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Fat Loaf, Ashton-on-Mersey

Cat Johnson reviews the original shortly before the Didsbury Fat Loaf opens

Published on November 13th 2008.

Fat Loaf, Ashton-on-Mersey

Neighbourhood restaurateurs: friend or foe? This was the question swirling round my head as I visited the Fat Loaf in Ashton-on-Mersey.

On the one hand I mused, there can be a comforting familiarity. I call it Cheers syndrome. You know, the place where everybody knows your name? Or in the case of a local restaurateur, perhaps they just remember how you like your steak done. Then on the other hand, familiarity can breed contempt.

I was still scarred by the memory of my visit to Milan in Worsley reviewed on these pages. A risibly uninspiring menu, coupled with lazy presentation and a tiramisu that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a freezer at Farmfoods, that resulted in a lame imitation of what a proper neighbourhood restaurant should be.

But I wasn’t about to let one duff experience put me off. So keeping fresh in my mind Fat Loaf’s claim of: ‘We take great lengths in making sure that all the ingredients we use are locally sourced and of the freshest and very best quality‘, I entered cautiously optimistic.

And first impressions were good, It’s an immaculate space decorated in a contemporary style, with grey slate flooring and a muted palette on the walls. These are adorned with some rather good photography that you may purchase if you so wish. I refrained, as I didn’t think my expenses would quite stretch to it.

An amiable waiter offered us menus and I wasn’t disappointed.

Starters offered a variety of seasonal options and true to its claim there’s a distinct regional slant. My companion’s choice of black pudding, golden, candied beetroot and crispy pancetta (£5.50) was tremendous. The black pudding was moist and packed with flavour owing to the visible chunks of fat and perfect ratio of cereal.

My wild, sautéed Smithy mushrooms on toast, with soft egg and chat moss herbs (£5.95) also impressed. The dish owed a lot to the creamy sauce which had been reduced with mushroom stock and port the half egg perched jauntily on top. I had a very similar dish at the second floor in Harvey Nichols recently and this equalled it in terms of quality and taste, but thankfully not price.

The choice of mains is good with around eight choices. Regional reigns supreme. My friend had marinated pork chop with roasted rosemary new potatoes, Bramley apple sauce and red cabbage (£13.50). It was exceptional: a whopper of a chop and very juicy. The cabbage was rich in colour adding to the aesthetics and was permeated with the warm, spicy flavour of star anise; a worthy accompaniment to this autumnal comfort food.

My roast stuffed quail, spiced pear, pearl barley and meat gravy (£13.50) was also terrific. The quail was prepared with pistachios, to give texture, plus a hint of flat leaf parsley (surely the most underrated herb in the window box) which emanated a perfumed sweetness. The pear with a hint of cinnamon added spice but gave the dish balance. The pearl barley was soaked in a delicious meat reduction, which meant a lot of distinct flavours vying for attention on one plate, but it worked.

We skipped deserts having been sidetracked by the fabulous looking cheese menu. For just (£9.95) you get a selection of five regional and five French. And here’s where I veer toward unpatriotic. It’s not that the English cheese was bad, in fact the Delamere Golden Brie’s sweet creamy flavour was luscious. But the French offerings were superb with the piece de resistance being an absolutely corking Livarot. Distinguishable by its stripy rind, ‘The Colonel’ (as it’s dubbed) did not disappoint. Not for the faint hearted, this is about as pungent a cheese as you will find, that matches a cheeky tot of Calvados. Sadly the Fat Loaf didn’t have any, so I settled for tawny port, whose sweetness did an admirable job of standing toe to toe with this artisan delight.

This place is well worth a visit. It’s the parent of a small chain, with Altrincham already established and Didsbury about to open: potentially, a thoughtful and interesting trinity.

But what really impressed me, is that this company doesn’t pay lip service to regional sourcing. With black pudding from Bury, herbs from Eccles and mushrooms from Ormskirk (to name but a few) they actually deliver on their promise.

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

mark mNovember 13th 2008.

lol. most certainly not.

mark mNovember 13th 2008.

The Altrincham one is very good. George Bergier is there at weekends for the wine. Tim and Paul are great operators, and when they open on the old Steak and Kebab site in Didsbury they should do very well indeed. Good luck boys.

AnonymousNovember 13th 2008.

We have had several fantastic meals at Fat Loaf and we also had our wedding breakfast at the Altrincham restaurant. It never fails to please, if you haven't been then give it a go. To the owners: best of luck with the Didsbury restaurant!

mark mNovember 13th 2008.

they do an early bird or lunch thing for 13quid as i rememeber. well worth it.

SteveNovember 13th 2008.

Michael, heating a bit of sauce in a microwave isn't really a cardinal offence.

rosieNovember 13th 2008.

fat loaf is not associated with a "chain" as such,but is an independent local business which is expanding.the lads can do this as they have built a great reputation on serving fabulous,well sourced food in a great atmosphere.one of the owners is pretty much always on site at their alty branch (i walk past there salivating at least once a day) and they are genuinely nice guys who care about their product and work their arses off. they deserve every success.anonymous above obviously got out of bed the wrong side this morning as there's just no way any reasonable person could moan about what they're doing

SausagesNovember 13th 2008.

