Restaurant review - The Wheatsheaf, Sandbach
16:08 18 February 2017
One of Cheshire’s best fine dining restaurants, Pecks, has branched out into gastropub territory with the transformed Wheatsheaf in Sandbach, writes Louise Allen-Taylor
My, that’s not a pie...it’s a challenge. I have ordered the beef and mushroom pie (£16) and what arrives is an epic winter warmer: a Frisbee-sized shortcrust top beneath which nestles very generous chunks of succulent Cheshire Wagyu cross beef. With fat chips on the side and a little bowl of sweet pickled veg, this is a dinner equal to a Desperate Dan appetite, which, fortunately, I have brought with me.
There’s a good range of such hearty fare on the menu of the Wheatsheaf in Sandbach (it’s the fish pie on my next visit, I reckon). Just a few weeks after re-opening after a £500,000 refurbishment, the rush of bookings suggests that this is just what the locals want.
The big old Victorian coaching inn is the new venture of the Pear family of Pecks of Congleton fame. Andy Pear has put his son Jake in charge of operations at the Wheatsheaf. Les Wassall, head chef of Pecks, is also executive head chef of the Wheatsheaf and the newly-appointed head chef at the Wheatsheaf is Chris Morgan.
If Pecks boasts the ‘Theatre of Food’, the Wheatsheaf is, quite rightly, a more informal affair. And yet there is still something rather opulent about the way this old pub has been decked out: grey velvety high-backed bench seating, a colour scheme of greys and off-whites which is very much the vogue in urbane modern eateries, and some quirky animal-related bric-à-brac (I particularly like the rhinoceros head beside the bar).
I start with Morecambe Bay potted shrimps (£7), and the Wheatsheaf delivers a decent version of an old favourite - a buttery puck of the tiniest pink shrimps, with two quarters of soft-boiled egg and a salad of rocket with cherry tomatoes and capers. Another starter of haddock rarebit (£6) has hunks of flaky fish on a potato hash with a cheesy crust, and very nice too.
Aside from that whopping beef and mushroom pie, our other main is Cholmondeley roast rack of lamb (£22) another meat feast with a herb and hazelnut stuffing which gives the dish a rather Christmassy feel.
A blackberry and apple pie (£6) is moist, densely fruity and further improved by a blob of proper Cornish clotted cream. The ‘Old English’ trifle (£6) is ‘old’ only in the sense that it seems like something we may have enjoyed in the 1970s. No bad thing.
There are sandwiches and lighter dishes besides the weightier gastropub fare, and some nibbles such as sausage rolls with mustard mayonnaise. The mission statement was to create a ‘quintessentially British gastropub’, and the Wheatsheaf comfortably achieves that, resisting the temptation to zap up the menu with anything flagrantly un-British.
Andy Pear reckons the Wheatsheaf is part of a new wave of foodie activity in the town, quoting the buzz that ‘Sandbach is the new Knutsford’. As and when the real sybarites arrive at the Wheatsheaf, I notice there’s a £175 bottle of Dom Perignon on the wine list. Imagine using that to wash down a big beefy pie!
The Wheatsheaf, 1 Hightown, Sandbach CW11 1AG, 01270 762013, www.wheatsheafsandbach.co.uk