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The Hideaway, Review

Gordo gets excited in a basement but needs a slap

Written by . Published on August 24th 2011.

The Hideaway, Review

RAMSONS restaurant is in Ramsbottom, a 20 minute car journey from the centre of Manchester. It’s a converted cottage on the main road that runs through the village; a village that is fast becoming the foodie capital of the area between Blackburn and North Manchester.

"Gordo found himself in the basement at Ramsons; after 20 minutes or so you can turn your mining lamp off, but you still won’t be able to shake off the only reason Ramsons hasn’t yet achieved Michelin accolades - Chris himself."

Owned by Chris Johnson, who decided to leave his job as a theatre manager 30 years ago and become one of the original foodies of the F&B industry in the North West.

The Hobbit Welcomes Gordo To The HideawayThe Hobbit Welcomes GordoOver the years, Chris has developed a close association with local producers. Sensibly, he calls the North West local. But he has also worked with Italian producers to bring some of the finest ingredients from across Italy to use in Ramsbottom too. Gordo likes this; it should be about the very best available produce a restaurateur or chef can find. Try local first, then cast your net.

And Chris’s net has turned the basement of a Good Food Guide stalwart into one of the finest new-britalian restaurants in the country. In fact, it could be the only one of its kind. Even the fabled editor of the previously mentioned guide, Drew Smith, the man who taught Gordo how to review restaurants, thought Chris and his team were extraordinary. He never could get Gordo to write proper though.

Last year Chris took Gordo with him on a road trip from Rimini to Rome, stopping at his suppliers along the way for four days. Along with us came the extraordinary Lu, a lady of remarkable talent, who is running the basement restaurant in the building called The Hideaway.

Lu is new-ish to the F&B game, but is a natural chef who is passionately in love with Italian home cooking. Gordo, frankly, wasn’t entirely convinced about the whole enotica con cucino concept. Simply translated this means ‘wine bar with kitchen’.

On our travels in Italy, Gordo was taken by the rather mad crew to a good example of one of these, 30 minutes from Rimini. On that occasion, we were given, amongst other gems, three different pasta dishes to try. They were magical. Lu told me her motivation is to produce even better dishes in her restaurant.

It was nearly a year later that Gordo managed to keep his promise to sample Lu’s cooking. He was very sceptical. Lu, by the way, is blond, good-looking and has historic breasts. She was ‘discovered’ by Chris in the local post office after trying one of her homemade pies. It’s a long story. She was also a Page Three girl.

Gordo and Lu became pals over that four-day trip, mainly because of her love of a giggle, which easily matched Gordo’s.

Ruth Allen, No Black EyeRuth Allen, No Black EyeChris, aka The Hobbit, was pleased to spot us, as you can see from the photo; Gordo had booked in under an assumed name and was taking the walking accident that is Ruth Allen to get a second, professional opinion. Currently Ruth is sporting a whopping black eye. Gordo is taking her to a new ‘creative contemporary’ restaurant this week in That There London.

This could produce problems as Gordo is in serious trouble with London’s bloggerati for describing their Boudica as having a fat suburban arse, totally unfair by all accounts. If any of her tribe spot him out with Ruth Allen’s black eye, they are bound to jump to many more conclusions, with horrific results.

Anyway, for the first time Gordo found himself in the basement at Ramsons; it’s ok folks, after 20 minutes or so you can turn your mining lamp off, but you still won’t be able to shake off the only reason Ramsons hasn’t yet achieved Michelin accolades - Chris himself.

As Ruth said: “It’s like going out for dinner with Chris, isn’t it?”

We stuck to the house wines by the carafe; the Barbera was memorable even at that level. Chris gave us a glass of his prosseco to start. He is exceptional with these; an ‘Il Perline’ at £6.40. Gordo thinks he takes the mickey with his mark up sometimes but you can always be sure he doesn’t with the quality.

The food is a set meal with little choice. An appetiser which for the evening was antipasto misto. Gordo thought that was a bit boring, until the platter was delivered. And it shone so much the darkened room suddenly lit up. The ‘tasty Italian morsels’ were way above the average and could stand shoulder to shoulder with Locatelli in London. Two strips of calves liver, about the size of an IPhone cut in half, chargrilled pink; and a chicken liver pâté as smooth as a dense, room temperature artisan butter.

Crusty CodCrusty CodThere was mozzarella that reached the holy grail of all other mozzarellas; it had flavour as well as the exact texture it needed to be a star in its own right. Green olives, pitted in the kitchen, ‘stuffed’ with something that surely wasn’t a peanut butter pretending to be heaven and not making a bad fist of it, all topped off with grilled peppers that had turned to velvet and crunchy charcoal grilled bread brushed with horniness.

Soup was summer vegetable with gorgonzola, which has turned Gordo back on to soup. Main courses were a choice of pork chop, cod in a crust and a veal chop the size of Gordo’s daughter’s motorbike. Better looking as well. Than the bike, of course.

These were as fine as fine can be; Ruth going at the cod and Gordo tackling the veal chop. The accompanying roast baby spuds had been boiled properly first, then roasted crispy whilst gently flayed with rosemary twigs.

The cheese was gorgonzola and another which Gordo has forgotten the name of but not the taste, which was like a bruiser of a kid running through an olive grove, destined to become a gangster; ripe figs, pure honey and Lu’s mum’s chutney made a great accompanying act.

