Restaurant review - The Lime Tree, Bollington


Just about everybody loves The Lime Tree. Cheshire fans of the much-awarded Didsbury restaurant can rejoice: at last, they have opened one in our county, in Bollington. REVIEW BY RAY KING PHOTOGRAPHY BY FIONA BAILEY

The Lime Tree and I go back a long way. The original restaurant opened in the then relatively unfashionable south Manchester neighbourhood of West Didsbury in 1986 – the same year that I began reviewing – and proved an instant hit. Owner-chef Patrick Hannity was in the vanguard of the revival of British cooking - let’s forget the ‘modern’ prefix – that championed the use of excellent local ingredients in exciting and innovative ways.

At the time, 26 years ago, the most popular eating places in the area were Chinese and Italian, so in culinary terms, Hannity’s venture was a cultural revolution, though carried off in a relaxed, unstuffy – even slightly Bohemian - fashion. And here we are, more than a quarter of a century later, with the Lime Tree recently named best restaurant in Manchester and fourth in the entire north west in the Sunday Times’ Food list. That’s consistency par excellence.

It was speculated that a version of the Lime Tree would one day open in Manchester city centre. It never did. But a sister restaurant has at last opened its doors...’in the quirky, post-industrial Cheshire village of Bollington, whose gentrification mirrors that of West Didsbury.

The new Lime Tree Restaurant and Wine Bar is the immediate next-door neighbour to Oliver @ Bollington Green which won high praise from me in these pages a few mo nths ago. The locals are indeed fortunate to be so well victualled.

Surprisingly spacious once inside, the Lime Tree has over 100 covers divided into three areas: wine bar, conservatory and restaurant; the first offering a menu of small plates, while the a la carte menu is served in the restaurant and conservatory at the rear, where there’s also a garden terrace with views of the local landmark, White Nancy.

Upstairs is a private function room for parties and events. The ‘decor’ is architectural Spartan: all bare stone walls, flagged stone floors and exposed beams save for a few large vases of lilies and some contemporary artwork. Finishing touches need to provide softer textures and some focal points.

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But most Hannity fans – Patrick’s son Sam is a member of the Bollington team - will focus on the menu: head chef Ricky Bell’s celebration of local produce, much from The Lime Tree’s own farm at Macclesfield Forest, producing dishes delivering robust flavours. Indeed exceptional flavours were plentiful in both my starter, breast of wood pigeon with Bury black pudding and pork belly (£8) and main course of oxtail braised in Rioja with chorizo (£13).

The pigeon was served deep rose pink, deliciously dense and gamey, with excellent black pudding with just enough white pepper, a sliver of crispy pork belly, compote of cubed apple and rich jus; a very well thought-out and executed opener. The oxtail came melting off the bone in a rich red wine and tomato jus spiked with the garlic and paprika of the chorizo and a serving of patatas bravas.

Mrs K began with a generous mound of white Whitby crab with a delightful tomatoey Bloody Mary vinaigrette enlivened by a subtle dash of tabasco (£7), all artistically but not pompously arranged on the plate. For the main course she chose melt-in-the-mouth fillet of beef (£20), exactly medium rare as requested, served on potato rosti with nuggets of the tenderest slow-cooked beef cheek in a rich bourguignon gravy. We shared a side of just-so deep-fried courgette fritters with Parmesan and basil oil (£3); prices throughout were attactive.

Somehow we found room to share a dessert and were rewarded with a perfectly executed warm velvet chocolate torte – all runny on the inside – with pistachio ice cream (£5).

All 24 red, white and rosé wines on an exceptionally well-chosen list, plus a sparkler and house champagne, are available by the glass – highly commendable – and include some moderately-priced gems. We had glasses of fresh Chilean sauvignon blanc with the starters (175ml - £3.50) and I enjoyed a powerful, black fruit ‘n’ spice Australian shiraz with that oxtail (250ml - £6).

This new Cheshire restaurant really is one to watch.

The Lime Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar,18-20 High Street, Bollington,Cheshire SK10 5PH.Tel: 01625

cheshire Life’s restaurant reviews are conducted ‘incognito’. We book and pay for meals as ordinary diners do, so as to experience the same treatment as any member of the public. If we are ever guests of a hotel or restaurant, the review will mention that.

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