Restaurant review - The Vicarage Freehouse and Rooms, Cranage

Dessert at The Vicarage, Cranage © Jake Eastham

Dessert at The Vicarage, Cranage © Jake Eastham - Credit: Archant

Tea at the Vicarage? Louise Allen-Taylor dines at an old favourite of an eatery in Cranage which is enjoying a new lease of life

The Vicarage, Cranage © Jake Eastham

The Vicarage, Cranage © Jake Eastham - Credit: not Archant

It’s tempting to think of weary 17th century travellers stepping down from a stage coach to enjoy a glass of ale and a warm-up by the log fire at The Vicarage in Cranage.

Today, the weary travellers more likely arrive by company car, wooed by its proximity to the M6 and the hotel’s promise to cater to all corporate needs.

But whether you are an exec in transit or a local family out for Sunday lunch, you will find an appealingly historical welcome at what is now The Vicarage Freehouse and Rooms: exposed beams decorated with strange heraldic symbols, a huge open fireplace full of cut logs, lots of dark wood and - you’ll notice it when you head for the loos - a curious little folly of a window in the floor affording a view of the wine cellar.

In summer 2015 the Vicarage became the first in what is destined to be a string of ventures in Cheshire from new brand Flat Cap Hotels, the next project being The Courthouse in the Sessions House in Toft Road, Knutsford.

The conservatory extension at The Vicarage, Cranage © Jake Eastham

The conservatory extension at The Vicarage, Cranage © Jake Eastham - Credit: Archant

The Vicarage is a boutique hotel with individually-designed rooms and a menu - from executive chef Steve Tuke, ex of The Grosvenor and Oddfellows in Chester - which makes a virtue of local sourcing.

We ate at The Vicarage just before Flat Cap Hotels took it on, and if there have been alterations to the bar and dining room, they must have been subtle. Quite right. You wouldn’t want to tinker too much with a space of such historic character.

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And so to the food. My smoked mackerel pâté starter (£7.95) was boldly flavoured, creamy and firm of texture - a generous serving of two quenelles with a lemon and herb mayonnaise, half a soft-boiled egg and some crisp toasted ciabatta. My companion’s chicken liver parfait (£6.95) was a luscious plateful given some edge with a red onion jam and red wine syrup.

His sea bass main course (£16.95) was another exercise in big flavours and big portions: two large pieces of pan-fried fish atop a shellfish bisque risotto - lip-smackingly fishy and tomatoey - and a few clams and mussels for good measure.

My lamb rump (£15.95) arrived as three good-sized hunks of superb meat with roasted carrots, potatoes and a mint and red wine jus.

My dessert of pear poached in mulled wine (£5.95) was indeed a very boozy bit of fruit, made yet more Christmassy with frangipane and cinnamon mascarpone.

Superior pub grub, then, in a pleasingly cosy, atmospheric pub which is also a boutique hotel.

The Vicarage Freehouse and Rooms, Knutsford Road, Cranage, Holmes Chapel, CW4 8EF, 01477 533393,