Restaurant reviews - Aiden Byrne British Grill, Ledsham and Chetwode Arms, Lower Whitley

Lymm-based chef Aiden Byrne has been one to watch for some time. Now he's also in charge of the kitchen at a Wirral hotel. Our reviewer went to investigate <br/>REVIEW BY RAY KING PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATTHEW OLLERHEAD

Highly praised by the respected critic Jay Rayner and the celebrated chef Marcus Wareing as one of the best up-and-coming chefs in the country, Aiden Byrne is making his mark among Cheshire’s finest. Three AA Rosettes have rewarded his work at the Church Green, Lymm, and a further two have now been awarded to Aiden’s British Grill at Macdonald’s Craxton Wood Hotel in the Wirral. But having greatly admired the former, we set off for the latter recently with a fair degree of curiosity.

Here’s the thing: the Church Green, a gastropub, sports a menu that showcases Aiden’s culinary skills with dishes of considerable complexity.

On it you will find, for example, the likes of rosewater pickled baby squid paired with pork belly; a partnership of red mullet and smoked oxtail; mallard with sarladaise potato and choucroute; truffled goats’ cheese with cauliflower emulsion and so on. Yet at the hotel the menu looks a much simpler affair: grills and ‘homely classics’ – his description - like cottage pie, sausage and mash and fish and chips. A pub menu more sophisticated than that of a hotel restaurant? What on earth is he playing at?

We visited the British Grill at lunchtime: it was quiet but that suited us fine. The dining room offers a neat balance between the traditional and contemporary with impeccably set (knives by Porsche!) unclothed polished wood tables and chairs upholstered in blues and beige tones amid stylish and tasteful uncluttered decor. Our table was in a light, airy conservatory overlooking a tree-enclosed garden with late autumn sunshine streaming in. We had already looked at the menu on the web, but once again its apparent retro simplicity was striking.

I began with Brancaster crab linguini, spiked with chilli, perfumed with coriander and garnished with bok choy that lent south east Asian nuances to an Italian classic (�7.50).

Apart from the duck spring rolls it was probably the most un-British dish on the British Grill’s menu, though modern British cooking these days claims for its own a modicum of the Med and a touch of Thai. Verdict: appetising - the rich, sweet crab flavour nicely lifted by the chilli – though overall the dish was pretty much as simple as its description.

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Mrs K’s brown shrimp and crayfish cocktail, served with shrimp toast and shrimp mayonnaise (�8.50) was an altogether more playful concoction, artistically arranged on a slate and evoking taste memories of the 1970s.

So far so-so; it was the mains that proved the jokers in the pack.I had rack of texel lamb (�19), cooked like all the British Grill main courses on charcoal josper grill, basically the hottest available indoor barbecue.

The secret is that its front door, when closed, ensures that none of the natural moisture or flavour escapes and the taste was exceptional.

The rack was carved into three generous, pink and tender cutlets, each resting on sweet crushed peas and served with – and here’s the twist – a delightful mini shepherds pie contained in a flip-top jar. A gimmick for sure, but an amusing one and Mrs K’s Asian-style duck breast (�21) went one – actually two - better.

The duck, again cooked on the josper, was quite delicious and arrived on a special wooden platter incorporating a monogrammed slate with no less than three jars containing bok choy, a delicious ‘Asian slaw’ and rich oriental sauce dressing. Not so simple after all, then.

My pudding followed in a similarly witty vein – rice pudding mousse on an immaculately layered combination of raspberry jelly and lemon (�6.50), while Mrs K loved her triple chocolate mousse – served in yet another jar – accompanied by a slice of yummy gingerbread topped with roasted figs (�7.00).

We shared a bottle of Valle Dorada 2010 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for �21 – there’s very little below that price – and I enjoyed a 175 ml glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from the same bodega for �5.45.

Aiden Byrne British Grill, Macdonald Hotel, Craxton Wood, Parkgate Road, Ledsham, CH66 9PB. Tel 0844 879 9038

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 Chetwode ArmsStreet Lane, Lower Whitley,Warrington, WA4 4EN.Tel: 01925

Style of venueAn old fashioned and intriguing Cheshire brick pub with a good wine, beer and food offering. This 400-year-old roadside inn is a rabbit warren of passageways, small rooms, old beams and is popular with hungry walkers and cyclists.

On the menuWe dined on a Sunday lunchtime and the ‘three courses for �9.95’ (excluding VAT) was excellent value. We started with gulasch soup, no doubt a speciality of the Chetwode’s Hungarian chef: meaty, flavoursome, filling and unusual - more like a stew than a soup.

For mains, choose from roast of the day or rump steak and chips, fillet of stroganoff, goats’ cheese tart or game pie or lamb and leek pie. I recommend the latter - great shortcrust pastry and packed with lamb and leek.

You can spend more and carnivores will relish the range of steaks - from �12.50 to �26.50 - all served on heated granite stones. There’s also lobster and steak surf and turf (�35.50). As for drinks, the pub has guest ales and a wine list favouring good vineyards in South Africa.

DecorQuaint with low ceilings, exposed brick and open fires.

AmbienceCosy, relaxed and charmingly old-fashioned.

ServiceFriendly but relaxed.

CostAs we opted for the ‘three courses for �9.95’ deal we spent less than �43 to dine heartily and enjoy a couple of drinks and several coffees.

Louise Allen-Taylor

The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 

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