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Cabbage Hall review

Gordo drives to the country to see Robert Kisby’s new place and likes it with a few ifs and buts

Written by . Published on June 8th 2009.


Cabbage Hall review

It’s a bar restaurant Cheshire. Or, is it a destination restaurant Cheshire? It may well be a bar restaurant South Manchester.

According to the website it’s all these and more. Gordo thinks that some young trendy pup in a web design agency has been hard at work. He’s been trying to ensure that his client, the (very) demanding Mr Robert Kisby, aka Bob the Butcher, has every chance of hitting high in the all important Google listings. Elsewhere on a very stylish website a copywriter has gone over the top a bit. Well, actually, a lot. No doubt being egged on by the vision in his mind’s eye of Bob the Butcher sharpening knives in his whites.

Let’s be honest, with well over three thousand words on the website saying things like, “the food at Cabbage Hall alone puts this bar restaurant North West in a league of its own” (note the change again, it’s a bar restaurant North West), Bob the Butcher is giving himself an awful lot to live up to.

Bob has, undoubtedly, a rich pedigree at some cool places across the region, most famously at Le Mont on top of Urbis in Manchester where he missed a Michelin star by a whisper. It was also at that stage of his career that he called up Gordo after a tricky comment in one of his reviews and called him that nasty word beginning with ‘C’. Bob then threatened to eviscerate Gordo, which led the latter to reach for the dictionary and then the door.

Currently the pair are pals. Let’s see if they stay that way.

The new gaff is situated on the A49 near Tarporley, an easy drive from both Liverpool and Manchester, at around forty minutes. Originally owned and decorated by another loveable raging mentalist, chef Francis Carroll, Bob has toned it down a bit and finished up with the modern equivalent of a 16th century coaching inn with a supremely comfortable lounge, a room for ‘private’ parties and two well thought out dining areas. The chairs are Mr Carroll’s, all silver gilt, velvet and no knickers. They need burning in Gordo’s opinion. His pal, Kate Leech, says not. What they are mind is supremely comfortable, as is the couch opposite which is a delightful perch for your missus.

The welcome is delightful, the staff a good looking young bunch all with a wry smile and a good knowledge of the full and interesting menu. Bob had sidled up to Gordo on the way out with that funny look on his face. “Gordo, don’t be saying that the menu is complicated in the write up. It’s interesting”. Bob’s bottom lip quivered at this point and a few specks of saliva were forming at the corner of his mouth. “You know what will happen, Sowerby (The MEN critic) needs to look out.” Gordo wasn’t too sure if what followed was a wink or a nervous tick.

So, back to that interesting menu.

Bob has produced his signature a la carte, with goodies like potage Yehudi Menuhin, ‘rich chicken and vegetable broth, liaised with a garlic olive oil emulsion’ (£5.95). Bob’s proud of this one, apparently Yehudi kept asking for it a long time ago when the chef worked at the Bridgewater Hall and it became known thus. It’s good as well. Lobster risotto, ‘creamy saffron and leek risotto, roast lobster, baby leek and cognac cream sauce’ (£11.95) was ordered by the fat one. It was a delight, all smokey lobstery loveliness. He chose this off a ‘sub menu’ called the ‘Sunday two course’ that allowed him to have another Bob the Butcher signature dish, grilled rib eye Bourguignonne, ‘succulent rib steak, rich Burgundy stew, Peter Jones’ Wirral watercress and seared tomato salad, big chips, Béarnaise’(£21.95). These two were part of a lunch time menu at £26, a bloody good saving. Mind you, the rib steak wasn’t bloody enough for Gordo’s taste at medium, instead of medium rare, as asked for. But the meat was magnificent: one of Bob’s strong points is his relationship with his suppliers with whom he has an awesome working relationship. Was that supposed to come with a béarnaise, Bob Baby?

Kate’s roast lamb (£11) looked the part and came with a pastry tart with the kidney nestling inside, but Gordo was too busy attacking the steak to notice. Puddings were caramelised vanilla rice pudding, Armagnac Agen prunes (£5.50) and raspberry crème brulee (£5.50). Kate was appalled at being served cold rice pudding. Gordo has a taste; nowt wrong with that to his mind, albeit the prunes hadn’t seen a lot of Armagnac, whilst the crème brulee was a good one.

