Restaurant review - Burnt Truffle, Heswall
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 October 2015 | UPDATED: 19:01 23 May 2016
If you like Sticky Walnut in Chester you'll love Burnt Truffle in Heswall. Ambitious boss Gary Usher is onto something, writes reviewer Ray King
When Gary Usher opened his phenomenally successful Sticky Walnut in a Hoole backstreet in 2010, legend has it that money was so tight that he had to choose between spending it on the restaurant’s decor or on an oven. Naturally as a gifted chef with the Chester Grosvenor, Chez Bruce and Angela Hartnett’s York & Albany on his track record, he chose the latter...and never looked back.
Now there are two. For the Sticky Walnut this summer begat the Burnt Truffle - or as Usher’s ebullient and enthusiastic team like to style it, the BuRnT TRuffLe - in one of the surviving venerable sandstone cottages on Heswall’s Telegraph Road. Already the plaudits are raining in; this is another.
The Burnt Truffle famously owes its existence to a triumphant web-based crowd-funding appeal that reached its target of £100,000 in just 30 days; £24,000 in the first 24 hours. Of course other factors were at work, not least Usher’s relentless recourse to Twitter and the calculated rudeness of his tweets. Even the name of the new restaurant was a tweeted suggestion. I’d guess most of the project’s backers will have recognised his talents from eating at the Sticky Walnut. And, significantly, his old boss Hartnett chipped in with £500 according to an article in the Caterer.
Though the new restaurant can accommodate 60 covers inside, as well as a further 40 on the terrace as opposed to its 40-cover Sticky sister, the relationship is instantly recognisable. The dining areas feature simple wooden furniture and exposed sandstone walls on its two floors, a background that makes a brace of extravagant chandeliers look even flashier. And of course the menus, delightful combinations of harmonious flavours relying on proper ingredients rather than increasingly less fashionable (praise the Lord!) pastes, powders and foams, feature dishes common to both.
My starter varied only slightly from one I enthused over at Sticky 17 months ago. At the Burnt Truffle, lamb’s tongue (£6.50) coated with breadcrumbs and delivered crisp on the outside and boasting the softness of sweetbread within, came with racy watercress mayonnaise, creamy goat’s curd and the tiniest, sweetest peas. Mrs K’s opener presented a wonderful array of tastes and textures: the bitterness of crisp chicory singing with the sweetness poached pear and beetroot, the gentle savoury heat of creamed horseradish and mustard dressing, gingery pain d’espice and of course, caramelised sticky walnuts (£7). There was no sign on the menu, by the way, of any burnt truffles. Both friends who joined us for dinner considered their confit salmon partnered with warm, garlicky gazpacho, avocado, broad beans and pickled cucumber to be quite delicious.
For me, the main event brought perfectly done ‘saddle’ of off-the-bone stonebass, crisp of skin, moist of generous and flavourful flesh, served on a mound of lovely scented lemon couscous alongside shavings of charred sweetcorn, a delicate tempura oyster and silky tartar sauce (£15); marvellous. Mrs K chose Jacob’s ladder with watercress, truffle chips and onion purée (£17), a simple dish of few ingredients but what ingredients and what execution. The short rib, off the bone, was a meltingly tender, gooey, beefy delight from its long, slow cooking, with which the purée was an inspired match. The chips were just a sensational best-ever. Again, two friends were as one, both choosing chargrilled lamb rump, served a delightful pink, with fennel, braised romaine lettuce and fresh peas (£18) and offering fulsome duetted praise.
For pudding I had simple and light but delicious vanilla crème brulée (£5), the burnt sugar topping just right, while Mrs K attacked a rather wonderful and not overtly sweet banana parfait with chocolate and peanut brittle and superb honeycomb ice cream (£6). We drank a pleasing Chilean chardonnay and, for the drivers, that grown-up soft drink that every restaurant should feature, elderflower cordial and soda. Here’s to Hoole and Heswall.
Burnt Truffle, 106 Telegraph Road, Heswall, Wirral CH60 0AQ; Tel: 0151 342 1111; www.burnttruffle.net
Closed Monday and Tuesday.