Restaurant review - The Coast, Tarporley
- Credit: not Archant
The Coast restaurant on Tarporley high street is some distance from the beach, but the super food served here is evocative of the Italian seaside, writes reviewer Ray King
I know of two good restaurants in Tarporley’s delightful high street; one is called Piste, the other The Coast. During my visits to this picturesque village, I have seen neither snow-capped mountain nor swelling ocean, though I suspect many locals see plenty of both when they go on holiday.
Piste, I discovered at a Cheshire Life luncheon last year, has decor reminiscent of an Alpine ski lodge. The interior of The Coast is a very stylish representation of what must be one of the smartest beach cafés on the planet, just right for a menu featuring a range of top-notch fish and seafood dishes.
The other obvious clue as to where The Coast is coming from is the iconic Lambretta scooter parked in the foyer...no, not Quadrophenia; think Italy’s Dolce Vita. The combination of authentic Italian cooking and the sea’s finest bounty has always been my favourite of mine and, anchored in The Coast’s open theatre kitchen is an executive chef who not only has one of the most accomplished track records in Cheshire and beyond, but who has known this style of cucina since he grew up in Puglia, Italy’s ‘heel’.
I’ve been an admirer of John Thompson since he had the peerless 39 Steps in the centre of Manchester in the 1980s; fish was a speciality then too, handled with a skill honed while cooking with his grandmother the catch brought home by his uncle straight from the fishing boats. Later he was a key player in the launch of the San Carlo group’s successful Cicchetti restaurants that have also found huge popularity in London.
Beyond The Coast’s chic cocktail bar, the dining room is light and airy with a mixture of free-standing tables and mirrored booths; decor comprises textured surfaces of whitewashed brick and weathered boards evocative of the seaside, with attractive contemporary artwork and sculptural arrangements of driftwood.
Of course the menu is by no means restricted to fish - there are meat, chicken, pasta, pizza and vegetarian choices too, but I found the starter portion of Linguini Granchio (£8.40) irresistible. A generous bowl of perfectly cooked fine pasta came generously studded with jewels of beautifully flavoured white crab meat, finished with a glug of white wine and a silky cream chilli sauce imparting a lovely subtle warmth on the tongue. It takes genuine skill to produce a dish so apparently simple as this. Mrs K, resolved to save her fishy fantasia for the main course, opened with Funghi Misti (£5.25), an alluring and nicely presented dish of deliciously gamey wild mushrooms with garlic, white wine and chilli, tossed with rocket and Parmesan flakes.
Her main was rightly described by restaurant owner Blair Glen as The Coast’s signature dish - for that read John Thompson’s signature dish - Adriatic Brodetto (£16.90; also available as a starter for £8.45). It was a fantastic collation, combining fresh and soft chunks of cod and monkfish with king prawns, mussels, clams, baby squid and scallop (complete with coral) in a rich tomato chilli broth with a saffron rouille and toasted garlic ciabatta for dunking standing like a guard of honour round the rim of the deep, white bowl. One could almost have been on the coast of the southern Adriatic.
I had Fegato Ala Salvia (£16.45), expertly flash-fried calf’s liver, tantalisingly flavoursome with its fresh sage butter; two large thin slices draped artistically over velvety smooth mashed potato. One shared side dish of zucchini fritti (£4.15) was accompaniment enough. Indeed the generosity of the portion sizes meant that we couldn’t be tempted by the dessert menu -not even by potential delights like lemon tart with lemon cream or pistachio and raspberry roulade. We simply settled back to enjoy the atmosphere and what was left of the fresh and fruity unoaked Australian chardonnay from a sensible list, albeit not particularly representative of Italian choices, especially the exciting wines of Puglia and Sicily.
The Coast, 67 High Street, Tarporley, Cheshire CW6 0DP. Tel: 01829 730785. www.thecoast.uk.com
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