Despite being very slightly underwhelmed on my last visit to Aumbry (something which i’ve since thought was a little harsh as everything I ate was excellent) it was my first choice when choosing a restaurant to take my Mum to for her birthday. The last time I took her out on her own was to 3 Michelin starred ‘Restaurant Gordon Ramsay‘ so the pressure was on. I just knew she’d love the converted Prestwich cottage setting, quirky homely decor, vintage china and the relaxed atmosphere.
We started the evening upstairs with a glass of cloudy Prosecco, a first for me but hopefully not that last as it was gorgeous and matched the canapés beautifully.
I’d had the Black Peas & Vinegar on my previous visit and the Cheese Gougères on several earlier visits to Aumbry but that didn’t make them any less enjoyable. From the wonderfully soft pastry of the Gougères filled with warm, melting cheese to the smooth black pea puree with a sharp kick of vinegar and topped with crunchy fried potato and a hint of mint. A fine way to start any meal.
After taking our seats downstairs in the charming dining room we were served ‘Honey & Jasmine Iced Tea’ in a rather cute little teacup. A perfect balance of sweetness and floral notes it was tasty and refreshing.
Despite having eaten the ‘Bury Black Pudding Scotch Egg’ on four previous visits it’s one of my favourite ever dishes and I was genuinely disappointed not to see it on the menu. Luckily for me it was sent out as another taster before the official Amuse Bouche. It’s still a brilliant dish that i’ll simply never get bored of eating.
Bread is always a highlight of a trip to Aumbry, the freshly baked sourdough is great but it’s the two butters – one nutty the other from Williams farm in Bolton – and the simply amazing beef dripping which makes it such a treat.
‘Potted Wild Boar, Beetroot & Carrot Tops’ came next, a really interesting combination of rich meaty wild boar with soft, sweet candied beetroot.
Like the ‘Black Pudding Scotch Egg’ there is always a home smoked mackerel dish on the menu here. It’s seen some changes but this was the same as my last trip: ‘Smoked Mackerel, Roast Celeriac, Pickled Beets & Mustard Cream’. No bad thing as it’s a brilliant dish. The mackerel itself is lightly smoked for a soft and subtle flavour which works so well with the accompanying beetroot and mustard cream. Toasted rye bread adds a crunchy texture.
One thing I always look forward to when dining at Aumbry is the soup, if I compiled a list of the Top 5 soups i’ve ever eaten I suspect most of them would be from here. The celeriac soup at Christmas with chestnuts in the bottom would take some beating but the ‘Field Mushroom Soup, English Truffle & Wild Garlic’ probably surpassed it.
It tasted unbelievably good, a beautiful, rich mushroom flavour enhanced by the wonderful truffle oil and wild garlic. It was the texture though that made it so special, soft and airy and almost foam like it was such an enjoyable experience to eat.
As if the main course of ’33 Day Aged Longhorn Beef with Oyster, Aura Potatoes & Pickled Cockles’ wasn’t intriguing enough on it’s own. We were first served a pre-main course in the form on a dainty loaf of bread containing soft, slow cooked beef shin and an oyster! It was as delicious as it was fascinating and certainly got us excited about what was to come.
The main event followed soon after and did not disappoint. Longhorn beef is famous for being one of the best breeds around and it’s easy to see why, the quality is phenomenal.
Using top quality ingredients is a great start but dishes like this require expert cooking from highly talented chefs and this dish is clear evidence that husband and wife Laurence and Mary-Ellen certainly are. The combination of flavours was out of this world, each drop of oil or sauce added new flavours and dimensions, the gorgeous pickled cockles added a sharp acidity whilst the leaves brought a bitterness and freshness. It’s hard to believe that this dish is so new as it feels so very refined.
I always enjoy the cheeses at Aumbry and this occasion was no different. All 6 were excellent but the chutneys are all a little sweet for my tastes. I loved the new presentation on a wooden board rather than individually on plates and the 1978 vintage Weise & Krohn Port is fabulous.
I really liked the ‘Grapefruit Posset & Celery Granita’ last time and I loved it again, as did my grapefruit disliking mother. It’s a beautiful combination of slightly unusual flavours and a wonderful balance of sweetness and sharpness. A superb palate cleanser.
The final course was the one I was looking forward to the most but actually turned out to be my least favourite. ‘Beetroot & Chocolate Cake, Bee Pollen, Hazelnut, Milk & Honey’ looked stunning, I find it difficult to criticise something so beautiful. It certainly wasn’t a bad dessert just the flavours didn’t quite match the exciting description and exquisite presentation for me.
The cake itself was actually rather bland on it’s own but was hugely improved by the other ingredients, particularly the bee pollen. The beetroot marshmallow was interesting but the best thing on the plate by far was the hazelnut sauce, unfortunately there was nowhere near enough on the plate though.
The exciting new tastes didn’t stop with the final dessert though. ‘Rhubarb & Custard’ petit fours were one of the best things I ate all night.
I couldn’t remember much about the final petit four last time but made sure to pay attention on this occasion. So I now know that what I ate both times was an ‘Apple Kickshaw’ which is made from an 18th century recipe by Hannah Glasse. I also know that they’re delicious; flaky, buttery pastry filled with warm and comforting apple puree.
Service was as flawless as ever, they’ve really nailed the smooth, efficient and high level service of the very best fine-dining restaurants yet somehow retain an informal and relaxed atmosphere to match the surroundings.
The wine-pairing menu is also worthy of note as not only were all of the wines excellent and expertly matched but the knowledge of the staff and the time they take to describe each wine and why it’s been chosen is equally impressive.
All in all it was another enjoyable trip to Aumbry who seem on top form at the moment. It’s a brilliant setting, has a great atmosphere and the food and wine to match. The new dishes are of an even higher level so I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.
Date Of Visit: 15.08.2013Follow @FoodGeekUK