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La Popote Reviewed By Gordo

The Fat One plods down the A34 and finds a fine French Bistro

Written by . Published on March 5th 2014.


La Popote Reviewed By Gordo
 

THERE is currently a debate amongst chefs as to whether or not the younger members of their troop should be trained in the classic recipes of French cuisine.

The calamari took the Fat One back to the days of spending all afternoon in the Brasserie Flo in Paris. Round, plump and non-chewy, only a very good cook could have got these so right.

Gordo discussed this in detail recently during an interview with Michael Wignall, the two star Michelin chef of The Latymer in Surrey.

Wignall is keen to ensure that his brigade understand what he believes to be the foundation of fine dining, the French classics espoused by the likes of Carème, Escoffier and Cesar Ritz over a hundred years ago.

So much so that every Thursday one of his team has to cook the kitchen staff one of the classics for dinner.

There is a whole generation of chefs coming up through the ranks in the UK who haven’t had the opportunity to try at these old style French dishes. This is a great pity. A steak delivered with a bordelaise sauce is truly the food of the gods.

La PopoteLa Popote

Over the past two years there has been a (slow) resurgence in French cuisine; Elizabeth Carter, Editor of the Good Food Guide recommended that Gordo should pay a visit to Terroirs, just off Trafalgar square. It was fantastic. Whilst Gordo’s hero, Pierre Koffmann, cooked a meal at his restaurant in The Berkeley that knocked spots off Heston's Dinner across the road at The Mayfair Hotel.

Another lesser but still enjoyable brand, Cote, is arriving soon in Manchester on St Mary's Street (in the old Prohibition bar), which Gordo thoroughly recommends as a great take on French brasseries.

Early on in the year Gordo found himself looking for somewhere to take the family for a good Sunday lunch within twenty minutes drive of Alderley Edge. Ray King, the respected restaurant critic at Cheshire Life, recommended that we try a restaurant, La Popote, on the A34 towards Congleton. Gordo decided to go.

It was a great success with all the family enjoying the ambience and food, heavily influenced by said French classical cooking. The chef was Dutch, his wife Scottish and their first restaurants were in South Africa.

Gordo decided to visit a second time, this time on his own for a review.

InteriorInterior

The building is a converted barn, which from the outside, without the benefit of spring, doesn’t look too hot. Signage from the road is poor whilst the place shares a car park with tearooms, or a deli, or a farmshop, or indeed all of them. Gordo forgot to check it out. He was dreaming of thick saucing, good bread and scallops.

(Click here to add text)Walking in through the front door finds the visitor in a small bar with a wood burning stove filling the space with those smells reminiscent of pubs stumbled across in the middle of Wales. Pubs where the food is delightful and the welcome, like a sheep skin rug, is warm and cosy.

Lynne Janssen, wife of the chef Victor, greeted Gordo. She offered a place by the fire but Gordo refused, he was allowed to take a table for four by a window. He likes to spread out.

The room is small, maybe twenty-five covers, spanking clean with white linen tablecloths and fresh flowers on each table, lifting a room which would otherwise be a bit too white. A thick slice of nutty bread arrives with the menu.

It’s bang on, slightly sweet and terribly interesting. A sprig of rosemary sticks out giving a salute with great butter ready to be spread thickly.

BreadBread with a rosemary salute

Lynne comes over with a twinkle in her eye and starts to run through the specials. She does a good job of selling. Gordo orders three starters. Cullen skink, a creamy smoked haddock broth, scallops on a beurre blanc sauce and calamari with a garlic and parsley butter sauce.

The Cullen skink (£5.50) was creamy, smoked-fishy and lush. It was far better than Gordo’s at home. It suits a bright but cold day. Only supposed to finish half, Gordo polishes off the lot.

Cullen skinkCullen skink

The scallops (£14.95, main image) were served on a bed of beurre blanc, sharing the gig with three heart-shaped fleurons. Little puff pastry mopper-uppers. As someone recently said on twitter, you don’t see these any more. The scallops had been masterfully seasoned, seared all around and snatched out of the pan still soft and juicy in the middle. Fabulous.

One mistake, the plate was too hot for the sauce, which split. Not something that puts Gordo off, particularly with this one, which had a lovely sharpish acidic tang that played a duet with the sweetness of the scallops. Victor had included the orange roe; Gordo loves these.

CalamariCalamari

The calamari (£8.50) took the Fat One back to the days of spending all afternoon in the Brasserie Flo in Paris, well before John Galliano's anti-semitic tirade. Round, plump and non-chewy, only a very good cook could have got these so right.

An old-fashioned half of a crisply cooked young duck with red cabbage, broccoli and a potato croquette followed (£21.50). The duck was impeccable, cooked through to the point where it begins to remind you why it makes a great paté. Brown meaty breast with a crisp leg. Gordo chose a peppercorn sauce which, with the benefit of hindsight, was too deep, creamy and spicy for the duck. The orange sauce would have been better suited. The broccoli was overcooked. The croquette was homemade, crisp on the outside and creamy in the middle.

