Every year folk moan that, “Christmas starts too early!” – I’m not one of those people; in my household the tree goes up in November (it has been as early as October half term) and many mince pies are eaten long before Bublé is removed from his Han Solo style summer long storage in a carbonite encasement.
When starting early like I do, the “Christmassy feeling” comes in fits and starts… a recent wave of “Christmassines” making my tinsel tingle came when eating the Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce at The Fat Loaf in Sale.
For those that don’t know, The Fat Loaf is a ‘warm and welcoming’ ‘local gem’ of a restaurant, located in Sale’s Ashton-on-Mersey. On the Friday evening of my visit, the place was full with regulars who the front of house greeted by name. Just what you’d want from a community restaurant that has, over the last few years, quietly built up a solid reputation for "good food at a good price".
The dedication to ‘localishness’ comes through with their choice of suppliers – meat from Frosts of Chorlton; Organic veg from the Manchester Veg People; salads from Glebelands City Growers and Ice Cream from Dunham Massey Farm. They support local charities too – not least, regularly feeding the city’s homeless as one of the supporting restaurants of @NotJustSoupMCR.
To start, from the “Small Plates” I chose:
Devils on Horseback with mustard mayo – the bacon (horseback) and prunes (devils) were great but I’d have appreciated a more devilish smack of mustard in the mayo.
Vietnamese Style Salad of Chinese leaf, coriander, mint and roasted almonds in a fish sauce and chilli dressing – it’s easy to overdo the fish sauce but I find this well balanced and full of great textures.
Braised Beef Cheeks with chilli, ginger, mandarins, shallots & crispy cabbage – it may not be much of a looker but for me, this was the star dish; the chilli carried a real kick! It reminded me of some of the excellent pintxos plates I enjoyed recently in San Sebastián – the greatest compliment I can give is to say it would not be out of place on the menus of Borda Berri or La Cuchara de San Telmo.
For my main, I was lured by the Great British Grill – the day’s offering being a 12oz T-Bone from Frosts, served with Beef Dripping Chips and a sweetly acidic “Fat Loaf Steak Sauce”. The accompanying salad came beautifully dressed and the steak cooked and seasoned as desired.
Fat Loaf Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce and farmhouse ice cream – Granted, there were better sounding desserts on the menu but I can go back and have them anytime. It’d be rude not to have the Christmas Pudding at this time of year and I need to do everything I can to get myself off the naughty list!
With the doors on your advent calendar rapidly running out, if you want to taste that Christmas Pud, you know what to do…