Cheshire Life Luncheon - Twenty Eight Miles restaurant, Leverhulme Hotel, Port Sunlight

Helen Jones, Jo Cottrell and Tanith Facey

Helen Jones, Jo Cottrell and Tanith Facey - Credit: Archant

Hospital patients who once inhabited what is now a beautiful hotel, The Leverhulme, would be amazed by its transformation

Main course - Roast breast of chicken, wild mushroom and leg meat boudin, red wine jus

Main course - Roast breast of chicken, wild mushroom and leg meat boudin, red wine jus - Credit: Archant

Naming a restaurant ‘Twenty-eight Miles’ doesn’t immediately give much of a clue as to what it’s all about. But look a little closer and the title becomes not only an appropriate name, but also a bold statement of intent.

We are at the Leverhulme Hotel in the middle of the uniquely charming model village of Port Sunlight, built by the philanthropist captain of industry Lord Leverhulme for his workers at the turn of the last century. We are also, it dawns upon us, at the epicentre of an imaginary circle of 28-miles radius, inside which the hotel restaurant is determined to source virtually all its main menu ingredients.

You can’t have such audacious ambition everywhere, but within a 28-mile radius of Port Sunlight we are truly blessed with an abundance of superb produce from the Wirral itself, the hills and coast of North Wales, across the Dee, the lush dairy country of Cheshire and, to the north west, the market gardens of west Lancashire up to the bountiful Ribble Valley.

The hotel’s ethos is ‘to support local farmers, producers and small suppliers who strive for the highest quality and unique ingredients that sets us aside from the rest.’ Indeed it would be a shame not to source the very best local ingredients right on the doorstep.

All this might be rather academic were it not for the fact that the Leverhulme Hotel happens to be a gem of a place in a fantastic location. And as guests at Cheshire Life’s November luncheon discovered, the eye for quality, service and detail that Craig and Lisa Baker have deployed so brilliantly in making the Hillbark Hotel, further up the peninsula at Frankby, such an acclaimed success story, is very evident in Port Sunlight too.

That’s not to say that the Leverhulme is some kind of Hillbark clone under the Contessa Hotels’ ‘brand’, far from it; while Hillbark’s period ambience is a perfect foil for its Jacobean-style exterior, built as a mansion for a shipping magnate, the Leverhulme is a stunning conversion of Port Sunlight’s cottage hospital, originally opened in 1907. Ceilings are high and windows huge, lending a fantastic sense of light and space to a fine Edwardian building. The seamless extensions housing a quite magnificent ballroom suite licensed for weddings and an additional four luxury bedrooms (bringing the total to 19) are imaginatively conceived and the grounds are generously spacious. A spa complex is on the way.

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After enjoying welcoming glasses of fresh and zesty Aimery Crémant de Limoux, an extremely amiable French sparkler, with dainty canapés of asparagus, smoked salmon, goats’ cheese and beef and horseradish, we took our seats in the splendid, Art Deco-style restaurant, formerly one of the hospital’s wards.

It’s a fabulous space, light, airy and boasting dramatic geometric-design carpet in purple and grey and striking modern furnishings.

Already boasting two AA Rosettes, the Contessa’s brigade at the Leverhulme seems certain to add to the accolades with their philosophy of sourcing the very best of local ingredients. We began with a sublime carpaccio of beef served with smoked hazelnuts, horseradish snow - literally - Wirral watercress, radish and delicate leaves; a delicious and delicate confection of harmonious flavours and complimentary textures that looked an absolute picture on the plate.

The main course demonstrated just how much flavour an impeccably-sourced chicken breast can offer. Perfectly roasted, it was served alongside a boudin artfully crafted from the meat from the chicken leg studded with wild mushrooms delivering wonderful earthy notes. Crushed heritage potatoes, roasted shallot, silky carrot purée and red wine jus completed a very attractively presented dish.

Two fine and fascinating red wines were served, Both Italian. The starter was paired with Aglianico, native to Campania, blended with cabernet sauvignon by Salvatore Molettieri just east of Naples and the main was served with a wonderfully supple and mellow Chianti Superiore from leading Tuscan winemaker Donatella Cinelli Colombini.

Pudding, a perfectly executed fresh raspberry crème brulée - pure silkiness under the delicately crunchy burnt sugar “lid” rounded off exquisitely with gorgeous lemon shortbread and a glass of off-dry Prosecco, curiously made not in Italy but at a boutique winery in Australia.

Cheshire Life Luncheon menu

To start

Beef carpaccio, smoked hazelnuts, horseradish snow, Wirral watercress

Irpinia Aglianico-Cabernet Sauvignon, Salvatore Molettieri, Campania, Italy

To continue

Roast breast of chicken, wild mushroom and leg meat boudin, red wine jus

Chianti Superiore 2004, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Italy

To finish

Fresh raspberry crème brulée, lemon shortbread

Symphonia Prosecco Extra Dry

Fact file

The Leverhulme Hotel, Port Sunlight Village, Wirral, CH 62 5EZ. Tel 0151 644 6655.

Twenty-eight Miles Restaurant open: Mon-Sat noon-2.30, 6pm-10pm; Sun noon-7pm.