Ranulph Restaurant at the Crewe Hotel, restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 17:06 20 December 2010 | UPDATED: 17:43 20 February 2013
The former home of the man who gave his name to Crewe is now an award-winning hotel
When Sir Ranulph Crewe built his magnificent house between 1615 and 1636 he was said to have brought London to Cheshire. These days thats primarily the job of Virgin Pendolinos, some of which stop at Crewe Station a mile or so down the road; a marginally less expensive process given that the bill for restoring Crewe Hall after the disastrous fire of 1866 cost a cool 10.6 million at todays prices.
The work was carried out by Edward Middleton Barry, son of Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Palace of Westminster, who did such a good job that Nikolaus Pevsner described Crewe Hall as one of the two finest Jacobean Houses in Cheshire. While Old Sir Ranulph gave his surname to Crewe Station, and thereafter the booming town named after it, his first name is remembered in the Ranulph Restaurant, Crewe Hall Hotels flagship two-AA Rosette dining room.
While many of the hotels public rooms are heavy with dramatic oak carvings, the Ranulph strikes a much softer tone with its (relatively) low ceiling and cream wallpaper, albeit hand-monogrammed with the Crewe family crest. An impressive stone fireplace and portraits of stern-looking 17th century characters are a reminder of just where we are, but the red upholstered chairs and heavily naped well-spaced tables with tall candlesticks exude a welcoming ambience.
By contrast wed perused the menu in the hotels grandiose Sheridan Lounge, Lord Crewes one-time dining room, almost expecting Vincent Price or Sir Edmund Blackadder to emerge at any minute from some secret passage behind the carved oak. The style here is to offer a fixed-price a la carte - 42 for three courses - that on the face of it seems expensive, particularly if, like me, one tends to share your partners pudding. Add one of the least expensive bottles of wine (they dont appear to do glasses) and the bill soon runs into three figures.
The Ranulph makes up for this by adding unbilled bits and bobs so that when the canaps, ameuses bouches and pre-dessert dessert are taken into account, we were presented with six-courses, not three. Its a formula that wont please everyone.
Our wine, Casa de Piedra 2008, a pleasingly fruit-driven Chilean Chardonnay (18.50), which was ordered to accompany the canaps, cherry tomatoes filled with delicious truffled cream, delicate salmon mousse and quail eggs stuffed with pea pure, was then carried though the Ranulph for the rest of dinner.
The ordered courses were preceded by goats cheese panacotta with a sliver of marinated pear and pickled walnut which really did amuse the bouche and went down well with excellent fresh-baked walnut bread. My starter proper, Asparagus comprised more than the one-word description, with the seasonal delicacy starring alongside a perfectly poached duck egg, crisp ham, a tangle of pea shoots and aerated hollandaise; a well-balanced summer classic. Mrs K chose Rabbit - a deftly-fashioned ballotine served with apricot jelly, balls of Iranian cous cous and, to liven the flavours with a Moroccan twist, a smear of good and spicy, garlicky chermoula paste.
She continued with Cod as a main course - a moist, flaky (in the nicest possible way) fillet with a crusted pan-fried skin. The broad beans, tomato, lemon and parsley accompaniments were all fine, but the samphire on which the fish rested appeared to be pickled and imparted a jarring, vinegary note. I had Lamb, tender and flavourful loin served medium rare, which came with pea pure and shoots and eucalyptus. The advertised Jersey Royal went unnoticed, at least in any recognisable form, unless it was a constituent of the light foamy concoction position at each end of the loin.
The pre-dessert dessert, rhubarb jelly topped with rhubarb and custard espuma served in a shot glass was an interesting diversion before a very classy pudding indeed. Mrs K (with my help) demolished Chocolate, an excellent combination of dark mousse, white brule and delightful banana ice cream. And my platter of four local cheeses, all in tip-top condition (though not named by otherwise exemplary servers), came with a variety of biscuits, celery, a wodge of chutney, quince preserve and home-made fruit cake. Ranulph would have approved.
Ranulph Restaurant at the Crewe Hall Hotel, Weston Road, Crewe, Cheshire CW1 6UZ.
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Ego Mediterranean Restaurant
25 Walton Road, Stockton Heath, Warrington, WA4 6NJ. 01925 602606, www.egorestaurants.co.uk
Style of venue Relaxed and informal - just like being on holiday - but you still have the feeling you have gone somewhere special for the evening. The restaurant is near the busy crossroads in Stockton Heath but once through its doors you do not notice.
On the menu A host of Mediterranean delights. Think Greek mezze and platters bursting with Spanish and Italian delicacies all perfect for sharing. Mediterranean classics like moussaka, chicken cacciatore and Tuscan meatballs all make an appearance as do sweetcorn frittatas, Andalucian pork fillet served with an apricot and sherry sauce and sauted salmon fillets. For starter my guest and I shared a platter of chargrilled pitta breads with olives, tzatziki, aioli and sweet chilli salsa (4.50) from the appetisers menu. For main I opted for the belt-busting bouillabaisse, a traditional fish stew (12.95) with calamari, mussels, red mullet and monkfish. The mushroom risotto (8.95) with vialone rice, rosemary, spinach and parmesan shavings pleased my guest. We also shared a side of creamy Dauphinoise potatoes (2.45). For dessert, I ordered a large slice tarte au citron (4.50) served with crme fraiche where my guest opted for the very creamy vanilla crme brulee (4.25) - both of them crowd pleasers. There is also a small but impressive specials board and an extensive wine list.
Dcor A rustic, cosy interior mixes well with new, high gloss fittings. They have captured the feel of a Mediterranean restaurant well. The wine rack, which covers most of one wall, is enough to leave you open mouthed.
Ambience Friendly and the restaurant have a busy, sociable atmosphere. It's the perfect place to go out with friends or family, or for a romantic meal, there are more secluded tables.
Service Excellent when we were there.
Cost Reasonable, expect to pay around 60 for dinner for two with wine. There are also several daily deals that offer further value for money including prix fixe and set lunch menus.
Suitability for entertainment Great atmosphere. We visited on a mid-week night and it was packed with diners. Ego has to compete with the many restaurants and cafes in Stockton Heath and holds its own well.