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Bells Of Peover Reviewed

Gordo has a food epiphany in a beautiful pub with lovely food and weird decor

Written by . Published on February 27th 2012.


Bells Of Peover Reviewed

IN the eighties Manchester, and for that matter Liverpool, was poorly served with restaurants. There were no more than 15% of the numbers we have today, simply because no-one lived in the cities. Everyone got on the trains and in their cars to get back to the suburbs and beyond every night.

If you are looking for a great Sunday lunch, this is one. Only forty minutes from Manchester and fifty from Merseyside. 

The best restaurants were out in Cheshire, many of them having changed little from the fifties. Gordo had his first experience of the kitchens in these places, working as a kitchen porter in places like The White House and The Legh Arms in Prestbury. The food in the latter Robinson’s pub was appalling but it was picture-postcard. A really beautiful black and white building.

Scallops And Black PuddingScallops And Black Pudding

It was taken over by a fantastic restaurateur, Mr Polyanski, a Polish national who flew in the now famous Polish Hurricane Squadrons during the Battle of Britain, shot down twice, and had 11 kills to his credit.

Mr Polyanski transformed it into a restaurant as an event through the eighties and early nineties. Today it’s ordinary, a typical Robinson’s pub with food. Better than most, but still feels like an ugly sister dressed in Lanvin. All the brewery seems to care about here is selling beer.

Bells In SummerBells In SummerAnother absolutely beautiful Robinson’s pub is The Bells of Peover, five minutes outside Knutsford. A stunning place to drive out to for a few pints, particularly on a sunny day. You can sit with your beer on a tombstone in the adjoining cemetery, all overgrown and a bit Pre-Raphaelite.

The food has been appalling for three and a half decades. Truly appalling.

Recently though, Gordo noticed a few of his tweeters saying good things about the place. These can be relied on for an informed opinion, along with ones who can be relied on to both report well on the food and have a good fight at the end of the evening - Frosty the butcher, Nutter the chef and Jason the animal. Gordo decided that he needed to try.

The drive up to the pub is picturesque even on a cold bleak January day. Three miles south of Knutsford, cobbles, semi-frozen fountains, outbuildings where anarchists are hiding. A church materialises out of the gloom and then the Bells, sharing the cemetery that goes back hundreds of years.

Walking into the restaurant, which from the outside has changed little since Gordo was there ten years ago, the mood changes. Gone is the gloomy interior of tobacco smoke dirty creams and dark oak; a designer has been at work with mixed results, lightening the place up a little. Overall it’s good, more contemporary, along with some weirdness. This includes booths that look like they’ve been dragged out of a lap-dancing club.

Bit WeirdDecor's A Bit Weird

These, in one room, apart from being odd also show that someone without restaurant planning experience has been involved. Over-designed, they limit the space to twelve covers when floating tables would have allowed a further six in different configurations.

Table are supported by chunky pillars that get in the way of long legs. Just saying. Gordo isn’t accusing the designer of being a short-arse. Apart from that, it’s a great place and looks comfortable and definitely feels it. The chairs are all lush and hug you, encouraging that extra glass of port.

Service is on two layers. Some of the seniors are serious players, Gordo recognised Andre from the Chester Grosvenor, who is the general manager, along with a couple of other stalwarts. These are true pros.

The second level are juniors being trained up, who are a bit nervous as someone has clearly let the kitchen know that Gordo had arrived. If they knew any better, they would have been a good deal more nervous of Gordo’s companion, Kate Leech, ‘The Peach’, destroyer of men and far more critical than yours truly.

A couple of mistakes were outweighed by the charm of the girls on service. They made Gordo laugh and The Peach fell in love with them.

The place has managed to build on the atmosphere of a fifties pub-restaurant, weaving in layers of twenty-first century practicality which doesn’t spoil the experience. Meeting Harvey Bird and his lovely wife Janet and family of three generations in the place was delightful. Harvey’s dad was a professional gambler and gentlemen, one of the few of his kind to earn millions out of the bookies.

The menu is a looker, one of those which takes a while to read and longer to come to decisions about.

