An evening at Grenache in Walkden

Grenache_NoirIt was Miss Mash’s mum’s birthday this week and for all sorts of reasons we just didn’t feel like going to town for a meal out. Too much faff, can’t park, what restaurant, too expensive, overrated, too many burgers, etc… having read Mrs Petticoat‘s review Miss Mash suggested going to Grenache. “Huh?”, was my first reaction but immediately the name sounded appealing for obvious reasons. It is conveniently located in Walkden tucked in a quiet little corner of greater West Manchester. The website throws some expectations-raising facts such as Michelin-trained Head Chef Mike Jennings, on top of the obvious promise of good wines. safe to say I was more excited than the birthday girl herself.

A short drive from Sale (15 mins), easy parking 10 metres down from the restaurant, a warm welcome on arrival (well played Huss for making mum feel like that special someone) , and a comfortable environment… At this stage I had to restrain from having too big a grin on me face.

Very quickly and adequately we were asked if we wanted a drink. This is the moment I dreaded as both Miss Mash and her dad were driving and mum only drinks a glass of Cava on occasion. Tough one. I had to rely on the wines by the glass and thought the range was a bit limited considering the wine list: two whites, one rose and one red and two sparklings. The three French wines come from the same co-op in the Ardeche region in the South of France. The prices were very reasonable though: £2.95 for a small and £4.95 for a large glass. Mum was treated to a lovely glass of fruity sparkling “on the house” which she very much enjoyed. The Sauvignon was very decent as well, crisp, clean with aromas of citrus and elderflower.

Huss then introduced the three options that were available to us. The set 2- or 3-course menu, the A La Carte menu or the 7-course tasting menu. We all chose a mix of the first two, Miss Mash and I going for A La Carte. Not to say the set menu was unattractive but there were a couple of items on the A La Carte that were screaming at us from the word go.

Shortly after our order was taken we were treated to an amuse-bouche: a ball of crispy fried fish cake served on top of a well balanced tartare sauce in a scallop shell as well as a small slice of garlic and rosemary focaccia bread. Unfortunately these were gulped before I realised I wanted to take photos of the meal so you’ll have to trust me: they were light, fresh and crispy and it was actually a bit more than just an amuse-bouche.

Miss Mash went for the Grilled Fillet of Mackerel with Pickled Beetroot, Goats Cheese, Orange and Watercress Salad starter which came with a set of instructions from Huss: to make the best of the dish one should try to squish a little bit of all the ingredients in one mouthful.

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It stole a (very tiny) bit of my thunder with my crispy duck rillettes with chilli & cucumber noodles salad which came with no instructions, but the girls confirmed the combination worked by means of an enthusiastic “hmm hmm” and a nod so all good there. To be honest my starter was just as tasty and no one needs instructions to figure this one out: perfectly crisp duck rillettes paté full of gamey flavours and the side of fresh noodles with the cucumber and chilli to cleanse and freshen the palate after every forkful, simples but worked a treat.

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No chemical concoction, strange looking foam or anything suspicious, just good ingredients thoughtfully combined and very well put together. And the crisp Sauvignon was not a bad match either. Happy Mr Must and so was everyone else.

The mains arrived fairly promptly leaving us maybe 10 minutes or so to catch up on various topics and work an appetite for what was to come. I ordered a glass of the house red, which I think was a blend of Merlot and Grenache but the restaurant has its own wine label called Grenache (evidently) so it may have been simply Merlot. Unfortunately it was slightly oxidated and was on the wrong side of acidic. It is possible that it came from a bottle that may have been opened the previous day. I have yet to work up the confidence to request a glass from a freshly opened bottle in these situations so I will reserve judgement on the house red for the time being. The white was pretty good and there’s no reason why the red wouldn’t deliver.

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Miss Mash and I actually went for the same main: Roast Belly Pork with Seared Scallop, Mash and Apple Compote. At first we thought it was a little light on the gravy sauce but we quickly worked out that the apple compote was the moist partner for the belly. It all worked wonderfully. The pork was flavoursome and tender and the compote definitely didn’t come from a tin. We were a bit confused about the presence of a scallop though, not sure how it’s supposed to work from a flavour combination point of view. It was succulently sweet, soft and melty though and perfectly cooked. I took it as an undisturbing little treat…and why not ?

Suffice to say the plates were as cleanly polished as it’s possible to get with a knife and fork (still missing the French tradition of serving bread as standard…you just know it makes sense but hey…).

Before we were asked whether some of us desired to look at the dessert menu, another “amusing” treat came round our way in the shape of crystallised raspberry sorbet.

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For dessert Miss Mash had the Sweet Potato Cake which was surprisingly much like a fruit cake: “very rich, fruity, nutty, moist and moreish” – I never heard of sweet potato as a main dessert ingredient but I guess it makes sense. I’ll have to give it a go next time.

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I went for the Cheese Board  which on the paper suggested a more authentic offering than the usual selection of pasteurised, fridge temperature brie and mature cheddar. Brie was there but the genuine, meltingly flavourful kind. It was accompanied by a decent selection of crackers and for once there were enough of them to eat all the cheese with. It was also served with a small pot of marinated cherries and a small glass of a Hungarian sweet wine which was ok.

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We left full, satisfied and with the firm intent to come back, maybe to try the 7-course taster menu and most definitely investigate the wines a bit more.

See you soon Huss 🙂

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