Cheshire Life Luncheon - Residence Restaurant and Bar, Nantwich

It's not only the architecture and interior of Residence which provokes murmurs of approval. Food at this Cheshire Life luncheon provoked gasps of delight from diners <br/>WORDS BY RAY KING PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

There have been times, in the long and fascinating history of Nantwich, when it’s paid dividends to know on which side your bread was buttered. Indeed in the middle of the 17th Century it could make the difference between keeping your head and losing it.

One of this delightful town’s most famous sons was Edmund Wright, a merchant and something of a philanthropist, providing landmark almshouses for Nantwich’s poor before departing to London to make an even bigger fortune. As a member of the Worshipful Company of Grocers he was Sheriff of London in 1629 and 1630 during Charles I’s troubled reign and then the capital’s Lord Mayor when Parliament deposed his predecessor as the Civil War loomed in 1641.

Back home in Nantwich it was much the same. The town declared for Parliament and endured royalist sieges until the battle of 1644 when Fairfax’s roundheads finally won the day. Wright, by now Sir Edmund, didn’t celebrate with the townsfolk, for he had died the previous year; but more than 350 years later his memory lingers at Residence Restaurant & Bar in Mill Street, so called because he was once resident here.

In a manner of speaking, that is. The fine grade II* listed Georgian town house, much loved by architecture connoisseur Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, may be home to Residence, but Sir Edmund was never resident in it: his house was demolished to make way for this one. Nonetheless, when guests assembling for Cheshire Life’s February luncheon crossed the threshold of one of Nantwich’s finest buildings, we, to coin a soundbite, felt the hand of history on our shoulders.

When Ben Rafferty launched Residence in 2007 it was a game changer for the local hospitality scene, recognised almost from the outset by a multitude of awards, not least Chester and Cheshire Tourism’s Best Food and Drink Venue 2010 and Quality in Tourism’s Highest Quality Assured Restaurant in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Formerly a private house, bank and a wine merchant’s, the building was acquired as the Nantwich Liberal Club in 1897 and remained so for close on a century. Latterly it was Peppers restaurant before its current and dare one say, most satisfactory incarnation.

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We gathered in Residence’s stylish cocktail bar for prosecco and orange aperitifs with canap�s including seared tuna with salsa verde and mushroom risotto, served daintily on spoons, before taking our seats in the striking dining room. What an elegant space this is in which to enjoy head chef Matthew Piggott’s inspiring food - a hall of mirrors hung with impressive drapes and elaborate, glittering crystal chandeliers, furnished with a tasteful mix of modern tables and handsome period-style brocade upholstered chairs.

We started with a very well-judged smoked salmon and mackerel p�t� with creamed dill and horseradish snow – the perfect combination of herbs compliment the robust flavours of the dish.

The accompanying wine, De Canal Pinot Grigio 2010, supplied and described by Nick Gent from Nantwich-based Rodney Densem Wines, also hit all the right notes with its delicate pear drop acidity balancing the richness of the p�t�.

The main course, Cheshire belly pork with saffron fondant potato, creamed Savoy cabbage, green beans and port reduction was an exemplary exercise in cooking this increasingly popular dish. For the pork to be so meltingly tender while the crackling is so crisp takes skill and technique which the kitchen demonstrated in abundance: all the components on the plate were absolutely spot on. So was the wine, delightfully soft, ripe pinot noir from Chile where this somewhat finickity Burgundian grape is now finding its feet.

Dessert, chocolate mousse with raspberries and caramelised hazelnuts delivered a grand finale to a very agreeable afternoon. The omens are looking good for folk who want to linger a little longer in one of Cheshire’s most beautiful towns, for plans have been approved for a 20-bedroom hotel to be developed at Residence. Residents again at 9 Mill Street - I’m sure old Sir Edmund would have approved too.

Cheshire Life luncheon menu

To startSmoked salmon and mackerel pate, creamed dill and horseradish snow

De Canal Pinot Grigio 2010, Italy.

To continueCheshire belly pork, saffron fondant potato, creamed Savoy, green beans, port reduction

Explorer Pinot Noir 2010, Chile

To finishhocolate mousse, caramelised hazelnuts and raspberries

Fact file

Residence Restaurant and Bar9 Mill Street, Nantwich, Cheshire CW5 5ST. Tel: 01270 629100

A la carte starters �4.25 - �9.50; mains �10.95 - �21.95; desserts �4.95. Market menu:two courses �13.95, three courses �16.95 available Mon noon-3pm and 6pm-10pm; Tue-Fri noon-3pm and 6pm-7pm; Sat noon-6pm. Sunday lunch 11am-6pm from �5.95.

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 

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