Restaurant reviews - Belle Epoque, Knutsford
PUBLISHED: 13:32 08 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:22 20 February 2013
This Knutsford restaurant is known and loved far and wide, but what is so special about it? Louise Allen-Taylor booked a table for two
Its tempting when writing a review of a restaurant that has so much that is French about it, to reach for cliches along the lines of ooh la la and tres bien. But Ill resist the urge to do that because there is so much about Belle Epoque that is wonderfully original that it needs to be communicated sensibly.
The Mooney family has been at the helm of this restaurant on King Street in Knutsford for nearly 40 years. These days its a popular venue for weddings and celebrations but I decided to review what it is best known for - its fine dining restaurant. My parents came here from time to time in the late 1970s and therefore its in my memory as somewhere special and glamorous. Years later when I dined here for the first time, taking my seat in a corner of that dark, intriguing room Id heard much about, Belle Epoque lived up to my expecatations and has done ever since.
It has a head start in its premises: a building created in 1907 by Richard Harding Watt with splendid art nouveau fireplaces and huge pillars from St Peters Church in Manchester. Add to this an interior enhanced by objets dart, leather furniture, Italian glass and youll appreciate that when you bring into the mix charming French waiters, there is an ambience that is warm, inviting and rare. You soon forget youre in an English town - not that Knutsford has anything to be bashful about.
Belle Epoques a la carte menu offers a wide selection - not just the French cuisine which made the restaurants name way back when. It has been commended by many foodie books and industry experts: its easy to see why.
It took some time for Mr Taylor and I to choose but eventually we did and soon enough I was tucking into a very good haddock florentine (6.95): a crisp toasted brioche, topped with a poached egg with flaked haddock and perfect cheese sauce. I wouldnt share, but it didnt matter because Mr T wouldnt part with his goats cheese batons (6.95). He declared the dressing of pickled shallot and mushroom superb. At this point I would have welcomed a glass from a bottle in their well-stocked cellar but as Id given up for Lent, Mr Taylor enjoyed most of a bottle of French Pinot Noir (26), safe in the knowledge I was driving.
Mains were a feast. I chose Poulet Saute du Belle Epoque (13.95): pan fried chicken pieces with parmentier potatoes, shallots, mushrooms, roquefort cheese on a bed of Savoy cabbage and tomato glaze. This was a rich, satisfying dish which almost persuaded me I was in a bistro around the corner from the Sacre Coeur. Mr Taylor was equally pleased with his rack of Cheshire lamb (24.90) - hes a bit of a homebody. This tender local meat from down the road in Tabley was served with a piquant caper mint sauce.
I found room for a first class rum baba (6.95) which was everything it should have been - unlike the plasticky varieties I ate once or twice in Berni Inns in the 1970s. As I write and recall the soft sponge and moist sauce of the Belle Epoque version of this classic dessert, Im tempted to say Ooh, la la. Occasionally we have to break promises.
Belle Epoque, King Street, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6DT. Tel 01565 632661. See website for opening times and lunch deals www.thebelleepoque.com