Restaurant Reviews - River Bar and Restaurant, Lowry Hotel and The Davenport Arms, Macclesfield
PUBLISHED: 12:38 06 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:19 20 February 2013
After years of ups and downs, it's plain sailing now for the impressive River Bar and Restaurant and a mini-review of The Davenport Arms, Macclesfield
Its now ten years since Sir Rocco Forte and Marco Pierre White unveiled their plans for the River Room restaurant in Manchesters new five-star Lowry Hotel. There have been many changes since then, not least the removal of the trademark MPW initials from above the restaurant entrance which, truth be told, later became something of a revolving door for a succession of executive chefs.
These days however - and as befits a hotel with such lofty ambition - the River Bar and Restaurant, as it now styles itself, is enjoying a period of not only stability, but widespread acclaim. Even that scourge of northern hospitality, the often caustic critic AA Gill, gave the River Restaurant four stars for its food in the Sunday Times.
Much of the credit for the Rivers flood of accolades, including its two AA Rosettes, is due to Oliver Thomas, appointed executive chef almost three years ago having been chef de partie in Whites opening team back in 2001. His focus is on using the best local produce in dishes that are at once uncomplicated but thoroughly accomplished and occasionally showy enough (grilled whole native lobster with garlic butter and chips 41; Cheshire Belgium Blue Chateaubriand 64) to attract the likes of Mr Gill and footballing types. And its done the trick.
The River Restaurant, overlooking the Irwell, is a spacious airy room with free standing and booth seating divided by a peninsula mounted with large illuminated vases and globes forming a stylish focal point. Soft pastel walls feature striking mirrors and collections of sketches and plates decorated with surreal portraits, an altogether more intimate feel than the clinical white of a decade ago.
We decided to test and mix both the a la carte and fixed-price menus, the latter with a limited choice of three starters, mains and desserts, but offering remarkable value at 19.95 for three courses and no evident corners cut compared with the main bill of fare.
After excellent home-made bread - still warm - with herb butter, the table dhte starter brought me a warm tomato and goats cheese tart with watercress and rocket leaves: simplicity itself, but there was a real intensity of flavour in the tomato, the cheese lovely and creamy, the base delightfully puffy and doughy and the leaves nicely dressed.
And the a la carte starter of salt marsh lambs kidneys on toast with mustard and parsley sauce received high praise; a taste of real English tradition featuring delicately flavoured kidneys on a slice of crisp roasted baguette and admirably piquant sauce.
For the main course it was my turn for the a la carte and my choice of pan-fried halibut with salsify, wilted baby gem, turned saffron potatoes and vermouth cream sauce (24.50) looked fabulous and tasted delicious. The fish, fried golden on one side, was creamy, moist and full of flavour and the accompaniments well thought out and skilfully executed.
Yet Mrs Ks cod loin with broad beans, purple tenderstem broccoli and chive cream sauce from the table d'hte yielded nothing in terms of ingredients, quality or presentation. A fine dice of tomato added colour and flavour to an excellent sauce, the cod fell into moist, almost translucent flakes and a square of grilled polenta added a thoughtful contrasting texture. We shared a side dish of chips - just nine of them for 4.20 - which might have benefited from another dunk into the fryer but the flavour was tip-top.
The wine list is comprehensive, featuring more than 20 champagnes, a raft of premier cru clarets, high end burgundy and a good selection of dessert wines including the legendary Chateau dYquem and prices heading for the stratosphere. But there are decent choices at the modest end of the scale and our Marktree Soldiers Block Chardonnay from New South Wales offered plenty of tropical fruit flavour for 22.
While I passed on dessert (well okay, I admit to three spoonfuls), Mrs K rounded off the outstanding value three-courser with a cube of yummy banana sticky toffee pudding served with lovely vanilla mascarpone. A real treat.
The River Bar and Restaurant, Lowry Hotel, Dearmans Place, Chapel Wharf, Manchester, M3 5LH. 0161 827 4000, www.thelowryhotel.com.
Three more award winning restaurants
Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor (one Michelin star, four AA rosettes) Eastgate, Chester, CH1 1LT. 01244 324024.
The Alderley Restaurant at Alderley Edge Hotel (three AA rosettes), Macclesfield Road, Alderley Edge, SK9 7BJ. 01625 583033
Michael Caines @ ABode Chester (Cheshire Life Restaurant of the Year) ABode Chester, Grosvenor Road, Chester, CH1 2ED. 01244 347000
Meal in a minute
Digest this mini-review in 60 seconds
The Davenport Arms
Manchester Road, Marton, Macclesfield, SK11 9HF
Style of venue
This is a cosy and historic country pub housed in what was once a farmhouse on the Capesthorne Estate. Tenants of the estate used to pay their rent in the room upstairs where trials of highwaymen were also staged.
On the menu
The food is a cut above standard pub fare. Choices change daily (although they don't serve food on Mondays, unless its a Bank Holiday), with specials including soup of the day, fish of the day, curry of the day and pie of the day. The field mushroom topped with ratatouille and melting Welsh brie served with new potatoes (9.25) was sumptuous and across the table, the flambed lamb's liver on a bed of creamy mash with crispy pancetta and brandy cream sauce (also 9.25) went down well.
There's plenty of exposed brickwork, pot plants, cosy corners, comfy armchairs and, on colder days, roaring fires.
The atmosphere at lunchtime was warm and friendly and the other diners were a jolly bunch.
The waiting staff were attentive, prompt and efficient and knew their stuff about the menu. Bar staff were knowledgeable about the beer, too.
We paid a smidgeon over 30 and felt that gave good value for very good food.
Suitability for entertainment
It's an ideal spot for an informal chat with friends or a more intimate meal for two.