Cheshire restaurant reviews

The Yellow Room at the Hillbark Hotel, Frankby, is a destination restaurant worth the journey

Sir Ernest Royden’s middle name was Bland. But whoever saddled him with such a moniker did the gentleman – a scion of the Liverpool ship-owning family – an injustice, for he had tastes that were anything but.With 250 acres of beautiful Wirral parkland overlooking the Dee estuary and beyond to North Wales named after him, Sir Ernest decided he wanted to live in a house as impressive as the surroundings. The only thing was, it had already been built - for soap manufacturer Robert William Hudson – somewhere else. Undeterred, Sir Ernest had the mock-Tudor mansion moved, 40 years after it was originally built, beam by beam, brick by brick, from Bidston Hill in Birkenhead to Royden Park near the village of Frankby in 1931. And now, almost 80 years later, the Grade II listed building is the Hillbark Hotel, retaining a host of fascinating features: the Great Hall has a 1527 Jacobean fireplace from Sir Walter Raleigh's house, a set of William Morris stained glass windows and a pair of 13th century church screen doors; the library was originally in a stately home in Gloucestershire; and the Yellow Room restaurant contains a magnificent 1795 Robert Adam fire surround.I cannot vouch for the magnificence of the views, for when we arrived for dinner at the Yellow Room, Hillbark loomed eerily out of thick fog. Yet despite the awful weather, the Yellow Room’s Saturday night tables were all filled and the atmosphere beneath the crystal chandeliers was animated. It’s an elegant dining room furnished with extravagant gilt Louis XV armchairs upholstered in embossed velvet and tables naped with crisp linen and laid with polished silver salvers and tall, slender-stemmed wine glasses; all the trappings, in short, of a destination restaurant with a menu worthy of that description and prices to match.

The menu still bears some of the hallmarks of the celebrated young Swiss chef Michael Riemenschneider, who briefly reopened Juniper in Altrincham

The menu, in fact, still bears some of the hallmarks of the celebrated young Swiss chef Michael Riemenschneider, who briefly reopened Juniper in Altrincham just before the banking crisis torpedoed the economy and who passed this way at the back end of last year. The one-word descriptions of starters and main courses alike – based on their main components – disguises the complexity of the dishes. Hence ‘Langoustine’ hardly begins to define the three plump, sweet shellfish tails exquisitely presented atop a just-so Parmesan risotto loosened by luxurious lobster butter sauce (�12); divine. Mrs K chose ‘duck’ (�10), five pink, juicy slices, full of flavour, with beetroot puree, baby carrot and deftly crafted apple and celeriac rosti, again delightfully composed.My main course ‘turbot’ (�23) brought two moist and succulent wedges of this most noble and delicious of flat fish set upon a bed of pearl barley and decorated – I use the word intentionally – with broccoli puree, nicely textured Parmesan gnocchi and fashionably topped with cabernet sauvignon foam. My wife’s ‘venison’ (�24) was similarly picturesque on its square platter – a generous helping of perfectly done, subtly flavoured meat served on a mound of juniper-laced Savoy cabbage and surrounded by artistic smears of celeriac puree and mini roasted potatoes; a real tour de force.We shared dessert, assisted by the supply of two sets of cutlery from attentive staff, enabling us to attack the dish simultaneously. ‘Praline’  (�9) comprised a tricolour of mousse enveloped in marzipan with the counterpointing zest of kumquat compote and a ball of lovely home-made hazelnut ice cream. There was also a trio of unbilled treats along the way, an appetiser amouse bouche of cucumber consomm� with mojito granita, palate-cleansing pineapple sorbet between starter and main course and pre-dessert shot of fig and fresh cream, all contrived to make dining in the Yellow Room a special event.The wine list comprises over 100 selections, with the classic French regions well represented and choices from Old and New world full of interest, though at a price: very few bottles are below �30. With our first choice Chilean white out of stock, we opted for Kuki, a textbook New Zealand sauvignon blanc with a racy gooseberry palate, listed at �32. 

The Yellow Room Restaurant, Hillbark Hotel, Royden Park, Frankby, Wirral, Cheshire, CH48 1NPTel: 0151 625 2400; www.hillbarkhotel.co.uk

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Joshua Bradley pub restaurantStockport Road, Gee Cross, HydeSK14 5EZ    0161 406 6776www.hydesbrewery.co.ukStyle of venue This Victorian mansion on the Hyde/Romiley border was formerly Bamford Hall. Sympathetically restored, this Hydes Brewery pub restaurant benefits from its location in three acres of land on greenbelt. To the rear of the main house is the Bluebell function suite.On the menu Plenty to choose from. Expect pub favourites like lamb shank and mash (�10.95), traditional fish and chips (�8.50) and huge steaks and hearty burgers. But there are salads, pasta dishes and lighter bites. My starter of melted goats’ cheese tempura (�5.25) was excellent. Lots of desserts to tempt the sweet-toothed. I recommend their apple Betty (�4.75).D�cor Big fireplaces, lots of wood panelling, grand staircases and high ceilings.Ambience Warm and welcoming. Even on a Monday night in February the restaurant was busy.Service Friendly and efficient.Cost Good. A hearty three-course dinner for two without wine cost us �49.75.Suitability for entertainment A place where the entire family would feel comfortable. I bet it was lively on Mothers’ Day.

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