Another glorious Mancunian night (did anyone catch Spring last Tuesday?) and as the gales howled, the boys bundled me into the boot of their car and dragged me gagged and bound to Swinton.
“…unassuming, like a big terrace house, with a cosy yet smart interior…”
O alright, I was in the front because I’m the Queen and it was Walkden, straight down that road to nowhere The East Lancs, with Dubai and Ginger happily reminiscing and pointing out childhood haunts and high school. The Gay woke up in time to also point out a landmark in Walkden, where he had had a ‘date’.
Grenache is unassuming, like a big terrace house, with a cosy yet smart interior and tables that gives you a busy vibe but you’re not knocking anyones arms.
Our host, Huss, was mister charming and with lovely Luke, our waiter, looked after us with perfect attention to detail, to the point of putting out the awning when we wanted a fag.
This is a meal not be rushed. The cooking here is serious. Chef Mike Jennings has been on board since September with a pedigree that includes working at Northcote, being a protégé of Shaun Rankin and working with dessert maestro Gary Rhodes (it’s worth the road trip for the fondant pud alone).
You can quite happily wile away a couple of hours here and indulge in some of the best food the city has to offer. For those with less time on their hands there is an Early Decadence Menu which they can deliver more speedily and is £15.95 for two courses and £18.95 for three.
We literally started the meal by breaking bread – a warm sesame loaf straight from the oven that we shared and then indulged in a delicious amuse bouche of a smoked haddock fish ball with homemade tartar sauce. Divine and a taste of things to come.
The Gay, who should by rights be nil by mouth as he has to squeeze into his speedos a week on Wednesday, was happily chatting on ‘Grinder’ to a chap (we shall call him Fred), who was next door in his lounge watching telly, such is the suburban setting. The Gay was actually hoping for Ryan Giggs.
I started (starters are from £5.50) with the twice-baked Lancashire cheese soufflé and had to literally fight the boys off from nabbing this. It was gorgeous, fluffy and light, oozing perfect cheesiness and matched beautifully with cider jelly. The homemade pickles were a little too strong for my palate but were a punchy delight to the scroungers picking at my plate.
The Gay tucked into mackerel, which is apparently one of the signatures and was in his words ‘delectably fresh’. As with all good dishes the trick here was to put all elements (the fish, the beetroot goat’s cheese and orange and watercress salad) on each forkful to get the flavours working together.
Ginge went for Ox Cheek, the second time he’s ordered this recently which he declared was sensually superb. The Gay meanwhile was helping himself to Ginger’s accompanying horseradish risotto which he reckoned should be a dish on its own as it was so delish.
Dubai opted for the scallops which he liked, but then we have been spoilt for life by Australasia’s scallops and he said they weren’t quite as good as that.
Huss then treated us all to an intercourse taster of the nettle soup which came with a perfect tiny quail egg. This was green, tasty, heady broth that I swear left a tingle on the tongue like muted space dust. We wanted to take flasks of it home.
The wine list is well chosen and exceptionally reasonable with The Gay quaffing a good Chenin Blanc for under £16 and Dubai and I shared a Prosecco for under £20. Cranberry juice for Ginger, our designated gentlemanly driver.
Onto mains (from £10.95) and my fillet looked like a dramatic, craggy volcano with sweeps of charcoally tasting root veg puree and buttery kale. Perfectly cooked and in fact me and the Gay swapped meals half way through, him declaring this the best fillet he’s had in town (well sort of town).
I then took over his seabass with saffron and shellfish risotto (which actually came from the Decadence menu) because I loved this dish in Venice and wanted to see if it could be replicated in this home from home. It could and took me straight back to the canals and sights (thankfully not smell) of the city.
Dubai chose one of the signatures, the lamb. This reminded us of Emma Viva who can sometimes make me seem like Einstein. When given Lamb’s Rum recently she wanted to know what type of lamb was in it. That worries me for the obvious reason, but really was she worried whether it was a baby Rambouillet or karakul in her rum?
I had banned the boys from describing their dishes as ‘good’ and as has sometimes been the case ‘shite’ so Dubai described his lamb as thick, juicy and tasty, just like Sam. We all obviously had to taste it and it was heavenly. The mother of lamb.
Ginge came up with ‘divine’ for his pot roast chicken breast which was like a mini Sunday roast all to himself.
Before dessert we had a catch up with Mike who explained the lengths he goes to source the best ingredients. He is a firm believer in knowing how to cook without the fancy schmancy equipment that graces some kitchens, believing a pan and a stove should be enough for a good chef. His resourceful means they even use the local veg from ‘Derek’s’ allotment and he was off to France next week with his butcher, promising we might see truffles on next week menu if he finds good ones. (They have promised to let us know so we’ll alert you foodies).
My cheese was would make Damson hide their heads in shame as six perfect specimens adorned my slate plate with a glass of Blauf Rankisch (Hungarian wine and better Huss said than Port).
Dubai’s fondant was rustled up in exactly nine minutes and was described as ‘amazing’, while the Ginger said he would come back for the crème brulee alone and the Gay was wowed by the ice-cream (that actually turned out to be a yoghurt sorbet) that came with his pear tatin.
The Swinton boys reckon it’s probably a £10 taxi from town with Manchester Cars (not black cab) and if you love food, you seriously have to go to Grenache – you can see why it’s won The Good Food Guide’s Best North West Restaurant. We’ll let you know if it’s truffles next week.
On The I Love’o’meter
Definite marriage material.
Grenache Restaurant, 15 Bridgewater Rd, Walkden, Worsley, Manchester M28 3JE
0161 799 8181