We were there on a Sunday Lunch (the roast beef is the main picture at the top of the page), which is great value via a limited but useful choice which comes in at two courses for £19.50 or three for £24.50. Given the starters are normally around £7 and mains £18, along with the lovely reality that they don’t cut down from the a la carte menu, leads Gordo to believe the guys are great marketeers. Are they good cooks though?

A dish arrived that Gordo had never had before, at least not like this. A freebie, it has to be said, of up market scratchings made from, amongst other things, duck skins, along with ‘dips’ of great skill, including a fantastic peanut butter. Loved it.

ScratchingsScratchings

Then, artichoke salad, crispy hen’s egg, Jerusalem artichoke puree, hazelnut dressing. This looked confident and very eatable. Restaurateurs aren’t in love with artichokes as they don’t sell well, but the ‘crispy hen’s egg’ was what did it for Gordo. It’s like very posh and sexy eggs and soldiers. Which, incidentally, are on a good looking kids menu. It’s very child friendly in here. The dish was faultless.

Posh Egg With Even Posher Artichoke SoldiersPosh Egg With Even Posher Artichoke Soldiers

The Peach had pan-fried scallops and black pudding. Gordo recognised the black pudding. It’s from Frosts in Chorlton where Gordo can only surmise the rest of the meat came from. Frosty, as everyone knows Lee Frost, is a great professional. The pudding is a Scottish one, ordinarily thrown in the bin by Gordo. Not enough fat and too much filler with an over-reliance on spices. But Frosty’s is moist perfection with a lingering back taste of apple. Nearer the Normandy style.

Another freebie arrived, a plate of charcuterie.

Gordo and his daughter, Georgina, used to set off from the Lancaster Hotel in Paris on their holidays when she was just eight; a hamper was delivered from arguably the best delicatessen in the world, Fauchon. This was the picnic for lunch on the way to their first dinner of the holiday, Bocuse, outside Lyon. The charcuterie was a highlight. The kitchen brigade in The Bells need to know one thing.

Their’s is better. Gordo was speechless.

CharcuterieCharcuterie

Roast Cheshire fore rib of beef, Yorkshire pudding, root vegetables, roast potatoes and gravy; only Aiden Byrne is better over at Lymm and he managed to purloin two Michelin stars at an old gaff, the Dorchester. And only because his spuds are superior.

Gordo’s suckling pig knocked him out. Freshly delivered from the well-regarded Pugh’s Piglets, it seemed to Gordo he had half the little feller laid across the plate, bits of shoulder, a couple of chops, half a leg and something that resembled a stuffed trotter, was brilliant; this was done in the English style, more for the succulence of the flesh than the crispness of skin, which might be a mistake and may not be.

Suckling PigSuckling Pig

It’s a matter of personal opinion. Gordo could only eat half, had it put in a doggy bag and turned it into a fantastic set of sandwiches for lunch the following Wednesday.

Puddings were light and airy, delivering everything you say no to after a huge meal of this calibre but then give in and have a go. When they arrive, the looks turn you right back on and the eating experience doesn’t disappoint. They are all around £6.

Take a look at the pictures. Also have a look at the lemon and orange scented Madeleine’s, delivered with the coffee, another freebie. Blimey. How good were they? Fresh out of the oven with thick whipped cream. 

MadeleinesMadeleines

The wine list is a bit middling, don’t bother with the Laurent Perrier Rose, it’s too expensive at £120. Gordo drank the Bollinger at £85. The wine list has a good spread of wines between £18 and £60. Steer away from the rest; they are for show-offs who don’t know what they are drinking. Particularly the Beychevelle 85 which was showing its age at a private dinner twelve months ago. At £215, someone is taking the mickey. Take the Amarone, Montresor, 2007 at £58 instead, lovely.

If you are looking for a great Sunday lunch, this is one. Only forty minutes from Manchester and fifty from Merseyside.

Thoroughly recommended (Currently for lunch, we will be scoring for dinner soon.)

Follow @GordoManchester on Twitter.

