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Aiden Byrne at the Hilbark


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Saw an article in the local free paper today about Aiden Byrne taking over the resaturant at the Hilbark Hotel.

It's not far from home so I decided to pop in to see what was going on.

Picked up some sample menus. Prices range from under £20 for two course lunch to £150 for nine course tasting with wine. Looking at the alc three courses should be about £55 give or take. There is also a five course meunu available before eight at £60 with wine, less with no booze. There is also 10% off during August.

The restaurant will be open Monday - Friday, weekends back the the church green.

http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2010/06/07/333726/Aiden-Byrne-to-open-new-restaurant-at-the-Wirral39s-Hillbark.htm

I will give it a go sometime next week perhaps.

Martin

Martin

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Nice to see he`s going for it , good luck to the lad.

Im gonna give it a whirl on the 20th so ill have my trusty camera at the ready and post the link to the pics on here.

Anyone managing to get a copy of the menu then please post it so we can all get to see whats going on there.Ive searched on the net but found nothing yet.

Cheers

Sped.

CumbriafoodieCumbriafoodie
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I dont think he had ambitions of a star at the Church Green and from what I've hear he always intended to open up a fine dining restaurant after the Church Green.

Is the great british menu to blame for all the Aiden Byrne bashing that goes on? Despite how he may have come across, the food at the CG can be great and in my mind Byrne is definitely at the level of a one star chef based purely on his ability and where he has worked and what he achieved at these places.

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If Aidens food looks as good as it does in his cookbook and GBM then ill be a very happy guy.The menus sound fab so after i do the double next week ( Hillbark and church green )Ill let you all know how it tasted and went.Cheers

CumbriafoodieCumbriafoodie
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I dont think he had ambitions of a star at the Church Green

Perhaps I'm then misinterpreting the sterling efforts of his agent to get the word "Michelin" into every press mention of him. :laugh:

And, no, it's not just his appearance on GBM. What did it for me was the Money Programme edition titled something like "The Super Chef". Talk about self-serving, eh?

John Hartley

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Had a very good dinner tonight. All food very good with a nice wine pairing. Foie with parmesan sabayon was particularly good, as was a huge single scallop with orange sherbert. Will add more soon...

Martin

Martin

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Dinner at Aiden Byrne at the Hillbark Hotel.

It’s quite grand, the Hillbark. If you have a look at the website you will see what I mean.

We started off with a glass of Champagne and a trio of canapés in the hall.

Canapés were a foie and pineapple sandwich. A little too much pineapple perhaps, so I separated the parts and ate the foie and pineapple parts separately, it was nice enough but I enjoyed it more once separated. The second; a small kilner jar of very good foamy potato and truffle soup. The third was a roll of smoked salmon served in a smoke filled tureen. Everything tasted good and the smoke added a little fun.

We opted to take the six course tasting menu with wine. This was not on the menus we were offered. I don’t know if this is something that will be a long term feature or if it will be available only for the opening few weeks, it was offered when we booked though. We had no idea what we would be getting to eat or drink.

So the food.

Three breads, bacon brioche, granary and black olive, came with a little too little butter and a pile of salt. They were ok but would have been nicer hotter.

First course – A single large scallop served with endive and some orange sherbet. The scallop was served whole. I really don’t like scallops sliced in two. It doesn’t become two scallops; it just becomes one spoilt scallop cut into bits. Anyway, this was good. The sherbet was a quirky addition but enjoyable.

Next came seared foie with parmesan sabayon and a little onion. Another lidded dish, this time with a nice slice of molten foie sitting in a deep rich pool of sabayon. The consistency and flavour of the sabayon was amazing. It was rich, but also very good.

Third course was sea bass with confit cherry tomatoes, quenelles of tomato and tapenade with some tiny basil leaves. The tapenade was quite a dominant flavour but offered a contrast to the tomatoes which were super sweet. The fish was nicely cooked, crisp skinned and moist.

Course four was Lamb. This came with a long cooked then seared slice of breast and a couple of slices of fillet. This was garnished with aubergine caviar, cep cream and a sticky lamb reduction. It also featured ceps made into a sort of jellied disc resembling foie gras. It was intensely mushroomy, and did have more than a passing resemblance to a slice of foie. Quite clever, although I suspect some people would prefer natural mushrooms. For the most part I enjoyed it, the sauce could have been a little less reduced but I only left a little aubergine and some of the fatty part of the lamb breast.

First dessert was honeycomb parfait with sour cherries, some dried fruit and a little ice cream. I can’t remember the flavour of the ice cream. It was ok but I don’t much like dried fruit. Not my favourite plate.

Dessert number two was banana with chocolate ganache. It was ok, better than the first pud. I liked the chocolate much more than the banana. It also featured freeze dried banana and some popcorn.

