Saturday, 21 January 2012

Grenache - Walkden, Salford

Small, high street restaurants can be a gamble; much loved by regulars they never have to change the menu, busy because they're convenient but that's all they have going for them, or ghostly vestiges hanging on with dated curtains and dead flies on the windowsills.

Grenache in Walkden is a little high street affair; sitting off the main street in a quiet residential area, it's not much to look at from the outside. We stepped inside to a warm welcome from the proprietor and were ushered into the tightly spaced dining room.

Grenache, not much to look at - with thanks to localdatasearch.com

Grenache has been quietly making a name for itself lately and we were here to see what the fuss was about whilst celebrating a friend's birthday. The menu is pretty standard; a mix of modern British, bistro classics and Mediterranean influences. Some of the dishes we spied coming out of the kitchen looked a little dated and clunky (the salmon and the steak). But we were not to be disappointed when our dishes arrived.

Initially we were treated to a canape of feta omelette - cute little circles of well seasoned eggs on top of a sharp and salty middle. Canapes were not something we had expected - the decor and pricing suggesting family bistro, not fine dining.

Itsy, bitsy, little salty feta omlette bites

Lamb skewers were dainty, soft and charred on the outside, brushed with a moreish mint sauce - the cous cous; under seasoned and tasteless didn't add anything to dish, but nothing else was needed thanks to the exceptional lamb. The game terrine, again beautiful, fell short of the high precedent set by the lamb; a nice enough dish and beautifully set out, but the lumps of unidentified game were dry and lost in the strong liver pate that surrounded it.

Lamb skewers with the fab mint sauce

Choosing off the early bird menu (before 6.30pm on a Sat) I had felt somewhat disappointed with the choices for the mains;  but thankfully was surprised when my dish came out. Juicy pork loin was thinly sliced and covered in a thin, smokey, sweetly spicy layer of paprika - not enough to be overpowering, but enough to perk up what could have been a very boring but very well-cooked piece of meat. A red-wine poached pear cut through the sweetness of the meat and the crispy sage leaves added texture that could have otherwise been missing. The boy's duck with cherries and our friends' lamb dishes displayed the kitchen's knack at getting the meat just right, coupled with well thought out accents to liven up standard fare.

Pork and poached pear

Another surprise was awaiting - this time a sweet canape. Not something I have experienced elsewhere and a lovely, caring gesture that was all the better for being great; a buttery, melt in the mouth star shaped shortbread with a raspberry on top.

Sweet canapes - an ace idea!

My pudding of chocolate torte was cleverly jazzed up with shards of caramel and crushed pistachios - a dence chocolaty slab of decadence; no fine dining, pastry chef creation - just an honest and well made pudding. Spotted dick was warm and comforting; tending to our primal, nursery needs - but weirdly served with a very watery, almost stone cold creme anglais. When we mentioned this to the proprietor he testified that this is how creme anglais is served - really, what about it being able to coat the back of a spoon? You don't pull the wool over Nosh's eyes that easily! (Either it was porkies or I'm seriously worried at the level of food knowledge here; judging from the rest of the menu I'm going with porkies).

How big is this serving? (ashamed to say I scoffed the lot!)

Apart from the odd custard slip up, the service couldn't be faulted - we were well looked after and made to feel very welcome. Our complaint of feeling a little cold was met with the immediate rustling up of a floor fan, turning up the overhead heater and a fiver off our bill. Tables are a little squeezed in, sometimes giving you a feeling of having people on top of you - but it made for good atmosphere and for  spying on other guests' food.

Grenache isn't going to win any awards for gastronomic brilliance or cutting-edge cookery with boundary crossing ingredients and I take a little offence to being told obvious porkies about the creme anglais; however it's a place where you can be sure of a pretty good meal and some very good portion sizes. The fact it's slightly out of Manchester means the pricing's pretty good too.

Price for two starters, three mains, two puddings off the a la carte, plus a three course decadence menu and drinks: £108.80

Food - 7/10
Atmosphere - 7/10 (one knocked off for the cold)
Service - 8/10
Value for money - 7/10

Total - 29/40

Go again? Yes I would if I was in the area, though there's more exciting places on my list to try.

Grenache, 15 Bridgewater Road, Walkden, Manchester M28 3JE - 0161 799 8181 - info@grenacherestaurant.co.uk

http://www.grenachrestaurant.co.uk/

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