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

The Bells of Peover, Lower Peover (three miles south of Knutsford), WA16 9PZ. 01565 722269

Rating: 18/20
Food: 9/10
Service: 4.5/5
Ambience: 4.5/5

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

Hungry HossFebruary 27th 2012.

Looks and sounds amazing... added to my list.

pollolocoFebruary 27th 2012.

can we assume that the freebie's aren't available to us mere mortals?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoFebruary 27th 2012.

Pollo, not sure, but they were free, so I have declared them as such as I didnt want you going, not getting them and bursting into tears ;-)

pollolocoFebruary 28th 2012.

Didn't get so much as a freebie after eight last time I went!

FurFoxAcheFebruary 27th 2012.

I do wonder what the service rating would have been if they hadn't known who he was.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoFebruary 27th 2012.

now now Furfaceache...

FurFoxAcheFebruary 28th 2012.

I'm not questioning you, I'm questioning the service you received as someone who is influential in the region's food and drink community. What I'm saying is; the service you got was great, but would you get the same service if they hadn't have known you.

GordoFebruary 28th 2012.

Yes, is the answer, I watch and listen to the way they treat everyone as well as listening to three reports from trusted sources. If you go and get crap service, let me know, better, rant on here.

FurFoxAcheFebruary 28th 2012.

Fair point.

FurFoxAcheFebruary 28th 2012.

Fair point

Deanna ThomasFebruary 27th 2012.

Why do menus of a certain ilk insist on specifying 'hen's' egg? Surely that's the default egg unless told any different. In fact, aren't all eggs from hens of some type, unless they've found a way to extract them from male birds. Just sayin.

1 Response: Reply To This...
pollolocoFebruary 28th 2012.

I agree, gets on my pip too...as does "pan fried"!

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2012.

50 minutes from Liverpool??
way too close!

Kate YardyFebruary 28th 2012.

I can't help thinking that the review is not realistic given that the Bells obviously knew who you were and pulled out all of the stops. I think that you should sponsor a 'normal' couple to do an anonymous review. My OH's parents live very close to the Bells so it would be easy for us to drop in...

1 Response: Reply To This...
GordoFebruary 28th 2012.

Kate, I have yet to go to restaurant that suddenly becomes good because I arrive. It's normally the opposite, they do even worse. Nice try for the review;-)

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2012.

Food looks a cut above and then some, and I was seriously considering a visit until I saw they're charging £120 for a bottle of LP Rose. That suggests to me a certain greed on behalf of the owners; most high end places in London don't charge more then £95... this is a country pub in Cheshire. Wholesale price is around 30 quid.

Also, they clearly rolled out the red carpet for Gordo. I doubt very much the average punter would get the same treatment. I'll second Kate and suggest an anonymous review might prove more useful to your readers.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoFebruary 28th 2012.

Anon, see above.

pollolocoFebruary 28th 2012.

seems like the general concensus is that you got your arse well and truly kissed by the lovely people at the bells Gordo!

Hero
Paul BlackshawFebruary 28th 2012.

Haha never laughed so much since the fuzz caught me by the Cock at Henbury!!

Martin O'NeillFebruary 28th 2012.

Definitely think you eed some professional shots of the grub .. you've made it look like that plastic Japanese stuff ..yuck

1 Response: Reply To This...
GordoFebruary 28th 2012.

shutthefuckupyou, i thought they were quite good!

C of PrestwichFebruary 28th 2012.

Hens eggs as we in the know only eat duck eggs at home. The Khaki Campbell lays more a year than a hen, is easier to keep and better eggs. Thus hens eggs inferior.

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2012.

With regard to the comments about the preferential treatment provided to Gordo, might it be a good idea for a 'Disclosures' summary to be added to the reviews - much like those on http://www.thecriticalcouple.com? Just a thought

AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

Hmmmm. It states above that "ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE." Well, this review is scored and it wasn't all paid for was it - freebies galore by the sounds of it!

And did they run out of plates? The odd thing served on a board can work - but 5 out of 7 dishes including a sunday roast - that's just being silly!!

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