Champion CheesecakeChampion CheesecakeAnd finally, a sultry piece of heaven; a simple raspberry cheese cake that showed Lu off at her best. It was anything but simple; the filling was made with a mixture of mascarpone and jersey cream on a delightfully biscuity, crunchy base made with Waitrose digestive biscuits with a thick coat of coulis made with absolutely the best raspberries you can find then sieved into a purée of finesse only previously found in three-star restaurants. If Lu is outstanding with her savoury stuff she is into the stratosphere with patisserie skills, all self-taught.

The pricing here is fantastic value; the maximum price being £23 for four courses, with a £5 supplement for that monster veal chop. The pricing system, which is frankly confusing, drops that price during the week, whilst if you are a Manchester Confidential Hero you and your table qualify for a 25 per cent discount.

The wines range from dead cheap to spectacular; they also have something in common. They are the best of their kind in the UK.

Every now and again there are reasons why Gordo needs a slap; one for being Gordo with the blogging Boudicca’s of this world, the other for doubting Chris Johnson’s ability to find and promote true talent. Lu Lu, as they all call her, is an absolute bloody gem. Go.

Score: 17/20

Food  9/10
Ambience 3.5/5
Service 4.5/5

The Hideaway, underneath Ramsons Restaurant, 18 Market Place, Ramsbottom, Bury BL0 9HT; 017 0682 5070 

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

AnonymousAugust 24th 2011.

Seriously, is gordo the worst food 'journalist' there ever has been?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoAugust 24th 2011.

'Anonymous', please, never call me a bloody journalist. If I was of course I would be. Journalist!

Lippy LarryAugust 24th 2011.

Anon, do you mean worst food writer?

IzzyAugust 24th 2011.

Nice place this, I have to disagree about the reason they have not received a Michelin star though. It's not really to do with the omnipresence of Chris is it? It's because, although Ramson's is good, it's not Michelin good enough. Not taking anything away from what they do, but it's not of that level.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GraunierAugust 24th 2011.

Izzy, not sure I agree. Garner has often said in the past that Ramsons is one of the best in the North West and Chris's chef Naz is really talented. I do notice a formulaic menu that needs a little more variety, but all in all I think it does teeter on a star. Hugely enjoyable at any rate. I am going to give this Hideaway a try though.

Paul CarterAugust 26th 2011.

Ramson's should be a rising two star restaurant. The only reason it doesn't have even one star is due to the ignorance of the Michelin Guide. Refer to the Good Food Guide if you want an accurate reflection of a restaurant's worth.

Ben AffleckAugust 24th 2011.

What's this about the fat drunkard being a Journalist? Made me giggle. Now, the worst food writer? Nah, let's leave that one to the woman that used to write for The Metro. Can't remember her name. Gordo is one on his own and nearly always gets it pretty right I think. Spectacularly wrong sometimes, but always makes me laugh.

Barrie FittonAugust 25th 2011.

gordo your site is slow .................please put sum/some effort into speeding it up...........x

GarethAugust 25th 2011.

"historic breasts" - is this a reference to some long-held silicone implants, or perhaps Lu has some out-of-date chicken in the fridge?

the Whalley RangerAugust 25th 2011.

Gordo, love your style of review.

I am glad you destinguish between upstairs and downstairs, because with potatoes on a plate like that, Michelin is on the moon!

From my experience, this would never be served like that upstairs...

Rob RichardsonAugust 25th 2011.

That chop looks obscene. In a really good way.

AnonymousAugust 25th 2011.

The reason it doesn't have a star is becuase service levels depend on whether you are a mate or not. I went once-asked him to explain the different Pinot Grigiots to us. We were told 'that one's cheap, that one's a tenner, that one's fifteen'. And with that, turned on his heels to chat to the regulars. Now, we may look like scruffy ilks but my other half appreciates & will pay for good wines so he did himself out of a nice fat sale- we went for the cheapo stuff and never went back.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 25th 2011.

go down stairs !!! this review is on the Hide-away !

ShuttyAugust 25th 2011.

....May I also big up Sanmini's close by for a really good and different (slightly more authentic I am told) Indian or for something much more casual 'First Chop' a short walk in the opposite direction.... And the very good Shoulder of Mutton, at the top of the hill below Peel Tower, though you may need to book a table in the evening, which is unusual for a pub, but justified. Well done Ramsbottom!

RayAugust 26th 2011.

I'd echo the markups, which can be a little silly. Certainly, it has stopped me from pushing the boat out in the past. I expect to see a reducing markup as you go up the price scale, but that doesn't really happen. Shame, as the rest of the experience is really good.

AnonymousAugust 29th 2011.

I love the review I have been and we had a antipasti which was very nice.. Great relaxed atmosphere here to. And Chris is a legend.. With reference to ransoms. It is good. It's not star worthy though. Compared to others I have eatern in (Northcote, petrus, the box tree). My advice would be drop the tasting menu from 10 to 6 course and concentrate on 6 very good courses instead of 5 good 5 average. That will get a star... They have the ability to do it...

Pedro1874August 31st 2011.

I agree with Gordo. Best Restaurant in the NW. I saw Chris the other day and he was very proud of having just won the Good Food Guide 2012 Editors' award for the best wine list in UK. Well done Chris! We will be visiting the Hideaway soon.

Pedro1874August 31st 2011.

BTW my girlfriend not impressed with your sexist comments Gordo. She wonders if you will be commenting on the male chefs' undercarriage in forthcoming reviews?!

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