The Alty one recently served me the best kidneys I have ever eaten thank you very much. Yummety yum!

scoteeeNovember 13th 2008.

I am booking a slot next week just because of your review...!looks lovelyMs G they won't let you in with your fingerless gloves and DR Martins...

Sale SimonNovember 13th 2008.

As last, you review our little gem! Took you long enough. Had a great night there last Friday, never fails - Cheers Matt!

Ali McGowanNovember 13th 2008.

I am full just reading this review. Can't wait to visit :)

johno@spicemcr.comNovember 13th 2008.

We use the Altrincham one every six weeks and have not had a bad meal yet cant wait for didsbury to open already have it penciled in for January

MichaelNovember 13th 2008.

I have not been to The Fat Loaf for at least 6 months - I have only visited the restaurant in Ashton Village twice and was really dissappointed with the service and food.My main course arrived before my drinks and the service was pretty poor despite it being relatively quiet. The sauce to accompany the main course was microwaved - certainly not the standard I expected with the prices being charged.Everyone deserves a second chance - so fingers crossed it has improved.

Viva Chris RonaldNovember 13th 2008.

surely john the brief knows her....? but yes, she loves an opinion!

Viva Chris RonaldNovember 13th 2008.

have you ever met the one and only miss grace? is she a looker?

puddleNovember 13th 2008.

I work next door to the Alty branch and am constantly tantalised by the delicious smells emanating from the kitchens!! The staff are all fantastically friendly yet professional, the menu is varied but not overwhelmingly fussy and the quality of the food is always absolutely superb, whether it be a lunch time snack or an evening meal. Well done Tim and Paul, good luck with Didsbury!

mark mNovember 13th 2008.

not sure. definately gobby though...

mark mNovember 13th 2008.

not sure she visits the provinces much

MichaelNovember 13th 2008.

I'm not one to harp on, but I knew the food was microwaved because I watched the chef pull it out of the microwave then pour it over my food.

emma graceNovember 13th 2008.

I shall...I take it they don't charge for tap water???

LeesaNovember 13th 2008.

Glad to hear the Fat Loaf did not fail, the service, quality and atmosphere always make it worth a visit either mid week to enjoy the special offers or weekend for a treat - good luck for Didsbury (not that you'll need it....)

Andy SNovember 13th 2008.

fat Loaf is a great little restaurant. The menu isnt extensive but what is on there is seasonal, regionl and always done well. I believe there is a £10 per couple voucher on onionring.co.uk

AnonymousNovember 13th 2008.

I love The Fat Loaf, good honest food! I'd eat there lots more if we could see some offers.

Timperley GluttonNovember 13th 2008.

The problem with a good review like this one is that smug regulars like me start sulking because everyone gets in on the secret. I've been to the Alty restaurant once every 3 weeks or so since it opened and have not eaten an average dish yet. The lads deserve every success!

dalai lamaNovember 13th 2008.

Good point Rosie, well made. Now over to anonymous(or Mr Myopic as I’ve named him) let’s divide and conquer here. Yes they market themselves with the focus on local sourcing, but as Ms Johnson points out they put their money where their mouth is. So let's indulge them a bit shall we? Secondly, what’s wrong with a bit of ambition? They’ve made a great success of their venture thus far and as long as they don’t dilute their brand too much and stick with the same business model and passion that they’ve already demonstrated it doesn’t matter whether they open 3 or 30 branches. Why don’t you stop being sniffy and put your hands together for a small business trying to do something a bit special in quite grim financial times.

christineNovember 13th 2008.

oh dear, now you will all be going! this is my favourite restaurant ever! beats all those in the city centre hands down.the service and food are always impeccable. well done lads...and they dont get the mop bucket out at ten pm unlike piccolinos in didsbury and the olive press in manchester which did on our last visit!

emma graceNovember 13th 2008.


hildaNovember 13th 2008.

Looking forward to it! Sorely needed as the Loch Fyne disapointed on many levels..here's hoping Yum

Viva Chris RonaldNovember 13th 2008.

Emma Grace, before you try why dont you get your hands on a Privilege Card, just got mine and its getting a hammering!

Viva Chris RonaldNovember 13th 2008.

i agree this place does a cracking £13 quid deal, well worth a look - lets see what emma grace thinks???

AnonymousNovember 13th 2008.

Johno, heres a tip for you! Give Cuba cafe a look on the fringe of the nortern quarter, their salsa lessons are the best!

mark mNovember 13th 2008.

well miss grace, jump on the tram and get to alti and try the fat loaf. i guarantee you will have a good meal. they do the odd wine/gourmet dinner too. well worth it. proper food with proper people

AnonymousNovember 13th 2008.

I have to say that the first thing that strikes me as a contradiction of the 'fat loaf' is that they bang on about locally sourced produce and how they offer something homegrown etc...since when has your local style restaurantuer associated itself with a chain/brand...sorry fat loaf but you need to take a reality check! or open one in the Trafford centre...!

SausagesNovember 13th 2008.

Hi Michael - just interested: how did you know your sauce had been microwaved?

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