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Church Green, Lymm, Cheshire


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Everything I’d read about the Church Green had put me off going but, eventually, it just became one of those places that we had to try, as it’s only a few minutes from home. We so wanted it to be really good – great food, immaculate service, lovely setting. And it didn’t come too far short on any of these counts. But it did come short.

In truth, the room’s a bit grim. A mix of furnishing and decoration styles that don’t really come together and a feeling that the dining room has been bolted on to a pub, in a sort of prissy version of a Beefeater. Service was decidedly mixed – one guy was warm, friendly, engaging and knowledgable – an asset to the organisation. On the other hand, the woman taking our order should have been repeatedly stabbed with a fork until she stopped saying “no problem”. Of course, it’s no problem, you’re a fucking restaurant and I’m ordering off your menu.

There was a porky amuse - a cube of belly pork, a ball of rillette, some apple sauce. Apparently, they used to serve a larger version as a starter. They should start again – it was excellent. In fact, put it on as a main course

As to menu dishes, they were not bad. A bit underwhelming. A bit underseasoned. A bit not hot enough on the plate. And a bit long before it came. Oh, and a bit overpriced.

They were also a bit not quite as described on the menu. So, for instance, gnocchi, with Jerusalem artichokes and chestnut sauce also came with Parma ham. Which would have been a bugger if you’d ordered it as the only available vegetarian starter. As it happens, I’m not so I quite enjoyed it – particularly the chestnut sauce which was rich with a nice hint of sweetness.

Risotto came with the advertised red pepper and with a cod beignet. The chorizo that was advertised as being in the risotto was another beignet and it wasn’t an improvement. Perhaps more than the other plates, this suffered from not being quite hot enough. Not bad enough to send back and bugger up dinner completely – but not right at this level.

Mains were much better. Texel lamb with figs, black olives and basil – great tasting meat (some loin, a little bit of some long cooked bit), figs bringing a seasonal sweetness. Poached chicken was the other main. Came with a “chicken lasagne” – nice concept – layers of chicken mousse and very thin pasta, pressed together. It would be polite to describe this as “delicately flavoured”.

None of the desserts floated our boat so we ordered cheese – three localish ones. And, in a spot of thoughtfulness, we were each given a different one so in total we had four to taste. Most had actually spent some time out of the fridge before being plated. Some biscuits, chutney and nicely dressed salad completed it.

So, there we are. We’ve eaten at this much hyped place. Spotted Aidan Byrne in the kitchen. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It certainly wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be. And it certainly wasn’t as good as it probably likes to think of itself. But it gave us a lot to talk about on the way home.

John Hartley

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Good report John. Just about summed the place up - on the whole we were disappointed and as it is about 200 miles from us I can't see us going back. If the waitress ever reads this let us hope she never utters 'no problem' again! :rolleyes:

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

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Since I wrote last night, Mrs H reminds me of "No Problem Woman's" best line. Which was to ask if we "were happy with our beverage choices" when she took our food order. Whatever happened to "would you like another drink"?

Sort of summed up the place.

John Hartley

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  • 2 weeks later...

So, do I make my very first post on somewhere that I really like and am very clear on (Fraiche would be a fine example) or should I venture into the Church Green debate? Church Green it is.

A bit of background may let readers see where I am coming from. My wife and I are relatively new to eating out in "nice" places as the family have started to fly the nest so we are finally venturing further afield fron our normal haunts. I think its fair ro say that we are getting over the uncomfortable stage but have not yet reached the over critical stage we see in many fellow diners. We just enjoy bloody good food and being looked after but not fawned over.

So, my views on the Church Green. Sunday comes around in my house and I have a great desire to eat something new, my much better half fancies a nice well cooked Sunday dinner and our 14 year old doesn't care but fish and chips would be good. Living 10 minutes from the Church Green it is the one place I know which can please us all at the same time. In my opinion this is its strong point and also its flaw. We can all go, eat something we want and enjoy the day. The staff treat us all the same wether we are having Aidens latest creation or a bowl of soup. Service is on the ball, friendly and on the whole knowledgable. I have luckily avoided the lady mentioned above but I would find her funny rather than off putting. The food is good, very good. We go along, are taken care of and all have a great meal that provides what we want.

The drawbacks? I think these come from the fact that they provide all of the above. I am not sure if the Church Green is a pub or a Restaurant. I don't the designers knew. The front is a pub but with no drinkers and the eating area is a Conservatory at the back of the pub. It sits somewhere between a "proper" restaurant and somewhere like The Three Fishes but falls in no mans land.

