Altrincham was recently named the best place to live in the north west by the Sunday Times. “Altrincham has always been wealthy, now it’s cool too,” said the paper.
Part of the market town’s new-found desirability is due to its wealth of dining and drinking options. These include the beautiful Market House offering a variety of street food, tapas bar Porta, and Southern Italian pasta kitchen Sugo – a branch of which will soon open in Ancoats.
“Alty Market is the centrepiece of a £6m regeneration in the area, with ever-changing food stalls in the grade II listed market building,” said the Sunday Times. “You can linger over coffee and cake, a full meal, a craft ale or glass of wine.
“Altrincham’s location is perfect for those who crave city life: you can be sipping a beer in central Deansgate within 25 minutes on the tram. If you prefer to stay local, head to Sugo or the Belgian Bar.”
Now Blanchflower looks to cement the town’s foodie credentials. The restaurant has a clear ethos: simple dishes, amazing flavours and an ingredient list you can count on one hand.
Blanchflower has been open a few months now, with Alex Shaw recently taking the helm as head chef. Alex was Manchester Food and Drink Festival’s Chef of the Year for 2015/2016 while at Volta, and was head chef at the award-winning Eagle and Child in Ramsbottom.
He also worked with Robert Owen Brown at the Hinchliffe Arms in West Yorkshire, and enjoyed other stints at The Wig and Pen in Sheffield and Nunsmere Hall in Cheshire. He was pastry chef at The Old Vicarage Ridgeway when it received its first Michelin star.
It’s an accomplished culinary CV, and now Alex, alongside Blanchflower co-owners Phil and Claire Howells, has devised a new all-day dining menu spanning breakfast through to dinner. Everything is homemade, from the sourdough bread to the home-cured meats and fish. They even make their own sausages.
The latest offering is Sunday lunch. My expectations were high when I went along to try it.
The Sunday lunch menu is short and simple, which is always a good sign in my opinion. Five snacks and sharing plates to start. Four choices for main, including meat, fish and a vegetarian option. Three puddings, plus a cheeseboard. Lots of local, seasonal produce, with a touch of imagination to keep things interesting.
The snacks – designed as either small plates to share or individual starters if you’d rather not – were simple and straightforward while showing considerable skill.
Home-cured salmon (£5.50) was beautifully delicate, served with caperberries, zingy lemon and light, chewy sourdough three days in the making. A taste of sunshine, washed down with a crisp, citrusy glass of Picpoul de Pinet (£4.45).
New season Cheshire asparagus (£7) was just al dente, with foaming Hollandaise and a perfectly poached hen’s egg, the golden yolk oozing pleasingly over the vivid green stems. A plate of pickled and fermented vegetables (£4.50) packed a punch without being overbearing. A fine start.
Mains were equally impressive. A Sunday roast seems simple, but it’s easy to get wrong. We’ve all been disappointed by tough, overcooked meat, anaemic potatoes, flabby Yorkshires, mushy vegetables or gravy that tastes like granules. Not here.
The roasted topside of beef (£14.50), cooked in the bread oven until perfectly pink, was full of flavour, doused with the glossiest of red wine gravies. It comes with an enormous, crisp Yorkshire pudding, golden roasties and tender buttered greens.
A whole poussin (£13.50) was roasted with fragrant thyme, lemon and white wine, with deliciously spiced homemade sausagemeat and herb stuffing. A lighter option is gilthead bream (£13), skillfully cooked and served with a lentil and watercress salad with preserved lemon.
Portions are generous, but we found room to squeeze in a couple of puddings. They’re well worth saving room for.
A creamy Eton Mess (£5.50) was all crisp, chewy meringue and fresh summer berries. A warm chocolate brownie (£5.50) was dark, gooey and decadent, dressed with a well-worth-ruining-your-teeth-for hot fudge sauce and homemade caramel ice cream.
“It’s so rich,” you think, “I can’t possibly eat it all.” Then you do. And then you wonder when you can have it again.
It’s an impressive launch from Blanchflower, an exemplary neighbourhood gem which looks to go from strength to strength.
12-14 Shaw’s Rd, Altrincham WA14 1QU