Aumbry, Prestwich, Manchester

* This review was written at a time when I didn’t feel comfortable taking photos of food in restaurants. That has all changed now so I hope to revisit with my camera at the ready soon! *

The more I heard and read about Aumbry before I arrived the more excited I got. The head chefs are Mary-Ellen McTague & Laurence Tottingham who both trained under Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck. Even more excitingly it is just a few miles drive from my home, after all the time I spend traveling to great restaurants this was a big thing for me!

It’s situated just off the main road in Prestwich and looks very much like a house from the outside. It also looks very much like a house from the inside too which was a slightly odd feeling at first, particularly when we were taken upstairs whilst our table was being prepared. I couldn’t help feeling that I was sat in somebodies bedroom. After a while it all became part of the charm, once seated downstairs it felt homely and warm. It was fun to watch Mary-Ellen and Laurence working in the kitchen.

Whilst upstairs we were served home made crisps and sort of small cheese pasties which were very good.

Back downstairs and the real eating began. We went for the 9 course tasting menu, actually 8 course as I don’t believe an amuse-bouche should be counted.

The amuse in question was ‘Potted pork and Cumbrian ham with pickled cucumber & grenadine reduction‘. It was good cooking but not really my sort of food.

The next dish was however, ‘Home smoked Mackerel, Poached rhubarb, mustard cream & toasted rye bread‘ was outstanding. The Mackerel so lightly smoked it was almost raw, the smokey flavour was there but incredibly delicate. I’d never have dreamed of eating mackerel with rhubarb but it worked brilliantly, as did the mustard cream. A really original dish which looked amazing too.

From one great dish to another. ‘Bury Black Pudding Scotch Egg, mushroom relish & tomato ketchup’. Perfectly soft, small quails eggs (I assume) surrounded by delicious layer of black pudding and breadcrumbs. One sitting on top of a mushroom, the other a small tomato and served with a smear of mushroom relish and homemade ketchup. The black pudding & eggs alone were a delight but eaten together with the mushroom or ketchup were just delicious.

We were next served a ‘Potato & Wild Garlic Soup‘ in little china teacups. It was a good soup packed with flavour.

The fish course was ‘Poached Lemon Sole, Turnip purée, braised salsify, spinach & cockles‘. I’m a huge fish lover and this was a brilliant dish. The lemon sole poached beautifully, so light and soft and complimented wonderfully by the turnip & salsify. It was the cockles that made the dish though for me.

Pork is one of my favourite meats so I was very much looking forward to the ‘Slow Cooked Leg & Shoulder of Inglewhite Pork with Black peas & vinegar, apple sauce, grilled loin & birch syrup‘. It didn’t disappoint. It didn’t quite have the WOW factor of the mackerel and scotch egg courses but it was another interesting combination of flavours and textures and very enjoyable to eat.

We were then served a selection of British & Irish cheeses. Ranging from a soft goats cheese to a blue cheese. All were very good (except the blue which i’m not a fan of particularly) and served with a nice selection of crackers/biscuits and relishes.

With just the two dessert courses to go I have to confess that I was getting quite full. When I read that there was a treacle tart and a chocolate based dessert I wondered if I would be able to finish them.

Thankfully it was easy and not only did they both taste amazing but they were incredibly light too. First up was a ‘Treacle Tart with Earl Grey Cream & Lemon Jelly‘. The treacle tart was the best I have ever tasted, soft, sticky and sweet almost too sweet which is why it was served with a fantastic super sharp lemon jelly. Together they were brilliant. The Earl Grey cream complimented the tart well too, it was served in a teacup and was rich and creamy with a delicate flavour.

The second dessert Almond Crisp, Chocolate mousse, griottine cherries & cocoa sorbet was good too although I enjoyed the tart more. I was expecting this to be too heavy but it wasn’t. The chocolate mousse was light and full of air, spread with the cherries between the lightest and most delicate almond crisps. Even the cocoa sorbet which had a deep chocolate flavour and was sprinkled with cocoa powder managed to be quite light. I’ve no idea how they managed it but i’d eaten two fantastic desserts without feeling any fatter than I already did. I call that an achievement!

We had ordered the very reasonably priced wine pairing which varied from a glass of Processo with the amuse to a Riesling with the Mackerel. Port with the cheese and sweet dessert wine with the final courses. I’m far from a wine expert but they all worked well and were explained to us in great detail. One of the reds was served chilled which was a new experience for me which I rather enjoyed.

Service was very friendly, quite informal for food of this level which is in-keeping with the look and feel of the place.

Overall I think Aumbry is already a fantastic restaurant and has the potential to really grow into one of the best restaurants around. I’m grateful that it is so close and can see myself becoming a regular.

Date of visit:  01.04.2011

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