So, how do I sum up? I love the food. Aidens cooking is great and the kitchen produces some superb food. The staff are great and we always feel welcome. The room is ok, just not sure what it is. Currently we visit once every 4 or 5 weeks. Why don't we go more often? A meal for 4. 2 soup and 2 Sunday dinners, 2 nice starters and 2 of Aidens Mains + 4 deserts, 4 drinks and no wine comes to £180. I think that there is much better value for money in the area. So why do I visit so often? I love Aidens cooking. My little un loves his fish and chips. The last 2 times we have been staff have been sent home due to the lack of custom. Surely the balance between food/price/value for money needs looking at. The place is so close to being great.

As a newbie how often should I reread this before hitting the "Add Reply" button? Does 10 times and 2 bottles of St Emilion qualify? Oh sod it .......

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Seeing as Colin has broken his eg duck with the church green seems fitting for me too! Good to be on board.

Like a lot of places, the irony of The Church Green is that it used to be incredible value when it opened. We went within six to eight months of the doors opening and, for what we ate, couldn't quite believe the prices; a sub £10 starter 'salad' of potato and summer truffle lingers long and hard in the memory. It had about 9 different preparations going on. I think we commented at the time that there was no way they could maintain those prices, they were clearly buying future custom and a way into the market.

I agree, the issue now is with the venue itself as it falls a long way short of justifying the sort of prices they charge. Sitting in a slightly sterile gastro-pub was ok when starters were under £10 and most of the mains £16-20. Now there's at least £5+ on top of that for each dish your considerations and expectations change. Yes, it's there on the plate in terms of the food, and the execution is great, but as someone mentions (I think it's here), it's hard to pull yourself out of the Beefeater feel going on around you. All businesses have cash-flow considerations; taking on a venue and building it from the ground up is ok, there's nothing wrong with that, but they've been there for a while now and could have done more with the room.

It's been about six months since my last visit. The other thing I would have liked to see was a degustation. I've 'travelled' to get there each time and it would have been nice to be able to sample more of the kitchen. Having said that, it will be interesting to see if Aiden changes the food and price point now he has a specific fine-dining outlet at that boutique hotel near the Wirral (I forget the name) where I can only assume the restaurant is more appropriate. Any early reports? I think it's open now...

Edited by marcusjames (log)
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Welcome, Marcus,

Nail, hammer, head, springs to mind with your post :laugh:

With starters averaging nearly £12, and mains £27 on average, given the venue its little wonder people vote with their feet.

Don,t get me wrong, I'm an Aiden Byrne fan, he can certainly cook, but the pricing is out of kilter with the location.

I notice he has introduced a good value lunch and early evening menu at £18.50 for 2 or £22.50 for 3.

The seven course tasting menu is dearer than a lot of Michelin starred places @ £68, they do a 12 course surprise menu also, but no prices posted on the website. I wonder if the surprise is in the pricing :smile: .

We have eaten here four or maybe five times since it has been open with mixed feelings. I have strongly resisted posting a report as we know Aiden and Sarah, who are smashing people. Its fair to say we are not friends as such but Aiden always comes out of the kitchen when we visit. Having said that its quite some time since we ate there.

The original formula that they had was fantastic, a sort of keep all of the people happy thing, although that was not really the market Aiden wanted to be. However it worked and they were incredibly busy.

I have been in business too long to know how important pricing is, get it wrong and its curtains.

We will get around to a return, perhaps soon, but I think a visit to The Hilbark to sample his food is more in order at this stage.

"So many places, so little time"

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

@d_goodfellow1

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Welcome, Marcus.

I've read your Chowhound posts and it's good to see you here.

It's also good to see you echo some of the issues I'd also identified with the Church Green. I'd held off going for so long as it really hadnt got a good play on the local sites, such as Manchester Confidential. Glad I've been but no great rush to be back (unless someone else was paying) - there's a small handful of other places within easy striking distance that tempt me more (Aumbry and Harvey Nicks to name a couple)

However, as an issue of "business", on our visit, every table was occupied. It's obviously still pulling in "destination" punters like me or it's built a good following.

John Hartley

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

I had a bit of good news this morning and decided instead of a snack at home why not have a lazy lunch somewhere, but where? The nearest decent place to us is at least an hour in any direction. Then this place sprang to mind.

Why so long since our last visit?

London of course, its our second home these days.

We really only fancied perhaps the set lunch or pick off the very good bar menu, but the quality of the produce on the carte made us change our mind. Scallops, foie gras, monkfish, turbot, hare, mallard, etc, etc, in my mind some decent choices as it all read very well.

The three course carte is £45 or you can take a seven course tasting menu based around the carte for £75.