DuckDuck

Finally, an apricot cream with a soupçon of apricot brandy (£6.25) set in a delightful teacup along with one of Lynne’s shortbreads. Which apparently, whilst serving afternoon tea up in Gleneagles, won a young Lynee the best in Scotland. Twice.

Gordo believes her.

Apricot dessertApricot dessert

La Popote is a real treat. If you haven’t eaten in an old world French restaurant, then you should be setting off down the A34. The atmosphere is good; it'll be even better in the summer when the garden becomes an extension to the dining room.

Flambe awayFlambe awayLynne has her staff running like clockwork, whilst being a fabulous hostess who can quite capably do a flambé at your table. Crepe Suzette anyone? How many front of house peeps can do that these days.

There have been six specials on the list both times Gordo has been there.

The wine list is small but cute and great value; a couple of interesting champagne houses are in evidence, whilst the Puligny Montrachet (Louis Latour) comes well recommended. A couple of good Clarets too, the Argentinian Pinot Noir at £19.50 (£5.00 a glass) is a real bargain.

This place is a Gordo Go

You can follow Gordo on Twitter here @gordomanchester

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

La Popote, Congleton Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 9HF.
01260 224 785

Open: Weds-Sun, lunch 12-3pm, dinner 6.30-10pm. Site here.

Rating: 16/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below, venues are rated against the best examples of their kind) 

Food: 7.5/10 (Bread 7.5, Cullen skink 8, Scallops 7.5, Calamari 7.5, Duck 7.5, Apricot 8 )
Service: 4.5/5
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: 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.

Victor and LynneVictor and Lynne

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

Georgina Hague shared this on Facebook on March 4th 2014.
AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

Duck looks superb!

AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

I randomly stopped by this restaurant with friends on Sunday around noon. We sat near the fire and asked for three flat whites. We were given a description of the white wines they have. When we clarified we wanted flat white coffees, we received three filter coffees about 10 minutes later (which were awful). Maybe they understand food better.

11 Responses: Reply To This...
JimtoMarch 4th 2014.

Slow hand clap.

cheese_fancierMarch 4th 2014.

Which begs the question of why you would go into what is clearly a restaurant and expect it to be a coffee shop?

AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

They didn't even have anywhere to park the fixies outside.

Henry VMarch 4th 2014.

Anonymous, 'flat whites' are an American marketing invention by Starbucks, three years ago you <**cking muppet>.You have made my day. What an utter prat.

cherriesMarch 4th 2014.

whats a fixie

AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

hahaha who the f asks for a 'flat white' what clowns

AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

Hmmm, anonymous at the top, apart from Henry being right, the coffee is very good as well. Indeed, maybe your taste buds are too brutalised by said Starbucks/Cafe Nero/ Costa.

AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

OP Anon - well done on posting possibly the most stupid comment ever left on a ManCon article. Dear me.

AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

References to "Mancon" in a post calling ortehrs stupid? Classic, read the top of the article - as below; You are here: Liverpool Confidential › Food & Drink › French.

AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

...and for anyone who came to the review through Manchester Confidential, it says "Manchester Confidential › Food & Drink › French." Dummy.

Calum McGMarch 5th 2014.

F;at Whites are from NZ, not America.

JoachimMarch 4th 2014.

A welcome change to the plethora of dirty burger/pizza/dog venues reviewed recently! Good food cooked by real chefs!

Steve CookMarch 4th 2014.

I went to Popote on the last Saturday in Feb and thankfully I booked because it was full. I had no idea what food to expect as I had not read up on it, and went on a recommendation only. In a nutshell it was a very traditional & friendly service and the food was excellent (as covered in the article so you don’t really need my take!). The “crowd” was older, a world away from the Almost Famous hipsters that seem to overrun any decent restaurant in town, and that was a good thing. Well worth a trek out if you fancy a drive.

george the doctorMarch 4th 2014.

Gordo, good find this. Took the in-laws to dinner three weeks ago, fabulous old fashioned fillet steak with a sauce I can still taste. More of these please.

AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

Aaa

AnonymousMarch 5th 2014.

Henry V, guess what? You're the prat! Flat whites originated in New Zealand and have zero connection to America or Starbucks. And why shouldn't someone expect to get a decent coffee in a restaurant? It's part of the offering FFS.

Henry VMarch 5th 2014.

Anon, wherever they were from they came into the UK three years ago via Starbucks. Didn't think the Kiwis were daft enough to invent that one. Go into any restaurant (ie not a sodding coffee shop) and ask for three flat whites. As well as most normal people, they will themselves silly.

LhlMarch 6th 2014.

Aw...bless Henry V. If you are trying to put others down, check your facts. en.wikipedia.org/…/Flat_white…. You sound like you need to sit down and have a nice chat over a flat white ( on offer at any restaurant with a coffee machine). I now know that this restaurant does good food. But the coffee needs some work. Thanks to Anonymous OP and Gordon for accurate reviews and to Henry and Co for putting a smile on my face.

Stephanie AcklandMarch 6th 2014.

All the food looks superb. I look forward to trying it.

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