The savoury courses were very good, the desserts less so, partly due to personal taste and partly because the savoury courses were very good. There was no cheese trolley. I didn’t notice any cheese at all so that is an obvious area for improvement.

Service was mainly good. There was initially a little confusion over the wine pairing, but once resolved the service was friendly and the wine was good. The dining room was encouragingly busy, with a couple of tables turned. The music was quite interesting, not intrusive, but including some refreshingly different choices.

There is real potential here. The food is good and I think will improve. The setting is grand. There was more than a hint of luxury to the raw materials. If the prices remain accessible then this really will be a good place to eat. The pot roasted pork dish served in its cooking pot fills the room with aromatic wood smoke and looks like quite an interesting choice if you don’t fancy the Anjou squab or the Bresse chicken.

There is room for improvement but for very early days I was impressed and I am looking forward to going back.

Martin

Martin

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I phoned the Hillbark last week to find out when the website would be up as I would like to look at some sample menus.

"No problem I will email them to you,and the website will be up soon"

" Now you won't forget will you"

" No, of course not"

Guess what? Yes I'm still waiting.

We know Aiden and have eaten his food three or four times I don't think he would be pleased if front of house is letting him down.

Edited by david goodfellow (log)

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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On Thursday i ate at the Fat duck in Bray

On Friday i ate at Aiden Byrne , Hillbark

It was hands down better than the fat duck and one of the best meals ive eaten in my life, 9 courses of Pure unadulterated luxury.

Pics of the full meal to follow this week....Here`s a tasterCopy of DSCF4067.JPGCopy of DSCF4079.JPGCopy of DSCF4085.JPG

CumbriafoodieCumbriafoodie
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My vote is that FD is not 3 star - always have said it. At least it looks as though Hilbark has the ambiance to support a three star restaurant. You need Le Manoir style surroundings to be truly 3 star,(its inconsistency that lets that place down). Michelin always used to take ambiance into account before FD days. I am not sure Byrne has the capability of 3 stars but I have only eaten his food once so it will be interesting to see. :hmmm:

Edited by Pam Brunning (log)

Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just to set the record straight, I did receive copies of the menus as requested, (on 28/8). All nine of them. :blink:

Not sure what involvement Aiden has with them as there is a Sunday lunch and afternoon tea one included, and I'm sure he is back at The Church Green at weekends.

Been down the shmoke quite a bit recently so will look oop north a bit now :smile:

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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David , please post Hillbark menu links on here if you can as i forgot to get them when i was there.They`ll probably be on the website when its up and running anyways.

Im sure Aiden is cooking at Hillbark monday - friday then back at Church green on the weekends.

CumbriafoodieCumbriafoodie
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A nosy round t'internet suggests the Hillbark insisted on keeping control of the kitchens at the weekend due to its very lucrative weddings business.

There are no menus on the Hillbark website (nor, indeed, any mention of Aiden Byrne). A bit odd, innit?

John Hartley

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David , please post Hillbark menu links on here if you can

Happy to help, although they are in a Microsoft Word document and I don't know how to copy them.

I don't have time to type them, it would take me an age.

If anyone can help I will try to do it later on this evening after sorting out my business stuff.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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You'r a star Pam, :smile:

Tasting Menu

Chilled beetroot gazpacho with avocado and lime sorbet

Roasted scallops with white chocolate and truffle risotto

Foie gras terrine with ginger bread and cherries

Roasted langoustines with broccoli puree and ricotta gnocchi

Wild Seabass with chicken Satay, avocado & sesame

Anjou squab pigeon with pickled cabbage, pigeon mousse and sweet garlic butter

Cucumber, lemongrass mojito

Confit pineapple, yoghurt, fennel

Smoked apple terrine and bison grass mousse

Coffee and Petit Fours

£85.00

Sommelier recommended wine selection

£40.00

Hillbark classics wine selection

£60.00

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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Tasting Menu

Roast scallop with celery and orange puree and sweetened chicory

Warm foie gras and carrot mousse with carrot sorbet and lemongrass

Wild seabass with confit tomato, black olives and basil

Loin and breast of texal lamb with cepes and aubergines

Honey parfait, granola and huckelberry

Banana chocolate, peanuts, caramel and cumin ice cream

£40.00

Sommelier recommended wine selection

£20.00

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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  • 1 month later...

We returned to the Hillbark for dinner last night.

Canapés were the same as our first visit, although more refined in the case of the foie and pineapple and more of a mousse / puree of potato than a soup in the truffled potato pot. Very tasty.

We did not order – we had what was referred to as the market menu. On our first visit this comprised of six courses with a wine pairing, tonight we received four courses with wine. We had no idea what we would be eating and I don’t recall being asked if we had any intolerances or dislikes.