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Fresh bread with accompaniments (£2 per person).

Ok, charging for bread? asks the Scottish side of my personality, but believe me its worth every penny. I know I've had it before and its great, some of the best.

Red pepper and rosemary. Sourdough, sourdough and onion, and a plain white. On the side, beef dripping, unsalted butter, and an extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar mix.

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The amuse was off the set lunch menu and was more complex than first meets the eye.

Cured Salmon with beetroot and fennel salad.

Top quality salmon, sweet beetroot, crunchy aniseed fennel and a very nice orange blossom jelly snaking its way through the middle. If this is the standard. So far so very good.

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I chose Roasted scallops with smoked oxtail, white onion and cinnamon.This looked well on the plate. Good marriage between the sweet scallops and the full flavoured earthy oxtail. Good rich saucing. Witness also the onion puree and oxtail mousse in an onion crumb.

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Across the table was Foie gras, palm sugar mousse, poached cherries, cherry jelly and gingerbread. Again well plated, visually appealing, good produce. Pronounced, a good eat.

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Mains next and while I zoned in on the mallard dish, the lady fancied the hare, which is a very distinctive and strong flavour. I think the chocolate sauce tipped the balance in the choice.

Hare loin with sweetened chicory, carrot, ajwain and chocolate

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Ajwain is normally used in Indian cookery and the seeds taste like thyme, albeit strong thyme. Out of sight in the picture are some hare cutlets. The dish itself was distinctly sweet. I had one small taste which was enjoyed. My wife cleared the plate.

My mallard was looked forward to with relish.Breast of Mallard, salardaise potato, choucroute and Morteau sausage. Of particular interest on the plate was a leg meat potato stringed lolipop. To go with both mains we chose two side dishes of chantenay carrots, and kale and sweetcure bacon (both £3.50 each).

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No pre dessert, so straight down to business.

Roasted pineapple, peanut crumble, banana and palm sugar ice cream

We both loved this dessert, again terrific presentation, unmistakably Aiden Byrne visually. Crunchy, creamy, melting.

A winner.

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There are a choice of nine desserts, quite an array, and truth be told too much choice for most people. We were recommended the White chocolate and liquorice mousse with blackberries and beetroot. It was a very good shout indeed. Of particular interest intersperced between the blackberries, were honey spheres that popped in the mouth, delightful. A highly accomplished and very enjoyable dish.

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So overall a success. Not cheap of course but good quality. You can however cherry pick your way through some good looking dishes that came out of the kitchen for no where near the price of the a la carte.

By the time you add a few extras, an entry level bottle of wine, tip (no service charge) expect to pay a touch under £150. The bar menu is very appealing and we were tempted by a scrummy looking burger coming out of the kitchen on its way to another table.

Service was good, friendly and informal. We did not book, just turned up on spec. Sarah, Aidens partner was on front of house duty and Aiden came out of the kitchen to say hello. He did say that they intended to open an intimate fine dining restaurant in Central Manchester in the very near future. I assume he did not want to keep that a secret. If he did it was a mistake telling me.

When we next eat his food it may very well be to try his new place, or we may just go back here to give some of the pub grub a try. It does look very good.

Edited by david goodfellow (log)

"So many places, so little time"

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

@d_goodfellow1

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  • 4 weeks later...

What do you make of this email, just received from the Church Green? I think my reading of it is that the Church Green is scrapping its "fine dining" carte and replacing it with a "steak & chips" menu. Am I mis-reading it?

As you may be aware, in July of last year we opened the British Grill in the Macdonald Craxton Wood hotel in Ledsham, Chester. This concept has been a great success there and the restaurant even achieved 2 AA rosettes within 8 weeks of opening.

Over the three years we have been at The Church Green we have listened to your feedback and this has helped us evolve. With this in mind, and taking into consideration the success of the new British Grill menu we have taken the decision to incorporate the grill and menu into The Church Green.

The new menu changes will come in to effect from February 23rd 2012.

We will be having a bit of a makeover in the restaurant and investing in a wonderful new Inka grill for the kitchen too!!

As well as having the British Grill menu we will also be keeping our very popular Lunch menu and 5 course tasting menus. Our famous wine matching evenings will continue and we will hold regular gourmet events too.

Edited by Harters (log)

John Hartley

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  • 4 weeks later...

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I'm not on twitter so I don't tweet, but that does not stop me or anyone else for that matter, from seeing what other people are up to. Anyone can "follow" without signing up, except that is, if someones account is protected, you simply can not view their tweets.

