Friday 1 August 2014

Sticky Walnut – more than just ‘shin & chips’?

Here are some pics of yesterday’s meal at Sticky Walnut. I’m not going to write too much because Chef / Proprietor (& social media manager @StickyWalnut) Gary Usher can get a little coy about the brilliance of his little Hoole based bistro.

After I dished out some deserved praise on Twitter, Gary was appreciative but mindful of building up people’s expectations, saying that he doesn’t want anyone “travelling over here expecting more than shin and chips.”

To me, that’s like the Chinese tourist board stating, “We don’t anyone coming over here saying… It is just a long wall!

To kick things off, I had some bread. Just some bread… you know, the stuff people often refer to as ‘raw toast’. In this instance it was Rosemary & thyme focaccia – lightly toasted with a drizzle of olive oil. So what if it is made fresh in house every day? This is no biggie. It’s just bread; nothing to see here, move on…

Crispy lamb’s tongue, chickpea, goats curd and green charmoula – The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin made the ‘400 mile round trip’ and loved this dish; she wrote a much more eloquent and accurate description of it than I ever could… but remember, don’t expect too much just because the likes of Marina and me happen to like it.

Hake ceviche, pickled courgette, lime, chilli and samphire – essentially, a bit of raw fish cured in citrus juices. They haven’t even cooked it! Losers! And who pickles a courgette? Samphire… that salty, woody stuff that grows in marshes and by the sewer outlets at the seaside?

Bollocks… I can’t keep up all this playing it down. The next dish, like the last few, was the type of thing that can bring a grown man to tears - Rolled and stuffed pork belly with lentil vinaigrette.

Despite being a fan, I’ve not had pork belly for a while because it is all too often overused by lazy chefs looking to save a few pennies with a ‘cheaper cut’ – when not cooked well, the fat can be slug like with dry and shrivelled meat, giving the overall experience of chewing on a section of sole from a Dunlop Green Flash.

No so at Sticky… Sticky’s pork belly is sexy, sexy stuff. The lentil vinaigrette gave the fat a big, wet and welcome acidic kiss. Fat which, cupped by the crispiest of cracklings, melted in the mouth… pure porcine please. Add to this mix a side of some of the best chips you may ever eat (Hand cut truffle and parmesan chips)…. but remember, don’t expect too much!

I’ve just realised that if I continue to be honest and big the place up, I may be contributing to making it harder for myself to get a table in the future. So on that basis, the Apricot and almond tart, vanilla ice cream (made by 'New Chef Will') was shocking. You’re much better off going to a place that buys their desserts in.

One more thing: the front of house team are fabulous! 

Go to Sticky… but do not expect anything more than ‘shin and chips’.

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