Restaurant review - The Alderley Edge Hotel
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 March 2018
There's a new, airy, less formal look to the restaurant at the Alderley Edge Hotel - part of a £2.5m transformation for this old favourite. Review by Louise Allen-Taylor.
The baby grand piano has gone - a symbol of change at the Alderley Edge Hotel. No more post-prandial balloons of brandy while listening to the ivories being gently tickled. With that piano has also disappeared any remaining stuffy formality at this Cheshire institution.
In truth, the change has been gradual and a long time coming. When Cheshire Life wrote up the hotel brasserie three years ago, we were captivated by witty retro treats summoned by the then freshly-installed head chef Sean Sutton - 21st century remixes of Seventies tropes like prawn cocktail, ham and pineapple, fish and chips and Black Forest Gateau.
Back then, the fine dining restaurant next door was continuing to deliver epic culinary feats in a slightly hushed and reverential ambience.
Returning in 2018, an expensive makeover has made the bar and restaurant a much more open and less traditional place, and, with that, the sense of informality has spread across both rooms. As for Sean Sutton’s menu, the accent is modern British, and the dishes we sampled seem designed to satisfy not just the senses but the appetite. There are some real belly-fillers in there!
The new Bernard Carroll-designed restaurant looks considerably larger and comes with a love-it-or-loathe-it centrepiece: an indoor tree. I loved it. Above that tree is a vast, glassy conservatory-style roof, and there’s acres more glass on all sides, letting in natural light and views over the hotel gardens. This will definitely be a place to revisit when the days are longer.
In among the tables and chairs are green sofas, and the decor also includes a rash of raffia lampshades at the end of the restaurant where you can peep through into the kitchen, which is not exactly open but is no longer concealed, flaming flourishes of cheffy endeavour occasionally being glimpsed.
So, the owners - the Lees-Jones family of venerable brewers JW Lees - now have a bright, welcoming room taking pride of place in their flagship hotel. What about the food?
Well, I must confess, I made a bit of a pig of myself, which is to say that I chose pork products for both starter and main, searching in vain for a bacon-based dessert.
A starter of pressed ham (£7.50) came as a heroic slab of moist, friable meat with a substantial hunk of toasted sourdough and a rustic, chunky piccalilli. Bold, primal tastes and enough on the plate for it to be a meal on its own.
Our other starter of twice-baked goats’ cheese soufflé (£7.50) was suitably light and mild on the palate, accompanied by truffled creamed spinach.
My piggy main was pork tomahawk (£16.50) - one from the restaurant’s charcoal-fired Josper grill. This impressive rib steak (with the long rib poking out, hence the axe-related name) was a thick cut of moist and tender pork, but with a lip-smacking edge of rock-hard crackling. It came smeared with an apple and sage salsa, and, just to up the piggy quotient yet further, a separate little jug of smoked bacon jus - ideal for dipping a side of triple cooked chips (£4). This is the stuff of Homer Simpson’s dreams.
Our other main was fillet of sea bass with a pressed ratatouille and basil pesto (£16.50) - a healthy ration of delicately cooked fish and a substantial, equally healthy accompaniment. Lovely.
Too stuffed for a pud apiece, we shared an ‘Edge apple pie’ (£7.50) which turned out to be a deconstructed affair with seared chunks of apple, shards of puff pastry, apple purée and calvados crème anglais.
A succesful facelift, then, for this grande dame of Cheshire gastronomy, and there’s enough of interest on that menu to warrant a second and third visit.
The Alderley Edge Hotel is on Macclesfield Road, Alderley Edge, tel 01625 583 033, www.alderleyedgehotel.com