Does champagne still have the edge in Alderley Edge?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 November 2017 | UPDATED: 21:27 06 November 2017
Janet Reeder heads to one of Cheshire's most glamorous villages to find some sparkle
If in the ensuing race to the party season you needs some tips on how to take enjoyment to another level, then head over to Alderley Edge.
The bars and restaurants are a playground for locals and those who fancy rubbing shoulders with the TV stars and premiership footballers who live in the area and who make it a very glamorous location in spite of its low-key weekaday persona.
Of course its reputation for drinking more champagne per capita than anywhere else in the UK precedes it, or it did so, until last year when ‘shock horror’ the headlines proclaimed that Prosecco had surged into pole position as the village’s preferred tipple.
‘Could this be possible?’ we at Cheshire Life towers mused over a glass of Bolly recently. ‘We had better head out there to find out just what drink has the edge in Alderley.’
The village is home to The Bubble Room, which as its name suggests is a kind of epicentre of champagne drinking, or is it? Could it be that the champagne lifestyle has fallen a bit flat in Alderley Edge?
‘I think when the family first opened here nearly 12 years ago the sales of champagne particularly from the off licence next door were sky high,’ says Bubble Room manager Emma Mason.
‘The fashion was to drink champagne as it was quite the footballer lifestyle but I think that as fashions have changed so have people’s tastes and the things people are interested in have shifted slightly. Obviously champagne is still the sort of thing you buy for an anniversary or a celebration but in Alderley what they are looking for is a bit more specific.
‘There’s a lot more interest in drinks like craft gin and local brews. We’ve got local gins such as Manchester Gin and Forest Gin, which has a great following because it is made just down the road in Macclesfield. People are looking for premium spirits and the cocktails, things like that rather than just being sucked in by the label of a big champagne house.
‘People around here have the opportunity to travel and they go to London frequently and try a lot of different things and when they are back at home they are expecting more options. We do still offer champagne from houses such as Louis Roederer and Dom Perignon as people still look for those when they want to splash out but in reality, day to day, they’ll drink Prosecco.
‘They definitely can’t be fooled. The customers around here know what they are looking for and there’s so much competition in the village you have to be on it, you can’t just offer a load of champagnes at really expensive prices and expect people to pay it because they’re just not going to.’
The current fashion for more theatre is also catered for in the village at places like the Alchemist, where their Mad Hatter’s Tea Party cocktail goes down a storm with customers.
‘Essentially it’s a vodka, there’s citrus in it and it comes in a tea boiler where you get some mixed fruit in the top and what happens to the boiler is it infuses the alcohol that’s in there,’ explains general manager Miles Roberts.
‘You make that drink and once it reaches the table you serve it with dry ice. Then the server pours it into teacups, which creates a little bit of theatre, a little bit of drama at the table.’
Alderley’s Alchemist is the only one in the Living Ventures chain that has a Gold Standard wine list to appeal to the sophisticated and sometimes expensive tastes of its clientele, and of course that list includes champagne.
‘We have Moet which is making a little bit of a comeback onto the market,’ explains Miles.
‘They have a very decent grape from 2015 and have gone under a bit of a renaissance recently. They are now owned by LVMH which owns Louise Vuitton and they’ve had a big brand push with it. It’s doing really well. If you taste it, it’s absolutely fantastic for an entry level champagne.’
Signs outside Portland Wine
The Alderley bar and grill
London Road, Alderley Edge
Emma Mason, The Bubble Room
Miles Roberts, George Snell serving the Mad Hatters cocktail and Jo Williams at The Alchemist, Alderley Edge
The Botanist, Alderley Edge
London Road, Alderley Edge
Up front July
They also have an initiative called the Late Lab, which is an opportunity for customers to book a table on a Friday or Saturday night from 10.30 onwards, when things get really busy.
‘Friday or Saturday night is when we get a lot of traffic in from outside Alderley. Monday to Friday we get our regular clients, those who live in and around the village but we become a bit of a hotspot at the weekend with people travelling to see us as well,’ says Miles
‘They are attracted by the good dining and drinking scene and it’s a glamorous crowd. We get some footballers, some people from the TV. I can’t mention any names of course but we’ve had people from Cold Feet, Coronation Street all those kinds of places.’
Steve Marshall, manager of Portland Wine in the village has also seen some changes in the drinking habits of his clientele, not least a penchant for drinking spirits and fine wines as well as champagne.
‘I had a footballer’s wife come in and say “What’s your most expensive bottle of wine?” I said “I’ve got a Chateau Petrus 1996 at £1,700”. She asked for two and I had to go down the cellar and bring them up really carefully. And she just paid for it in cash. I couldn’t fit it in the till.’
‘ We now have 45 different gins. Gin is massive, all those the different flavoured ones you can get. The Zymurgorium ones are the best, they do Manchester gin. It’s just gone crazy. And rum is taking off now, that’s going to be the new one. Rum. It’s becoming more and more popular for some reason.’
It’s a far cry from the days when Steve was growing up in the village and was sent on errands to the local shops.
‘I was born here in Alderley Edge and remember you’d go to Mrs Beattie’s and take your empty bottle and she’d fill it up with sherry for your mum from a cask,’ he recalls.
‘She could slice ham with a knife thinner than those machines did. She had a tiny little sweet shop in the village which sold everything.That was the old days. before all the fancy wine shops.’
If you need somewhere to stay...
If you need somewhere to totter, following a fabulous night in the bars and restaurants of Alderley Edge head for the Wizard’s Thatch, a character-packed cottage turned boutique hotel.
It’s a quirky gem, described as ‘a little piece of heaven on earth’ with suites named after myths and legends such as Camelot, Merlin and The Wizardry.
Painted in deep reds and golds the interior of the house is perfect for winter mini break and just lends itself to the festive season. Travellers are treated to pure nostalgia in a fairytale setting that is quintessentially Olde England.
Macclesfield Road, Alderley Edge SK9 7BG, England |. 011 44 1667 307989 www.wizardsthatch.co.uk