Restaurant review - The Old Grocery, Hawarden
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 April 2019
It used to be, as the name suggests, the local shop, but The Old Grocery in Hawarden is now a very impressive neighbourhood restaurant
You get the impression that a lot of heart and soul - as well as some imaginative cheffing - has gone into making The Old Grocery restaurant in Hawarden what it is.
If knowing your clientele counts for anything, this eatery has a head start. Husband and wife team Rob and Kate John live just yards from the restaurant. This is the village where Rob was raised, and this is the shop-turned-restaurant where he served as a kitchen porter as a 14-year-old and an apprentice chef aged 21.
After gastronomic adventures which included running the well-regarded Rhiwafallen restaurant near Caernarfon, the couple headed for home and, at the end of 2017, launched The Old Grocery.
Lots of wood in the decor, and weather-beaten wood tables give it the air of a French bistrot. There are artefacts from its grocery days, and some talking points such as the branch hanging from the ceiling, decked with twinkling lights and hung with...pretzels!
We are welcomed in with the ‘cocktail of the week’ - a fizzy combo of prosecco and rosehip gin, the latter made on the premises. The pillowy white breads (£3.95) - which arrive with oil, balsamic vinegar and truffle honey butter - are also home-made. A starter of scorched mackerel (£7.95) arrives as moist hunks of fish atop peppery watercress, ruddy stalks of rhubarb, a bold, sweet smear of beetroot purée and a sprinkling of tiny capers. Our other starter - jokingly undersold as a ‘cheese and ham toastie’ (£7.95) - features melting brie de meaux with maple-glazed ham and butter crisp.
A main of plaice (£18.50) is a classy indulgence: the fish flaky, the chive butter sauce silky, the addition of smoked leek croquette, salsify and cockles adding more delicate flavours to a deftly judged palette.
Our other main is yet more impressive. Spiced hake (£17.95) turns out to be a meaty hunk of fish with an onion bhaji and zingy coriander and mint chutney, all swimming in a sweet parsnip velouté, with subtly musty, aromatic, currified flavours popping out at you at every stab of the fork. Best fish dish I’ve had in some time.
For sides, we choose fabulous courgette fritters (£3.75) - and rosemary salted chips.
Rob John’s Black Forest (£7.25) is not the gooey cake and cherry combo we expect, but a rich mix of chocolate mousse cake, ganache and chantilly with cherry sorbet. Rhubarb and custard (£7.25) is another surprise: a crème caramel accompanied by slim stalks of rhubarb, gingery biscuit, rhubarb gin jelly and little slivers of dried rhubarb - all arranged very prettily in a line across the plate. u
The Old Grocery, 68 The Highway, Hawarden, Deeside, Flintshire, CH5 3DH, tel 01244 952989. theoldgrocery.co.uk