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Grenache, Walkden review

Jennifer Choi finds proof in the Grenache puddings, be they black or steamed treacle.

Published on January 18th 2010.

Grenache, Walkden review

Early evening on a wet weekday in January is about as dead a time as the restaurant trade sees. And dead was just what I expected as I gingerly inched my way up the ungritted slope from the train station towards Grenache in Walkden, passing a group of hoodies, a chippy, and a tanning salon along the way.

The pudding retained a surprising lightness; its sweetness was all depth and didn't cloy. My companion thought it so heavenly that it alone was worth the trip to Walkden. A scoop of clotted cream and a few fresh tart raspberries later and the plate was clean.

Off a poorly lit side road, Grenache's unremarkable facade and frosted windows gave little indication of what's within. This slightly drab picture was transformed by a buzzier world of smiling waitresses, a steady hum of lively conversation, a lounge soundtrack and a mocha-themed decor.

The room was already filled with regulars at 7pm and we were keen to find out what drew them in.

Grenache has an Early Decadence menu of 3 courses at £16.95, available all day during the week.

We were offered hot bread rolls as we ummed and ahhed over the menu - a nice touch made even nicer when it didn't cheekily find its way onto the bill. We had another pleasant surprise when our waitress vouched for the house red, a perfectly passable Vin de Pays from Coteaux de l'Ardeche modestly priced at £11.75. The rest of the wine list was an equally affordable new and old world selection, amongst them an interesting-looking Chianti and Rioja Reserva, with the most expensive bottle at a very reasonable £22.95.

We seemed to be on a roll with unexpected plus points, when an amuse of melon, parma ham and shrimp arrived. While not wildly imaginative, we were impressed at how well Grenache looked after its diners.

My starter of diver-caught scallops was fresh and well-presented, if a little under-seared, on a bed of flavoursome and creamy lentil dhal. A drizzle of creme fraiche and a few leaves did not contribute much taste-wise, but completed the picture visually.

My companion's starter was a more substantial duck egg and Bury black pudding hash. The marriage of ingredients and the dish's execution was modern British cooking at its best. The egg was perfectly cooked; its whites gathered up in ripples like those of heirloom tomatoes. It broke and oozed lustily onto a contrasting hearty, peppery, mustardy pudding hash. Main courses were going to have big shoes to fill.

My main of lamb's liver with streaky bacon on mash and jus sounded promising on paper. Unfortunately, it died a million deaths. The liver was so overcooked and chewy that I was convinced they must've hired in a school dinner lady just for the job. Without its star, the supporting cast of bacon, mash, jus and greens, while fine on their own, seemed caught in the lack of lights. This was the first real criticism of Grenache, and thankfully also the last.

My companion ordered the rib-eye steak, rare, with fondant potato and a side of chunky chips. The chips were smartly stacked in a pyramid with a sprinkling of sea salt. Posh chips, done well. The generous hunk of meat was red as requested on the thickest part. The kitchen had carved it themselves, and while commendable, done so unevenly which meant the thinner end was closer to medium than rare. All in all however, a tremendous effort, and the quality of the meat spoke volumes.

We finished on a high - with an assiete of desserts and a cheese plate. The cheeses were stilton, red smoked chedder, and extra mature cheddar from Gloucester. The homemade chutney had a chunky consistency and scored full marks on its sharp and sweet flavour. My companion suggested perhaps less pedestrian choices of cheeses and posher crackers to justify the plate's £3 supplement.

My dessert started well (coconut pannacotta, a luscious mousse in a shot glass), got better (an inventive creme fraiche and lime cheesecake), and climaxed with a steamed treacle pudding that could only be described as "proper". The pudding retained a surprising lightness; its sweetness was all depth and didn't cloy. My companion thought it so heavenly that it alone was worth the trip to Walkden. A scoop of clotted cream and a few fresh tart raspberries later and the plate was clean.

Two hours flew by and upon learning that we had 4 minutes before the hourly train left for Manchester, a mad scramble ensued. Hus, the owner noticed this and generously gave us a lift back, taking the already impressive service to another level.

My only complaint about Grenache, aside a tragically tough dish of livers, is that it's so far away from us Manchester folk by public transport.

Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 7/10 food
6/5 (not a typo) service
3/5 ambience
Address: Grenache
15 Bridgewater Rd
M28 3JE

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BrianJanuary 19th 2010.

I love food, quite excited about eating here.

Sara10607February 9th 2010.

It's not that far away from some Manchester folk as plenty of people live in that direction. It sounds great and I will defo be trying it out

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