If you live in Altrincham and haven’t heard of the Con Club, where the hell have you been hiding?
The all-day spot and microbrewery opened in 2016 in a former working men’s club, and along with the neighbouring market hall, it’s quickly become the failsafe spot to get the night fizzing – something that’s been carefully orchestrated by chef-turned-restaurant owner David Vanderhook, the man also behind Lime Bar in Salford Quays and the George Charles in West Didsbury.
A champion of local and independent suppliers, Vanderhook has plied his trade as the private chef of fashion designer Valentino, King Hussein of Jordan and billionaire financier Sir Evelyn de Rothschild. With such an impressive CV behind the place, it’s hard not to get excited.
On first impressions, things are looking good: the cavernous space is buzzing. It’s just the place to kick off a boozy night after slipping into your glad rags. From the funsters propped up at the bar, to raucous friends schmoozing at the tables, everyone is hell-bent on having a cracking time.
The setting is industrial with a glossy sheen: soaring white-brick walls, swinging pendant lamps, tall windows, and cool and confident staff dashing back and forth to the open kitchen.
It’s loud, it’s proud and it’s a lot of fun. But such good looking, good-humoured places can easily become lazy and rest on their laurels. Would the food be up to scratch? Would I be underwhelmed at averageness? Is the Con Club more than just a pretty face?
The menu’s a real mish-mash – there’s a bunch of small plates and starters to nibble, a handful of grills, and mains irking from Asian-style yakatori beef to an all-singing all-dancing slab of tomahawk steak for two.
And if you’re a sucker for sushi, well, they’ve an impressive selection of rolled-to-order dishes that you can also take away.
You could play it safe with variants of sashimi and nigiri, but it really comes into its own with the uramaki: there’s beef teriyaki with shiitake mushrooms, tuna with spicy Korean miso paste, mango and masago, or salmon roll with wasabi yuzu cream cheese, avocado and pomegranate teriyaki.
We shared a couple of plates that appeared at our table with bowls of soy and wasabi: the tempura king prawn with yuzu tobiko was modern, perfectly composed and hit the high notes with a smear of wasabi; go for the soft shell crab uramaki, too – you’ll want to order another plate straight away. Especially when paired with a potent cup of sake; try the peach-infused tipple for a heady hit.
As for mains, they’ve got it bang on. I often find steaks underwhelming in many restaurants – dry or tough or lacking in seasoning. Yet here, our neighbouring diners were fawning over thick grilled steaks, and when I tasted my husband’s fillet, it was obvious there was nothing bog-standard about it. That and the bearnaise were outstanding – rich in tarragon.
Good job I had the foresight to order an extra bowl of parmesan and truffle fries to mop up the sauce.
My dish was a winner, too: sea bass with broccoli puree, charred broccoli and spiced root mash. It may not sound exciting, on paper it reads ‘boring’, but I’m telling you, it was a lip-smacker and the smoked mussel sauce was pure genius. My only quibble was the charred broccoli – it was too hefty and took a bit too much chewing.
Desserts are all seriously indulgent – we’re talking banana tarte tatin, profiteroles with chocolate brownie, salted caramel ice cream and marshmallows, and dark chocolate fondant. Sink your teeth into these and you’ll go up a dress size.
Same goes for the harvest crumble, which we shared, a rustic oozy pud, thick with sweet fruit, crispy hazelnut crust and topped with warm custard. This little beauty will silence any complainer that thinks the Con Club is all style, no substance.
I loved it. The place is yet more proof of how much Altrincham has been transformed. Not only is it perpetually stylish… it also does the simple things right. This is a space that’ll mix up a proper cocktail. It’ll pour you a fine glass of wine. The Con Club will dish up plate after plate of reliably delicious food and pull you into its terrific ambiance whether you pitch up for a boozy brunch or settle in for the evening.
A night here’s not cheap. But it’s always worth splashing out for. Go now, and take all your friends.
48 Greenwood Street, Altrincham WA14 1RZ