Restaurant Reviews - Rookery Hall Hotel & Spa, Nantwich and Vale Royal Abbey Arms
PUBLISHED: 12:47 14 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:12 20 February 2013
Sunday lunch is a British institution and to mark this month's British Beef Week, we sample a thick slice of tradition, served with roast potatoes and veg
The daytime dining table is under siege and many people now count themselves lucky if they get out of the office for long enough to buy a wrap to eat at their workstations.
So, very often, the chance of a leisurely lunch comes about on a Sunday. And on Sundays, for some reason, most of us who head out to eat appear smitten by the need to indulge in tradition.
So as the gravel crunched under the wheels of the car as we drew up outside Rookery Hall at lunch time on a recent Sunday, we knew exactly what to expect in one of the most elegant dining rooms in Cheshire - thick slices of culinary English tradition served in surroundings steeped in history.
Rookery Hall, Hand Picked Hotel groups Cheshire flagship, has become something of a village these days, with recent blocks of rooms, suites and state-of-the-art spa facilities grouped around the original house, built just one year after Napoleons defeat at Waterloo. But the dining room, with its wonderful, rich mahogany panelling, period fireplace and gorgeously intricate plaster ceiling, is in the old mansion and served by a two AA Rosette kitchen.
Three courses, coffee and fancies here for 23.50 is indeed excellent value and the quality of ingredients, especially locally-sourced meat, was evident from the outset with my starter of roasted pork belly which came meltingly tender from long slow cooking and offering superb flavour. The morsel of black pudding alongside, like the smear of apple puree and sliver of crispy crackling, amounted to flavour-enhancing condiment rather than an accompaniment proper; the simple garnish was of mustard cress.
Mrs K began with an attractive tartlet of mushroom and Stilton, good pastry but a little light on the cheese, partnered with a tangle of leaves and spring onions drizzled with good balsamic.
The agreeably simplistic formula carried though to the main courses - roast beef with traditional trimmings for me and rump of lamb for her. Again the flavours of the meats were exemplary; my beef, sliced pink and thick was tender and juicy alongside a large Yorkshire pudding and a trio of good roast potatoes, crunchy without, fluffy within. The lamb across the table was also excellent, appealingly served with creamed potatoes and a swirl of flavoursome redcurrant jus. The bowl of fresh vegetables to share - courgette, young carrots, French beans, peas and sweetcorn - came just so.
The desserts were admirably done: Mrs Ks hot chocolate fondant, deliciously gooey in the middle, came with white chocolate sauce and fine vanilla ice cream and my deftly crafted pear and almond tart was accompanied by rich chocolate sauce and a dollop of lovely clotted cream.
One aspect of lunchtime table dhte dining on Sunday, or any other day, that doesnt come cheaper is the wine list. Rookery Hall has a fine cellar, but only a handful of the bottles on the comprehensive list, arranged by style rather than origin, are priced at less than the three courses.
There is, however, a good choice by the glass including rose, champagne and dessert wines; a course we followed. I enjoyed a standard 175ml glass of good, buttery Argentine chardonnay (7.50) with the starter and we each indulged in a large 250ml glass of Argentine malbec, chock full of smooth, rich black cherry and mulberry fruit, with the mains, (10.95). A cafetiere was served in the lounge with dainty petit fours.
Rookery Hall Hotel & Spa,
Main Road, Worleston, Nantwich, Cheshire CW5 6DQ
Tel: 0845 0727533; www.handpickedhotels.co.uk/hotels/rookery-hall
More country house dining in Cheshire...
Mottram Hall Hotel, Wilmslow Road, Mottram St Andrew, SK10 4QT. 01625 828135
Nunsmere Hall Hotel, Tarporley Road, Oakmere, Northwich, CW8 2ES. 01606 889100
Rowton Hall Hotel, Whichurch Road, Rowton, Chester, CH3 6AD. 01244 335262
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Vale Royal Abbey Arms
Chester Road, Oakmere, Northwich, CW8 2HB. 01606 882747
Style of venue
This pub is a large venue capable of seating lots of diners. However, despite its size, it still feels welcoming and has a good atmosphere.
On the menu
Its all about simple food, done well. Starters include grilled field mushroom with goats cheese (3.99) and smoked Scottish salmon and baby spinach on potato rosti (3.99), and among the mains are slow cooked lamb shank (9.99) and British beef and Ruddles ale pie (8.29). Be sure to also take a look at the extensive specials board.
Rustic, cosy and comfortable. Plenty of old leather armchairs and sofas to lounge in and the walls are littered with fascinating paintings, old documents and trinkets.
Although this is a big place, it still feels intimate. When we visited there were plenty of people dining which made for a great atmosphere.
Quick and efficient and there is a warm, friendly welcome from the staff.
Expect to pay between 20 and 30 for a starter and main course for two people with soft drinks. Desserts, if you have room, cost no more than 5 and a bottle of wine is between 10.95 and 18.95.
Suitability for entertainment
A great place to enjoy a bite to eat while exploring this pretty corner of our county. Its location, just off the main A556 road near Delamere, is ideal too. Its a good place for large groups or a meal for two.