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Amba Reviewed

Jill Burdett finds things hearty in Hale

Published on July 19th 2012.


Amba Reviewed

IS there no escaping Confidential writer Gordo?

We also managed a portion each of cherry Bakewell and treacle tart. Both tasted as good as they look and they looked fabulous. 

I’d headed to Hale for a midweek supper and bumped into a friend of a friend who was an old mucker of 'The Fat One' in a past life.

“Me, him and Sharrock used to spend all our time in Goblets in Manchester. It was where all the movers and shakers went to get pissed,” he recalled, getting giddy at the memory of the early 80s. “We thought we were something. Not seen him in a while though.”

“You could follow him on Twitter.”

“Tried that. But his language is just f****** appalling,” he said with the duplicitous morality that comes with being the father of a young daughter.

We were in Amba on Hale’s main street, him for a tea with the family, me to try out a restaurant that for a decade has held its own against the onslaught of mass market chains and starry competition from Simon Rimmer.

Amba street viewAmba street view

It is part of the mini empire of Ryland and Judith Wakeham and David Edmundson who cut their teeth at The White House in Prestbury, added Amba in 2002 and opened Napa in Bramhall in 2008.

It occupies the building that was once Hale Wine Bar (Gordo probably went there too) and you walk in off the well heeled high street straight into the bar area which feels quite clubby with its dark wood and well padded booths.

The back opens out into a much lighter, brighter space, more booths down one side, simple tables in the rest of the room and hanging over it all from the white panelled roof, two enormous, pendulous lights. (I have included a PR shot so you can see them for yourself.)

Official shotOfficial shot

The kitchen is downstairs, which also offers a second dining room popular for private parties and the like. When I was in a group of 30 odd bright young things were down there.

Upstairs it was busy too. Mainly couples and one large group. But no WAGS or fake tan. Nothing too Cheshire, nothing too bling just a good relaxed atmosphere.

And they serve up the sort of food you want to eat every day if you had the time to source the ingredients and the ability to do imaginative things with them.

Round here it seems that most people don’t and those fancy kitchens where whole walls can be dedicated to ovens remain unsullied as their owners prefer to come here for their tea.

“This place is the equivalent of Hale’s cafe,” said Gordo’s old mate. “A posh one maybe but a lot of people come a couple of times a week because the food is so great.”

To this end they offer up a seasonal set dinner 6-10pm Sunday to Friday and for an hour, 6-7pm on Saturday night. Two courses £15.50, three courses £18.50.  So for under £40 you can have supper and a glass of wine each and not have to argue about the washing up.

The menu changes to follow what’s seasonal and they buy locally if they can, supporting small suppliers and producers but source the best from across the UK.

We started out with two starters from the seasonal menu, pan friend fillet of Cornish mackerel with southern spices and the homemade “soup of the moment” which in that moment was asparagus.

There was a spike of alarm when the mackerel arrived as its skin looked like it had spent too long on the griddle but a quick flip revealed succulent flesh with some mild spicing going on to cut the oil. It sat on a bed of finely shredded Amba coleslaw with some apple compote on the side which all combined to make perfect forkfuls.

MackerelMackerel

The soup was vivid green, lush and deep, an English spring right there in a bowl with some good homemade bread on the side.  You felt your iron levels rising just looking at it and the smallish size of the portion was forgivable given that asparagus prices had reached an all-time high.

The kitchen also knew the size of the mains that were coming next.

Because this is another thing with all good cafes, they serve food that will sate a healthy appetite not leave you already longing for breakfast.

First up was pan fried duck. Three thick slices, nicely pink, sat on top of a mound of vanilla and lime mash, some hearty roasted parsnips under there as well, enveloped in a deep port jus. The duck was melting but the mash was inspired. I think it was the vanilla that set them apart, or maybe the lime, not sure. But it worked a treat.

DuckDuck

On the other plate sat a 250g rump of lamb. There were some vegetables as well, grilled and sticky and some delicious gravy/jus but the lamb was the thing..

Puddings are also conjured up in the kitchens below not in the kitchens of an industrial estate.

Lord knows how but we also managed a portion each of cherry Bakewell and treacle tart. Both tasted as good as they look and they looked fabulous. The Bakewell light and almondy and the tart with enough lemon to stop it cloying.

Washing down all this pink meat was a deep and plumby Ned Pinot Noir. Chosen ahead of a tempting Rioja it held its own against the mix of flavours on the plates and came in at £24.50.

LambLamb

Don’t ask me about what beers they serve or the rest of the wine list because what with the wine and the general congeniality of the place, the catch up turned to gossip and grand plans and I forgot to take notes and/or nick the menu. Sorry Jonathan.

BakewellBakewell

I do know they serve a very fine Taylors port though.

The service was great. Smiley and efficient. Everyone else seemed happy enough too.

I just looked on-line at the current menu and the duck is now being served with spiced plums, parsnip puree and parmentier potatoes.  There is also a whole West Country lemon sole being offered up simply with shrimp butter and sugar snap peas. And a £12.50 burger

I want to eat it all. 

You can follow Jill Burdett on Twitter here @JillBurdett

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. 

AMBA, 106 Ashley Road, Hale, Greater Manchester. WA14 2UN Web

Rating: 15.5/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below)

Food: 7.5/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Hero
GordoJuly 19th 2012.

welcome to food writing Mrs Burdett, good piece. Cornish Mackerel and southern spices? Not that local then ;-)

1 Response: Reply To This...
James SmithJuly 20th 2012.

Gordo. Surely displaying your photo so blatantly on this site renders all your future reviews void?

pollolocoJuly 19th 2012.

"pan fried".....what the **** else is it gonna be fried in?!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
SmittyJuly 19th 2012.

a griddle? a wok?

James SmithJuly 19th 2012.

Deep fried?

AnonymousJuly 19th 2012.

well the wine was plumby - presumably like the thing you use when hanging wallpaper. Not to mention that this is kind of place you come when you dont want to source your own food at home? pretty sure most people buy theirs...

GordoJuly 19th 2012.

you in a bad mood pollo?

1 Response: Reply To This...
pollolocoJuly 19th 2012.

this weather is getting me down :(...just been to Red N Hot to cheer me up...brilliant...the cold pigs tripe starter is truly a thing of beauty.

Hero
RevaulxJuly 19th 2012.

"Pan fried" is indeed annoying, but I would be inclined to let it go if the food tastes as good as it looks here

AnonymousJuly 19th 2012.

they do nice cocktails here as well (there's a happy hour sunday to Friday - 2 for 1. The Porn Star is ace !!!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 21st 2012.

I am no licensing expert but i think 2 for 1 promotion’s are not now allowed.

Kris CullineyJuly 19th 2012.

Have not been back to Amba since about 2009 when they crucified my rump of lamb, after me asking for it to be cooked medium rare. Why is that chefs have this tendency not being able to cook meat such as this properly?
However I will now give it a try as i did the Lime tree recently. Time is a healer. ( By the way the beef at the LT was amazing !)

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