have no desire to be one.

Despite being well established and full when I visited (and certainly not in ‘need’ of any exposure I can give them), Albion Farm Shop & Café is one of those places that I feel ‘more people’ should know about. I first came to hear about them on Twitter from their farmer @AlbionFarm_Paul who I started following for his witty banter.

To ‘start’ (it was a ‘main’), I had the Award Winning Black Pudding Stack – here Ramsay’s award winning black pudding and Albion farm award winning back bacon had been stacked with wholegrain mustard potato cakes and crowned with a poached egg. The quality of these ingredients made it a decent dish. However, with an attempt to be “cheffy”, the stack had been placed atop a Jackson Pollock of balsamic glaze and some Raydale red onion marmalade.

Although I wasn’t expecting Michelin starred cuisine and shouldn't really knock one of their most popular and best selling dishes as constructive criticism, I’d suggest ditching the overpowering and passé balsamic glaze and either boost the mustard levels in the potato cakes or change the chutney to an apple slaw with a bit of crunch and acidity from cider vinegar.

For my ‘main’, I chose the Albion Farm Rag Pudding – an Oldham speciality of suet and mince, rag puddings are named after the piece of muslin they were (and still are) wrapped in during cooking. I guess the recipe either predates fancy ceramic pudding basins or was simply used because the area’s poor mill workers couldn’t afford such extravagant pieces of kitchen kit.

Albion’s version was filled with rich braising steak and had a thick, yet light layer of suet. The peas were runnier than most places (not sure if that’s just the way they roll around there) but they tasted good. I liked the chips too although the presentation was ‘a little slap dash’.

Farmer Paul himself tweeted that they looked like they’d been “thrown on the plate” but I’d rather this than being served in a little frying basket or dicked about with and made into a jenga-like stack. Those who have been following @WeWantPlates on twitter can take this as a reminder of why things started arriving in a variety of vessels.

Albion Farm Café may not be the most flawless meal I’ve covered on my blog but the friendly family atmosphere is sure to make me return. So will the adjoining farm shop and butchery – in fact, I fancy going back now for more of their Black Pudding Scotch Eggs from the deli counter.

Albion Farm Shop Café on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Terre à Terre, Brighton

A stones throw from the Brighton seafront, on the edge of the famous Laines, lies Terre à Terre. I loved it.

For a restaurant whose name means ‘down to earth’, the menu descriptions are some of the longest and most bizarre I’ve ever read; the seasoned diner in me wants to bemoan the number of ingredients and flavours in each dish but the fact is, for the most part, they all tasted great together.

One example, for just three finger sized ‘Arepas’, a seemingly schizo farrago of flavours included a sweet chilli sauce (called “chilly chelly jelly”); a kind of guacamole (“avocado coriander chilli garlic hash”); a “fresh and zesty oregano and lime mojo” AND a “cheddar fondue”. If that was not enough flavours, a sprinkling of spice was added and a wedge of lime provided. Crazy on paper but entirely compos mentis on the palate.

Although taking up a single shop frontage, the space goes back a long way. By the time I’d finished my lunch, all three rooms and the garden terrace were full; an obvious testament to the quality of a well-established (opened 1993), independent restaurant located in an area with a lot of competition.

What Michelin say, ‘Relaxed, friendly restaurant decorated in warm burgundy colours. Appealing menu of generous, tasty, original vegetarian dishes which include items from Japan, China and South America. Mini épicerie sells wine, pasta and chutney.

The Olives, stuffed with ricotta and garlic, before being breaded and fried were, to quote Peter Kay, “a taste sensation”. I made these (using the recipe in the Terre à Terre cookbook) once for a dinner party; they were great but fiddly so I never did them again but having tasted the real deal, I’m going to give them another go!

The Kraken Kodachi Churros and Peeking Buns were also excellent. For me the ‘Appetisers and Companion Dishes’ section of the menu was definitely more interesting than the mains. When I return (and I’m keen to go back), I’ll probably skip the main and make myself a ‘Tasting Menu’ of the smaller dishes.

The descriptions below are as they appear on the menu.

Deep Fried Fat Grana Padano Green Olives – stuffed with ricotta, garlic, chives and lemon zest.

Kraken Kodachi Churros – hot savoury churros sticks made with black and white sesame seeds, wakame and shishimi togarashi spice and spinach rolled in salty nori kombu and black sesame flakes served with miso mirin mayonnaise.

Arepas – deep fried sweetcorn chermoula chips served with chilli chelly jelly, avocado coriander chilli garlic hash and a fresh and zesty oregano and lime mojo and cheddar fondue.

Peeking Buns – steamed rice buns stuffed with Szechuan marinated halloumi with kimchi Chinese cabbage, lapsang souchong pickled watermelon & cucumber, a miso chilli sauce and spring onion garnish.

Fancy Nancy – coco cardamom fried spiced rice with spring onion and yuzu palm beanshoots swerved with a salad of lychee, coriander, mint and pickled lotus root and a pinda peanut laksa, finished with yuzu crème fraiche, Pendang pickled chilli sambal with a chilli flash fried egg, peanut cumin and onion seed crumble and tapioca sea salad cracker.

Hot Roast Hispi Cabbage with kimchi puree, fresh mint, coriander and plump blackberries.

GoldDish Bowl – apple and bancha bubble brew sorbet with meringue brûlée on ginger nut sweet pastry disc with Thai crecy tentacles above yuzu curd, Chantenay cream and Thai basil sours.

Terre à Terre on Urbanspoon

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