Things got off to a great start with canapés in the bar. Green & black olives, spiced almonds, choux pastries with four different fillings (salmon, duck liver, goats cheese & beetroot and one I’ve forgotten). But the star was a take on fish & chips. Served up in a paper bag, this was whitebait and crisps.
Bread was spectacularly good. They bring a trolley with a selection of about ten. Good baguette; excellent sourdough; superb Lancashire cheese & onion.
The amuse bouche was a parsnip mousse topped with cranberry granola. No doubt intended as a nod towards Christmas but its sweetness gave it an air of breakfast.
Hare was an interesting starter. Three small slices, served very rare with a little of its liver. They topped three ravioli – cocoa giving a great colour to the pasta and just a hint of sweetness. Inside, a little celeriac mousse. There was a sauce which, for my taste, was overly sweet, doing nothing to benefit the rest of the plate.
I followed that with a main course that, frankly , was disappointing in size as well as in flavour. It would have made a good starter or tasting menu course. A small fillet of John Dory was completely coated in a dark green parsley sauce which, in itself, was fine. Alongside, a razor clam shell was filled with slices of the clam, a few cockles, some lovely sweet langoustine, oyster, and an overcooked scallop. All poached and tasting very much of themselves which, in some cases, was of not very much. No veg, no carb. It lacked enjoyment as much as it lacked an ability to feed you.
Across the table, there was a plate of poached and fried oysters – the fried ones in a light batter and much the better for it. There was a little leek, which was a bugger to cut, in the way that leeks can be a bugger to cut. It was completed by a sprinkle of tasteless Baerii caviar and a few blobs of horseradish.
That was followed by “Flavours of bouillabaisse”, which was expected to be quite soupy – not least as a soup spoon was provided. In the event, it wasn’t – the sauce around the fish being just a sauce. There were a couple of fillets of accurately cooked red mullet and a poached langoustine (probably the other half of the bit on my plate). Accompaniments were interesting – a couple of croutons, fennel rouille, Parmesan crisps. So, a sort of deconstructed bouillabaisse. Not a particularly good deconstruction but a very OK plate of food.
Pre-dessert was lovely. A tiny “oeuf a la neige” surrounded by tangerine sauce. Cute and really tasty.
One of the proper desserts was certainly the best of the plates either of us ate. A chocolate mousse came with a caramelised banana and flavours of rum and raisin. It was certainly better than the other one – described as “Barolo figs” but managing to have no real taste of either. Yes, there were a couple of small fig halves. Amd, yes, there was a paint brush smear of something or other. And an ice cream and a mousse affair and your guess about flavours would be as good as mine.
Coffee wasn’t very hot. And the petit fours didn’t arrive until sometime after we’d finished the coffee (mini- canoli – they were very good). I suppose service wasn’t as good as you might expect at this level. Well, at least as we might expect. It should be happening almost without you realising that it is happening. But not here, there’s constant faffing around – drinks being topped up, single items of used crockery or glassware being removed, regular “check backs” asking if we were enjoying whatever. You’d think you were in America.
Now, at £69, it’s on the right side of being value for money. But only just. We’re not well endowed with Michelin starred places in the north west. So it grieves me to say this. But we’d rather spend our money elsewhere and, certainly, won’t be in any rush to return.