First course was a very good ravioli of lobster with lemongrass. It was garnished with tiny carrots and coriander, a tiny disk of gingerbread with some sphered citrus and quite a number of other bits. (The lighting was quite subdued so it was hard to figure out what everything was). The pasta was very nicely made, as thin as could be and the lobster had plenty of flavour. The sweet – sour - rich flavours all worked nicely. Visually impressive and very tasty.

Next, a big lump of smoked foie gras with a separate pot of onion and parmesan soup. We had this on our first visit. It was prepared and served slightly differently this time. The first time the liquid was a frothy sabayon poured over the foie. I preferred the first preparation more. The smoked foie flavour was more distinct served separately, but the soups, and especially the onion flavours, were better balanced in the sabayon. In its own right it was a good dish, I just preferred the first version.

Our main was chicken with figs and lemon. The chicken comprised of boned and roasted drumstick, compressed roasted thigh some slices of just cooked breast and a couple of cockscombs. It came with lemony gnocchi, slices and quenelles of fig, roasting juices and a citrusy dressing. Again a dish featuring sweet – sour flavours. The chicken was excellent. I particularly enjoyed the leg and compressed thigh. The offaly flavour of the comb both visually and flavour wise a good idea. The prep was good too, no sinew or flab remained. I was a little less keen on the skinless breast meat. Nosing through Aiden’s book after dinner, this dish features and suggests steaming the breast. It does create a different texture and was delicate but not as tasty as the other more meaty bits of the bird. It was also the only hot element a little on the cool side. It was another very complex plating, colours textures and flavours were vibrant, possibly a little sharper than I would have liked ideally. However, nothing but a little fig puree remained. It was also a proper sized main course. We got fewer courses, but those we got were larger.

Dessert was the biggest improvement on our first visit. First time we had two, neither of which I was that keen on. This time a single dessert, but it was very good. It was a thinnish ball of chocolate containing passion fruit juice alongside some chocolate soil, thick foamy mocha and other chocolaty bits. The fruit neatly balancing the richness of the chocolate. It was good.

We had coffee but no petit fours.

Overall, another good meal. I didn’t pick up on the use of sour flavours so much on my first visit and they were, especially in the chicken dish, quite pronounced and possibly not to everyone’s taste. The breads were the same as before, although were improved in terms of texture and flavour. The subtle lighting was for me, a bit too dark. I didn’t lose sleep over it though. The dining room was much less busy but it was bonfire night. Service was quite smooth, but with so few diners it should be. The quirky music remains, it didn’t bother me, but I am sure there are plenty of people who would not be amused. I will give it another go at some point, but I think I will choose my own food or give the tasting menu a try.

Martin

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  • 3 weeks later...

image_0001.jpg

Not sure where to start on this, so I thought it best to post a photo of the place as we left, just to show how long our lunch had lasted.

image_0002.jpg

Hillbark has a fascinating history which I will not go into now. I just want to give you a flavour of the place so to speak. The dining room is very comfy, cosy, but the decor is not to my taste. Worryingly it is to my wifes.

As some of you may be aware we have eaten Aiden Byrne's food at least four times,(perhaps five) but who's counting. All meals have been at the Church Green.

For some reason or another we have been a bit, well what can say, not blown away. Do not get me wrong he,s a bloody good chef, but we have not up to yet had the wow that we perhaps expected. Was that about to change?

We dined at Northcote Manor a couple of weeks ago and commented on Nigel's/Lisa's excellent quality and great value for money lunch offer. Then a couple of days later realised Aiden had a three courser for £22.50. Ok, not including coffee, and slightly dearer by a touch, so in fairness we had to try it out.

I oh so wanted to love this place, as Mr B has had his share of critics, some of whom would not know a bain marie from a barman. He's been to the school of hard knocks, and has worked in some tough kitchens including Tom Aikins, when he (Aikins) was cooking at his best.

As you may expect the lunch is short on choice, two, two, and two, simple, even I can understand that. What it is not short on, is quality ingredients, Lobster, Foie gras, Veal, and Jabugo Ham, to name but four.

Now Aiden was not in the kitchen, he was in France, ooh la la, sourcing some more prime ingredients to put on his menus.

He had no worries whatsoever on leaving his kitchen, as his Head Chef, Stuart Warner,and Sous Chef Jenny Thoden really turned up the gas, so to speak.A very talented team indeed, who have been with Mr B for quite some time including The Dorchester and Danesfield House.

image_0012.jpg

THE A TEAM.

Now at this juncture, I have to apologise for my somewhat sketchy account, as I have just invested in a new, very expensive camera to replace my old point and shoot. As I am not really that interested in photography this new bit of kit is supposed to do everything the old one does, but with supposedly far better results. But it does not do the business on auto, much to my chagrin. So I had to mess about trying to get decent shots on different settings, whilst my food was getting cold.