Of course as my life revolves around food and specifically where our next good meal is coming from, a lot of the foody gossip is valuable to me. New openings, new dishes on menus, that sort of thing.

So. I'm getting good feedback about Aiden Byrnes burger, a tweet here, a tweet there, enough tweets to make us want to visit.

Now. I had a bit of a preview on our last visit. I saw a couple of "whoppers" leaving the kitchen and made a mental note to try one in the not too near future. So here we are.

What really interested me was how the food, including the burgers were cooked not on a Josper charcoal grill but an Inka charcoal oven. It is hailed as eco friendly because of its use of waste coconut husks which are formed into charcoal briquettes. These according to the blurb have great benefits including burning at higher temperatures, less smoke and fewer flare ups when grilling fatty foods. Aiden Byrne's Church Green is the first restaurant in England to have one. This is closely followed by Simon Rogans London outpost Roganic, where much lauded chef Ben Spalding will be giving it some hammer.

Now normally on our outings we try to choose different dishes from the menu purely to see what the kitchen can offer, but on this occasion we were resolute, we both wanted the burger, and unusually for us we both craved the same starter.

Mussels from the Inka Grill "sauces change daily"

Todays sauce was Korma.

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We were intrigued to see how a korma sauce would translate to mussels. Normally when I cook mussels I can't drag myself away from the classic mariniere perhaps thinking anything else might overpower the mussels.

Wrong.

Served with a hunk of ciabatta in a cast iron pot, they were a joy to behold. I had to double check with Sarah that this trencherman offering was the starter potion. It was.

The last time we ate mussels I bought them off the quayside from a wholesaler in Conwy, which is famed for its stock. They did not have the flavour of the ones served here, which were from Blackpool. These were gorgeous, plump and full flavoured. The sauce was classic, turmeric, cumin, garlic, cardamom, shallots, coconut milk, and some sweet dessicated coconut to finish it off. It was totally delicious, a knockout soup in its own right but perfectly showing off the mussels. Sadly I had to leave some as I would not be able to eat the burger. A meal in itself really fantastic value for £6.

I was a tad worried that the burger would not live up to the hype, even more so because Aiden and Sarah were both in. No pressure then.

Now then any chef that travels to New York to research burgers, (Aiden has) must have eaten some top notch examples and it would seem that the ideal meat mix is 85% steak with 15% bone marrow as it is here. The meat is not from O Shea's, this is the North West, so arguably the best butcher around is Frost Butchers in Chorlton, Manchester.

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Now then we don't claim to be experts on anything food, especially burgers. We have eaten what some consider the best, Goodman, and had a few others including the very good Bar Buloud one, but how would this one compare?

The first bite would determine success or failure in my estimation, and guess what? It was flippin marvellous. We both looked at each other and blurted out high praise. It comes in two sizes a 5 oz at £8 and a whopping 10 oz at £12. You can choose from four toppings (all extra) I tried the fabulous roquefort and brie mix with breaded deep fried onions (£1). The toasted bun is itself a thing of beauty, a ciabatta base enriched with olive oil. Don't fully know how to describe the burger, moist, almost runny bone marrow and olive oil mix. Smokey barbecue style steak, perfectly seasoned just jam packed with flavour. A revelation really, far better than we could have hoped for.

The other topping was maple cured bacon and duck egg, (£2)

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"Really enjoyable". Was the verdict.

I was very happy to be served skinny chips, more beef dripping means more flavour and these were up there with anything else that we have eaten chip wise. I preferred them to Heston's triple cooked ones.

We were both so full now a dessert was out of the question, but the ever so persuasive Sarah suggested that the Lime cheesecake with roasted pineapple was quite lite and worth trying to satisfy a sweet tooth.

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And she was right. We both tucked in and in no time at all we cleared the plate.

Well, what can I say, apart from what you have already heard. For such a simple format, a burger and a bowl of mussels it was really really enjoyable. To suggest that this is just pub grub done well is an insult to the chef. Much effort has gone into research, sourcing, equipment and cooking that in my estimation this burger is worth travelling for. We have not tried the Meatliquor one in London yet but I can't see that it would be any better than this one, thats one very big thumbs up for just South of Manchester. If you still want a bit of fine dining the five course tasting menu reads well, and the specials were all worthy of a try. We had a chat with Aiden who told us the new fine dining restaurant in Manchester will be open towards the end of the year, but in the meantime he will be in the Church Green for nearly every service until then.

Don't just take our word for it, try it yourself.

Next time we visit we are going to try out the steaks.

The Inka Grill.

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Coconut charcoal briquette

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"So many places, so little time"

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

@d_goodfellow1

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