If you choose the cheese, Bob looks to be on top of his game with a selection split down the middle between local, regional and French. Well, not quite down the middle then. Gubbeen is there an’ all.

Gordo was a little disappointed with the wine list; it seemed a bit short at a couple of pages, with the prices ranging from £20-odd up to £40-ish. If we were on the white the choice would have been Riesling Vieilles Vigne, Turckheim 2005, at £22.95 but as Gordo was driving and a couple of glasses would be his limit, he called for a red, Chateau Lalande 2006, a cru bourgeois, a bit young, as well as pricey at £39.95. It needs four more years.

It was only whilst Gordo was checking out the wine prices back at Gordo Towers on the net that he realised that there were another four pages of wines, called ‘Chef’s Cellar’. Maybe the wine list should be divorced from that menu Bob? If it was you may well have got me splashing out on the 1998 Chateau Lascombes, a Margaux just coming into bloom at £114.95. A great Vallet Freres list as well, Burgundy at its best. If, dear reader, you are tempted with the Monte Real Gran Reserva 1964 at £139.95 don’t, it’s turned into battery acid and that shifty Ed at Boutinot Wines knows full well and should be spanked for sliding it onto the list.

Now, Bob has been open for six weeks or so and is really just settling in. The food has its mistakes as yet, which comes from Bob getting used to the position of Chef Patron, a different deal altogether to Head Chef. The evil book keeping and dealing with bank managers comes as a shock the first time round.

The mistakes are small, the key questions are how does the place feel? It feels great. It’s a smidgen off those great French family owned country inns in Burgundy and Gascony that are built to serve the local community but grown up enough to delight sophisticated travellers. It’s warm and friendly with a good cross section of punters. What about value? As it happens, Gordo would counsel another look at margins; they may be on the slim side, with a bottle of house wine this really superb Sunday lunch would have come in at £80 plus quid. Would Gordo go back? Yes he would, in fact he is looking forward to another evening trip out to celebrate a family birthday, the place is tailor made for it.

So, Bob, we both know you don’t like criticism, but you are in a different world now my old son. All through your career, you have been doing it for others and frankly, it’s about time, at an age nudging Gordo’s that you had a go for yourself as well as your family. So, take criticism on board. Because if it doesn’t work, you have no-one to blame but yourself.

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

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: Gordo gets carried away

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

MangoPiJune 8th 2009.

Don't let people tell you that you are crap Gordo. Fantastic veal dish on it when I went.

CastlefieldJune 8th 2009.

I once swam in treacle, ended up in a sticky situation! Gordo is great.

Donald PestoJune 8th 2009.

"potage Yehudi Menuhin, ‘rich chicken and vegetable broth, liaised with a garlic olive oil emulsion" - Yehudi Menuhin was a vegetarian this is immoral!!

AndyJune 8th 2009.

This place is great. I have a strange feeling Robert will do really well here. Great location and great local produce. Looking forward to returning soon

AnonymousJune 8th 2009.

Gave up after the first 200 words of waffle. Like trying to swim in treacle.

Shifty edJune 8th 2009.

There really is no need for that Gordo! As you know 1964 is the Rioja vintage of the last century. However with a wine of that age there will be some bottle variation. I'm doing a tasting with it on friday night so will update you as i haven't tasted it since March

AndyJune 8th 2009.

Have you ever met 'kisby'? If so, would you say that to his face terry tibbs?

Beefy StewJune 8th 2009.

whats happened to Francis Carrol?

Mrs. trellisJune 8th 2009.

I his the passion for odd shaped crockery is alive and well...

GordoJune 8th 2009.

Blimey, a bit libelous that Terry!

terry tibbsJune 8th 2009.

kisby would probably be a michelin star chef now if only he settled down and stayed off the drink.

GordoJune 8th 2009.

Ed, you are a shifty bugger and you know it! Loveable, but shifty ;-)

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