Cheshire Life Luncheon - Belle Epoque 39th birthday , Knutsford
PUBLISHED: 20:21 03 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:42 21 October 2015
Belle Epoque has been a desination restaurant in Knutsford for nearly four decades. Cheshire Life guests were delighted to share in a celebration luncheon Words Ray King Photos John Cocks
That was the year, that was. In 1973 the coal miners were on strike, the World Trade Centre became the tallest building on the planet, Abba topped the charts and The Exorcist was scaring us to death at the cinema.
The coming of the first McDonalds to the UK was still a year away... but in Cheshire, La Belle Époque opened in Knutsford. Weren’t we the lucky ones?
A rather less beautiful era later, one of the county’s most iconic and acclaimed restaurants celebrated its forthcoming 39th birthday and guests of Cheshire Life’s September luncheon were only too delighted to help them do it.
At a time when most people’s concept of dining out amounted to prawn cocktail, rump steak with the ‘trimmings’ and Black Forest gateau, washed down by either liebfraumilch or Hirondelle (of which, it was said, there was never a duff bottle) Nerys Mooney and her husband Keith unveiled ‘a little bit of Paris in Knutsford’.
Though at the time neither had much experience as restaurateurs, they were blessed in that the former King’s Coffee House and Gaskell Memorial Tower, built in 1907 by the part-genius, part-bonkers architect Richard Harding Watt, provided an absolutely stunning home for their daring venture. The opulence of the Belle Époque Brasserie’s Art Nouveau dining room with its Venetian glass mosaic floors, period antiques and objets d’arts, beautiful alcoves and inglenook, is renowned nationwide.
For the restaurant’s 39th birthday, however, guests were led upstairs to the roof garden to be greeted by proprietor Matthew Mooney, his mother Nerys, now ‘retired’, flutes of elegant Perrier-Jouet Champagne, glorious sunshine and the jazzy sax and keyboard notes of the Fonix Duo. The garden is a delightful ‘secret’ oasis, lovingly tended by Matthew’s wife, Julie, and featured in many a discerning bride and groom’s wedding album.
The Garden Room, venue for luncheon, and the adjoining Palliards Room, named after the famous Parisian restaurant featured in the original production of ‘Brideshead Revisited’, filmed at the Belle Époque are delightful function rooms.
Belle Époque’s menu, evolved over almost four decades, has always been at the forefront of the best in contemporary cuisine, combining modern French style with superb ingredients, sourced locally wherever possible.
With the kitchen under the stewardship of head chef Gareth Chappell, whose passion for classical French cooking was honed in Michelin-starred restaurants in Belgium and Holland, luncheon proved a memorable treat.
We began with a light and summery Ceviche of Mackerel with pan-fried sea bass served with a delicate Lobster and Scallop Mousseline and artistically decorated with a micro garden salad of broad beans, petit pois and baby carrots. Ceviche demands the very freshest of fish and the mackerel was just so; the flavours combining wonderfully in partnership with the accompanying wine, a creamy white burgundy from Louis Latour.
The main course was Olympian, featuring 28-day aged fillet of beef from the lush pastures of the Conwy valley served in three favourite ways.
Classic Tournedos Rossini comprised superb fillet steak pan-fried in butter served en croute with foie gras and Madeira Jus; Filet au Poivre was, again, a meltingly tender steak, with green, pink and black peppercorn sauce and pont neuf potato and Steak Tartar, marinated and finely chopped and laced with capers,
Cheshire Life luncheon menu
Ceviche of mackerel and pan-fried sea bass
Louis Latour AC Macon-Lugny ‘Les Genièvres’ 2010, France
Assiette filet de boeuf
Chateau Sainte Eulalie “Plaisir d’Eulalie” AC Minervois 2010, France
French white peaches and British raspberries
Coffee and petit fours
Belle Époque Brasserie, 60 King Street, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 6DT. Tel: 01565 633060.
Open: Breakfast – Tue-Fri 7.15am-10am; Lunch Tue-Fri & Sun noon-2pm; Dinner Mon-Sat from 5pm.
A la carte starters £6.95- £12.95; Mains £13.95 (Vegetarian £9.95) - £25.95. Sunday Lunch £12.95 - £21.95. Garden Menu (Tue-Fri noon-2pm and Mon-Fri 5pm-7.30pm) £9.95 for one course; £14.95 for two; £19.95 for three