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The Cedar Tree

Phil Hamer goes barking up the right tree in Newhey, near Milnrow, near Rochdale…er…near Manchester

Published on January 6th 2011.

The Cedar Tree

Though it is the function of the restaurant reviewer to recommend undiscovered culinary gems it is done with reluctance because the gem is then no longer hidden. This is especially true of The Cedar Tree. Its unprepossessing location is extraordinary: set amongst a row of stone terraced cottages in the small town of Newhey close to Rochdale. The owners are Rachel and Andrew Garner who have been running it very successfully since 2000. Rachel vivaciously manages front of house, Andrew is the chef.

For one thing there is no attempt to replicate a Gallic bistro with clichéd posters of ebullient moustachioed Frenchmen tossing back glasses of plonk to a soundtrack of accordion music.

The Cedar Tree works well for several reasons. For one thing there is no attempt to replicate a Gallic bistro with clichéd posters of ebullient moustachioed Frenchmen tossing back glasses of plonk to a soundtrack of accordion music. It is small -only 30 covers- and the décor of muted ochre and brown is tastefully understated. The other reason the restaurant works is that the menu and wine list are short but well thought out.

There are some intriguing dishes on the à la carte menu. Two mouth-watering examples might be the Lancashire Grill starter of black pudding, field mushrooms, smoked bacon and Lancashire cheese with a warm mustard sauce or the main of prime fillet of beef topped with grilled goats cheese sitting atop a potato crush with a rich port jus. But we thought we’d go for the Summer Bistro Menu which offers three courses for £16 95 – and seemed a great deal.

I began with an imaginative blend of baked field mushrooms with Parmesan and pea puree whilst over the table a nicely moist grilled smoked mackerel with a chive cream and red onion salad received murmurs of approval. There is a warning to be issued here though as Rochdale’s stomachs seem bigger than those elsewhere in the North West as the portions are plentiful.

Our wine choice a Gewurztraminer and Reisling blend 2005 from the McGuigan vineyards in Australia immediately caught my eye as a grape combination I have rarely experienced. It was delightful, with the Reisling’s aromatic steeliness cutting into the Gewurztraminer’s spiciness to create an underlying sweetness that complemented our starters and made such a striking contrast to the ubiquitous undistinguished varieties of Pinot Grigio that so many restaurants and bars seem to be currently pushing.

My main was a grilled gammon steak with roasted new potatoes and a delicately piquant mango salsa. The gammon was cooked well but I thought it a little too salty for my taste. Opposite strips of sirloin were served in a hoisin and plum sauce with a light creamy mash. The emphasis here was on lightness after all mash can be tasteless stodge but this combination was anything but. Vegetables were a simple serving of carrots and broccoli cooked al dente.

My dining companion enjoyed fresh strawberry shortcake whilst I tucked into a banana and pear crumble with a small jug of vanilla custard. I cannot resist traditional puddings like this though I suspect it would have gone down better on a cold winter’s evening.

Sometimes small bistros when full can be loud and overpowering but even though it was approaching packed here with a birthday party in full swing the presence of other diners was never intrusive.

The Cedar Tree is especially convenient for rail travellers because it’s only a stone’s throw from Newhey station on Victoria to Rochdale line. A series of themed evenings have been planned between now and the end of the year. Perhaps it will be worth dropping in on the Italian evening with a local soprano providing a vocal accompaniment to the food.

Are there any more hidden gems to be revealed in the future? All I can say is watch this space.

Rating: 15/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: The Cedar Tree
14 Huddersfield Road
01706 842626

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

secret squirrelAugust 21st 2007.

Presumably they're the non dipsomaniac Garners then....:-)..SS

Jonathan Schofield - editorAugust 21st 2007.

What a lovely thought, the publisher of Manchester Confidential running his own restaurant in the Pennine foothills. Sadly these are a different set of Garners though.

Mark GarnerAugust 21st 2007.

Wecome to my little bit of electronic tittle tattle C.P. I for one have read your advice and I respect it. "The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard". Your comments are most welcome here and will not be interfered with in any way. Maybe if the current management took time out to read it as well The Evil Empire wouldn't be collapsing in on itself down in the shiny new coffin on Deansgate. Please keep up the comments, you have a lively platform with 180,000 readers growing at 8 per cent per month to read your views. Phil is good, isn't he?

CSAugust 21st 2007.

Rachel and Andrew Garner? As in Mark Garner? Just wondering...

C.P. ScottAugust 21st 2007.

Mr Garner, many thanks for your welcome. It was kind of you to recall my words so faithfully. Alas, my hopes for the pages that once bore my name are all but faded. Yet, as evidenced in your message, your own publication's stature is growing. Thus, at this important juncture in the evolution of Manchester Confidential, perhaps you might usefully reflect on other things said once before:"...to what further conquests may we look, what purpose serve, what task envisage? We are faced with a new and enormous power and a growing one. Whither is the young giant tending? What gifts does he bring? How will he exercise his privilege and powers? What influence will he exercise on the minds of men and on our public life?" I will watch with interest.Yours, C.P.S.

C.P. ScottAugust 21st 2007.

It's reassuring to see that ManCon reviewers' dining experiences are not always judged on the size of their chosen burger, or the quantity of much younger women within zoom lens range of the unconvincingly schizophrenic Mark Garner. I'm not sure that something can be aromatically steely, but this is infinitely better than the verbal bowel disorder that 'Gordo' would have strained over. I'll follow this reviewer's advice and take a trip to the Cedar Tree. Let's have more from Phil Hamer, please!

SallyAugust 21st 2007.

Once upon a time in another life I used to live around the corner from this excellent little eaterie. Glad to see that you city types get yourselves into the foothills once in a while.

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