Cheshire Life Luncheon - Belle Epoque 40th birthday, Knutsford
PUBLISHED: 00:19 01 July 2013 | UPDATED: 21:40 21 October 2015
Belle Epoque, one of the region's most famous restaurants, celebrated its 40th birthday in style. Celebrities, Cheshire Life staff and guests were among the diners
WORDS BY RAY KING - PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
He’s on his way, he’s at the wicket, he bowls...and you may never have known what happened next.
For Test Match Special legend Henry Blofeld – ‘Blowers’ to millions of cricket fans around the world -confessed that had the Cheshire Life luncheon celebrating the 40th birthday of Knutsford’s Belle Époque clashed with his commentating duties at England’s Old Trafford Test against New Zealand, his unmistakeable tones would have been missing from the radio airwaves.
‘I would have rung the BBC to tell them I couldn’t do it,’ he said.
Blowers revealed to fellow guests at the lunch in the historic hotel restaurant’s first floor Garden Room that he’s been a fan of the Belle Époque since 1973 and a regular visitor when cricket has brought him to the north. ‘The character of the whole place is just so wonderful,’ he added. Having tweeted about his visit beforehand, he read a response from Christine Hamilton, wife of former Tatton MP Neil, congratulating the Belle Époque – one of their favourite haunts too – on its remarkable anniversary.
Guests gathered in Richard Harding Watt’s landmark 1907 Art Nouveau building’s Bar Bijoux for welcoming flutes of Champagne Perrier-Jouet accompanied by the smooth jazzy vibes of saxophonist Rosemary Quaye. Among them were Waking the Dead, Royle Family and Coronation Street actress Sue Johnson and former singer and radio presenter Susie Mathis, who for years spearheaded Kirsty’s Francis House appeal and is just returned to Cheshire from London.
Magnificently laid tables with stunning floral centrepieces in the Garden Room were named to reflect the Belle Époque’s celebrity following down the decades – Jeremy Irons, the Beckhams, Bon Jovi, George Melly and George Best, all of who would have relished head chef Gareth Chappell’s superb luncheon menu.
We began with a fabulous collation of velvet smooth chicken liver parfait with a crisp crouton topped with prune chutney and partnered by a ramekin of absolutely awesome foie gras crème brulée and a glass of sweet muscat. The flavour of the silky, savoury crème brulée was acclaimed around the room as sublime and the combination of foie gras, the parfait and the prunes provided a classic taste of Gascon gastronomy at its best.
The main course featured a fish that sadly, we allow the Spanish to take too much of for themselves – moist, creamy, delicately flavoured hake. It’s skin pan fried to perfect crispness, the fish was partnered by a sauce of puréed sweetcorn, spring vegetables and an artistically-arranged salad of asparagus and edible flowers. There was a choice of accompanying wines, both of them ideal matches: the palest, most delicate pink Chateau du Galoupet Rosé from Provence and a classy white Burgundy from renowned négociant Louis Latour.
Dessert, Classic French Chocolate Truffle Cake, was another showstopper. Topped with a gossamer layer of edible gold, the smooth, rich chocolate was studded with sweet stem ginger and served with a lovely, light mint anglaise, most decidedly the product of a kitchen brigade at the top of their game. Lastly, before the declaration, came a cheese petit four with which was served “Blowers’ Rhone”, a big hitting red offering bags of warm berry fruit and hints of spice.
Forty years on and run by the second generation, the Belle Époque has many glory years to look back on, but is also looking forward – having acquired, earlier this year, the 17th Century pub next door and opened the Rose ‘n’ Crown Chophouse with 16 guest bedrooms.
Ooh la La Belle Époque! Bon anniversaire!
Cheshire Life Luncheon Menu
Foie Gras Crème Brulée, Chicken Liver Parfait & Pruneaux
Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, Les Vignerons de Septimanie, France
Pan Fried Hake, Spring Vegetables, Asparagus Salad & Edible Flowers
Chateau du Galoupet cru classé Rosé 2012, Cotes de Provence, France
Macon-Lugny “Les Genièvres” 2010, Louis Latour, France
Classic French Chocolate Truffle Cake, Edible Gold, Ginger & Mint Anglaise
Cheese Petit Four & “Blowers’ Rhone”
Blowers Rhone 2010, Laudun, France
Coffee & Petit Fours
Belle Époque Brasserie, 60 King Street, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 6DT. Tel 01565 633060. www.thebelleepoque.com
Open: Breakfast Tue-Fri 7.15am-10am; Lunch Tue-Sat noon-2.30pm, Sun noon-3pm; Dinner Mon-Sat from 5pm.
A la carte starters £6.95; mains £13.95/£9.95 (v); desserts £6.95. Artisan set menu Tue-Fri noon-2.30pm and Mon-Fri 5pm-7.30pm £14.95 for two courses, £19.95 for three. Grill selection, Maison dishes and A la carte Specials also available. Sunday lunch £12.95 for one course, £18.95 for two and £21.95 for three.