Cheshire Life Luncheon - Pecks Restaurant, Congleton

Pecks has been popular for years. But since Andy and Sue Pear took ownership and with chef Les Wassall at the helm, it is delivering a superb dining experience Words by Ray King Photographs by Kirsty Thompson

Parked proudly outside the entrance of Pecks Restaurant - one of the Crewe area’s finest – a 1960 Bentley S2 limousine – was an impressive sight for guests arriving for Cheshire Life’s November luncheon.

Restored at an eye-watering cost of �60,000, the sleek lines of the Bentley will grace Pecks’ burgeoning special wedding packages for newlyweds who like to travel in style. And in a way the car neatly sums up the ethos of this much-loved restaurant, set below Mow Cop in the village of Moreton, near Congleton: the contemporary application of classic quality.

Celebration, be it a marriage, birthday, anniversary or just a gathering of friends having a great night out (or increasingly a great day out, now the restaurant is open at lunchtime) has always been a key feature of Pecks’ appeal, because they’re so good at it. For the best part of a quarter of a century, celebration has underpinned the concept of the restaurant’s famous ‘Dinner at Eight’ – with up to seven courses paraded in front of diners, before they sit down, in a piece of pure culinary theatre.

The tradition has been continued by Andrew and Sue Pear, who took over four years ago, but menus have been modernised with head chef Les Wassall laying emphasis on superb local ingredients. And dining areas subjected to a stylish contemporary makeover.

If guests had not hitherto experienced the quality of English sparkling wine, they will not forget the very best in a hurry. Nyetimber Classic Cuvee from West Sussex is a bubbly to rival any in the world, including many champagnes; no wonder it has been a favourite of the Queen celebrating her Diamond Jubilee year.

Welcoming flutes were poured to accompany a cavalcade of canap�s including mini panko fishcakes with aioli, smoked salmon and cream cheese ‘pinwheels’, duck and ginger spring rolls and dainty asparagus tartlets.

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The starter proper comprised a generous serving of plump garlic and chilli tiger prawns on a mound of creamy lemon-scented risotto spiked with shreds of smoked salmon; a winning compilation for its harmonious flavours and delicious textures.

The accompanying wine, suggested by supplier Geoff Dickinson of Portland Wines, who was among the guests, is one of my favourites of the moment. Before the great sauvignon blanc lift-off, New Zealand had been making excellent Alsace-style wines for years and Domaine Road Pinot Gris was not only a fine example of this fat, honeyed varietal, but paired brilliantly with the dish.

The main course was just about as local as it’s possible to get. Three ways with Gloucester Old Spot pork – reared in the neighbouring village of Astbury - saw tender seared fillet, melting slow roast belly and panko-crumbed trotter served with toffee apple and cauliflower puree. The dish was outstanding, especially given that the three pork cuts would have required different cooking times and the details – a shard of perfect crackling, tip-top fondant potato and neatly presented carrot and green beans – added a touch of panache. Once again the wine match was ideal – a modern, soft and, vibrantly fruity rioja.

Dessert is always keenly anticipated here and Les Wassall’s assiette of Pecks’ signature puddings was a perfect illustration as to the reason why. Sumptuous salted caramel and rich dark chocolate truffle came alongside velvety caramel panna cotta and delicious Butterton’s Crunchy Peanut Butter Ice Cream; what a treat!

Cheshire Life Luncheon Menu

To startGarlic and chilli black tiger prawns, lemon scented risotto, smoked salmon shavingsDomaine Road Pinot Gris 2010, New Zealand

To continueTrio of Astbury PorkMonte Araya Selection Especial, Rioja, Spain

To finishAssiette of Pecks’ puddings

Coffee, artisan Amoretti biscuits, white chocolate macaroons

Fact file

Pecks Restaurant, Newcastle Road,Moreton cum Alcumlow, Congleton, Cheshire CW12 4SB.Tel: 01260

Dinner at Eight: Tues & Wed (5 courses) �36.95; Thu & Fri (7 courses) �41.95; Sat (7 courses) �46.95.

Lunch Tues-Sat noon-2pm: plat du jour 2 courses �17.95; 3 courses �20.95. A la carte starters from �5.75; mains from �13.95, desserts from �5.95.

Sunday lunch noon-3pm: plat du jour only.