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Food - The Worsley Park

Simon Binns gets a warm glow from a reinvented Marriott

Written by . Published on November 22nd 2010.


Food - The Worsley Park

A friend of mine used to look after public relations for any away teams that played England in football friendlies. When Jamaica played at Old Trafford in 2006, it almost reduced him to throwing the towel in.

Chef had also insisted we try the Worsley sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream – and who am I to argue such things? It was a dessert he was right to be proud of actually. Moist, not too rich or heavy and full of warming toffee flavour. Spanking.

It’s hard to control 25 Jamaicans, apparently, especially when they’d rather be wandering off shopping when they are due to do live radio interviews and so forth. Slightly more challenging for said friend was when striker Marlon King rolled back into the hotel at 6am on the day of the game with a bottle of champagne and some girls he’d brought back from a nightclub.

The Jamaican manager was understandably not happy. King told him the team needed him more than the other way around. He was booted out, in view of a bar containing, among others, a Guardian journalist. The rest is history.

The hotel was the Worsley Marriott. The morning of the game – England won 6-0, if I remember rightly – was the last time I’d been there.

So despite being relatively local, it’s been a while since I set foot in Worsley Park, as it’s now known, following an expensive refurb a couple of years back.

I like hotels that make you drive half a mile up a path to the front door and for a big place, it has a country club feel to it. It’s a popular spot for golfers, and visiting away teams to Old Trafford.

Inside, the Chimney Bar is warm and comfortable and a pleasing place for a pre-dinner drink and the dining room was busy on the Tuesday night I called in for dinner. A conference was in town, which boosted the midweek atmosphere.

It was wazzing down outside, to use the Salford parlance, and I fancied something simple, rustic and homely. Alongside the a la carte, the restaurant is also running a provenance to plate menu - £29 for three courses and packed full of hearty-sounding stuff such as stews, pies, casseroles and soups.

I started with a pressed venison terrine with a spiced pear chutney, full of rich, deep flavours and not a bad friend to the bottle of Faustino Rioja I was washing it down with.

My date for the evening, the lovely Jane Carroll from Peppermint PR, had the smoked Leven’s duck, roast fig and endive salad. Tender, pink and deliciously delicate. The duck, not Jane.

Actually, I had another date; Peppermint new starter Mark Hayward, who’s just come back from a two and a half year honeymoon, which is just showing off if you ask me. His venison also met with approval. A happy table.

Jane decided to mirror my choice of main course - game stew, squash puree, crispy potatoes, red wine jus – or gravy, as I believe it’s called in Salford. Before I’d even seen the meat I was happy that the four thinly-sliced bits of potato atop it had been browned and crisped up to exactly the right amount, and looked at home next to a vibrant-looking squash.

Done well, a stew like this has the taste of roaring log fires, thick-knit wool jumpers and a comfy chair. It delivered. Speaking to head chef Sean Kelly later that evening, he said he was a bit disappointed none of us had gone from the a la carte, so he could show off a bit (I’m paraphrasing).

But fine dining can easily come a long-way second to more rustic food on a cold, wet night. You can pack as much flavour and more into a simple stew than any manner of more ‘showy’ dishes.

I could have gone through three portions of that main course. Mark was more than happy with the hunk of Lancashire lamb shoulder that was sitting on the shoulders of thyme potatoes and mashed carrot and swede.

Desert was why we were here though, in truth. Worsley Park has a cheeseboard that made it through to the final of the British Cheese Awards 2010, finishing second to the Dorchester.

Worsley Park’s cheeseboard consists of locally-produced North West cheeses, including Butler’s Blacksticks Blue, Mrs Kirkham’s Goosnargh and Kidderton Ash Goats. A fine selection and so well balanced it was tempting to disregard the crackers altogether. I had a grape, however, for health.

Chef had also insisted we try the Worsley sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream – and who am I to argue such things? It was a dessert he was right to be proud of actually. Moist, not too rich or heavy and full of warming toffee flavour. Spanking.

We’ll be back to review the a la carte before the end of the year, and as I was invited along by Worsley Park, there’s no score for this review. It’s well worth a try though. The management has created a easy-going bar and a dining room in what could easily be a large and unfriendly space.

If they keep it up, I won’t be leaving it so long before I’m back again.

Unlike Marlon King.

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EvoNovember 18th 2010.

ahem...Marriott..

AnonymousNovember 22nd 2010.

Is the lighting really dim as the pictures are all shades of dull brown?

Simon Binns - news editorNovember 22nd 2010.

It was a bit. Mood lighting I think they call it. No good for a terrible photographer like me sadly.

HGDecember 2nd 2010.

I've lived not far from here for nearly 10 years, but never once considered it as a restaurant venue (based on normal hotel restaurant experiences!)! This may just change my mind...

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