The start of another road trip and, with world cup interest at fever pitch, there may be some passing references to football in this blog. The first stop for the tour bus is The Bear’s Paw in Warmingham. The Bear’s Paw is a 19th century Victorian Inn in the farming village of Warmingham that was completely refurbished about 10 years ago, following a major fire.
I always kick-off with a beer and I’m having a pint of Southern Cross from Cheshire brewers Weetwood Ales. Described as a New World Pale Ale, it is zesty and carries some hints of lemon and pine from the New Zealand hops that are used to make it. Rock is passing on alcohol but teams together an apple juice with a good measure of soda.
The pan-fried fillet of sea trout is my next goal. It is served with a creative midfield of potato, herb & garlic gnocchi, green beans, broad beans, sundried tomato, parmesan and sauce vierge. Everything tastes good though I find the gnocchi a bit heavy. Rock shoots for the loin of rabbit wrapped in smoked bacon and playing alongside a crispy leg rillette, butter poached potato, carrot puree, summer vegetables and a red wine jus. Rock thinks the sticky jus is a touch too strong for the delicate rabbit.
Great teamwork from Jack, Bria and Holly out front and Ben in the kitchen. Now, I think there may be an England match on tonight. C’mon England!
On the final stop of our road trip we are in Cheshire, meeting our friends Trump and Myra at the Stretton Fox. We arrive only minutes apart and it is fantastic to see them again – we have not met for more than 100 days. After we greet each other, Trump gestures with his hands…they’re not small, he says, nor is anything else – I guarantee it. Immediately, it has become clear that Trump remains as outrageous as he has always been.
I have the mixed pate including coarse pork, Madeira & bacon and oak smoked chicken liver. Trump has the leek and stilton soup – he tells us it tastes nice but that the kitchen has not gone bigly on the stilton, indeed when people say the soup includes stilton some might consider this to be fake news. Myra has the oven baked button & portobello mushrooms in a garlic & mature cheddar sauce and Rock the ale-glazed shallot tarte tatin with an apple & hazelnut salad.
Trump moves on to the roast breast of turkey served with lemon & thyme stuffing wrapped in bacon, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips & gravy. He says the turkey is dry and may have been the subject of some extreme vetting. Rock has the beer battered, line caught cod with triple cooked chips and samphire tartare sauce. I have the slow-cooked lamb shank with bubble & squeak, honey roasted carrots and a red wine jus. Myra has the roasted salmon with feta stuffed bell peppers, green peppers, baby potatoes and a basil dressing. Believe me when I say that everyone, except Trump, is happy with their food.
For dessert Myra has the vanilla crème brȗlée with home-baked butter biscuits. Rock has the elderflower custard tart with blackcurrants, I have the apple & blackberry crumble and Trump orders off-menu. He asks for vanilla ice cream and takes the shackles off his mood when it arrives. He had hoped for enough ice cream to build a great wall but the portion is so small that now he wants the kitchen to pay for it.
The Stretton Fox is a very large place and it is absolutely packed with diners today. But the service is so fast it almost makes your head spin. It has been wonderful to see Myra and Trump again and we hardly stopped laughing. Trump might claim that all his words come from an extremely credible source – but most of his comments about the meal were just locker room banter!
The Church Green is a venture by a chef with a great reputation, Aiden Byrne. We have checked out the Church Green website and it looks good in the virtual world. On arrival at the restaurant in the real world, diners are warmly greeted by friendly staff. We are really looking forward to having lunch here.
We decide to share the cured and charred mackerel with pearl barley & kale. We expect to receive a piece of cured mackerel, a favourite of Rock’s, and a piece of grilled or pan-fried mackerel – much more my thing. However, when the dish arrives it is two pieces of soused mackerel that have then been flash fried. Somehow the kitchen has managed to produce a mackerel dish that neither of us like! Hats off to Church Green though – the waitress passes our comments on to the kitchen and, without any request from us, the mackerel dish is immediately taken off the bill.
Now we are really hungry and hoping that the main courses will meet our expectations. Rock has the fillet of sea bream served with baby chickpeas, pickled peppers, chorizo & barbecued squid. I have the slow cooked pork belly, with the optional addition of scallops, served with smoked apples and Jerusalem artichokes. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with these dishes but then there is nothing very exciting about them either! The standard of cooking is just not at the level we had been anticipating….
For dessert we share the coffee panna cotta with hazelnut biscotti and mascarpone cheese – at last a dish that delivers real flavour & real wobble.
The service here has been very good with friendly and helpful staff who appear to be genuinely interested in our concerns and who clearly want us to have a good time. Overall though, apart from the panna cotta, the eating experience was actually quite disappointing.