So apologies in advance, this now may make a return to the shop, as, "not fit for the purpose"

image_0003.jpg

The bread is very good. Its made daily on site, and was eaten with relish even by my wife who is not "a bready person". From memory, granary, black olive tapenade, and bacon and onion. I can not remember being served bread at the Church Green, if we were it was not of this quality I would have remembered. The butter is unsalted from? The salt is an award winning sea salt "Halen Mon" from Angelsey.

image_0004.jpg

Whist checking my photos on playback our amuse arrived, a pleasant layered concoction, which distracted me from that pesky camera, so I dived in before I realised I had not taken a photo, still better late than never. Predominantly beetroot and chilled, it was lined with a vodka vanilla jelly, and another layer of avocado and lime. We both thought this worked very well.

image_0005.jpg

Lobster ravioli with carrot, lemon grass and sweetened chickory.

The light was streaming through the window as my wife enjoyed her starter, "very pleasant" and I agreed.

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White Onion and Parmesan soup with smoked Foie Gras. is in his book, minus the foie gras. Its very simple, but somewhat tasty, especially with the luxury of the foie gras. My wife bought his book for my birthday, a while back, but I have not cooked anything from it yet. That,s not too unusual for me I, have loads of gastroporn, just for viewing. After this meal though some grease splattered pages may appear in it.image_0013.jpg

On to the mains now. Both were tempting, and as is the norm these days for us, if we both fancy the same thing (which we always do) we generally take the fish course as an extra (paid) in betweener.

What is perhaps more surprising, being both joyous meat eaters is the very high quality of fish dishes on menus, and more and more I certainly am more inclined to be swayed towards a fish course, than a meat course.

image_0007.jpg

Unmistakably Aiden Byrne's work Pan Fried Brill and Scallop.

This dish was F A B. Wonderful seared scallop, fresh as you like fish, sitting atop some pickled cabbage and a rich deep pool of veal sauce. The intermingling chervil and veal swirls are instantly identifying as his work. An excellent dish. Very good indeed.

DSC00243 (2).JPG

This photo does not do justice to the complex plating of the dish, it should be more in focus and taken from above.

Loin of Veal, braised veal shin, with Sweetbreads and apple.

Another fabulous dish, little nuggets of intense flavour taking your taste buds off in all different directions. I was too busy chomping my way through it to want to analise the dish, I just wanted to devour it, which I did with some haste.

One of the quality ingredients, apart from the Veal that is, was Jabugo Ham, from pigs fed on acorns, no less, now thats something you are not going to eat every day is it?

We had a pre dessert of another layered, and very tasty combo. Earl Grey Panna cotta, Caramelised milk mousse, and a layer of lemon jelly.

No photo, sorry.

image_0009.jpg

Desserts next, and they did not disappoint either Honey Parfait, granola and Fig. was my wifes choice.

"What do you think?"

"Really good"

Say no more, but can I have a taste next time, please. :sad:

image_0010.jpg

By the time I had finished messing with my camera the ice cream was beginning to melt on my dish of Apple and Marscapone cheesecake with bayleaf icecream. I missed the subtle bay leaf in the ice cream. It was as you may expect, delish and satisfied my sweet tooth to round off our meal.

image_0011.jpg

I have saved the best image to the last, the Petit Fours. This was the icing on the cake for me (get it?) :laugh:

The bubblegum macaroon took me back to an age when I had no money and no sense. The others went over my head, they were described, but the memory that I had in my bubblegum days is long gone.

Well, what can I say, finally, we were bowled over by the quality coming out of the kitchen. This could now be the place where Aiden Byrne is going to be awarded that Michelin star.

By way of comparison, we dined at Helene Darroze at The Connaught, last week. She of two Michelin stars in gay Paree and one at the Connaught in London, and the meals were comparible from my wifes point of view and Aiden,s food just nudging it a bit for me. And yes she was in the kitchen, unlike Aiden Byrne who was in France :shock: Which of course proves, more than ever the terrific quality of his two guys in his kitchen. If this meal is now representitive of the very high quality coming out of the kitchen on a regular basis the North West finally has another "Michelin" under its belt. Sadly though it may just be too late for this year as the new guide is released in about seven weeks time.

Must just mention the excellent front of house service, attentive in every way.

This is a whopping, bargain lunch, easily comparable with Northcote, quality and price wise, which perhaps proves in a cash strapped economy, dining at this level need not break the bank.

Highly recommended.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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There are no menus on the Hillbark website (nor, indeed, any mention of Aiden Byrne). A bit odd, innit?

Unless I'm missing something, there's still no mention of Aiden on the Hillbark website. Is there a separate website or something?

John Hartley

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