Emma Johnson finds a superb Sunday roast at The Chester Fields pub and restaurant
BEFORE I begin this review I have a confession to make: I am not the biggest fan of Sunday lunches in restaurants. I love the concept – a tasty roast beef and all the trimmings or a yummy roast chicken and have, on occasion (very rare occasion), been known to knock one up.
But whenever I go out to eat Sunday lunch I invariably find myself disappointed.
Overcooked/undercooked vegetables, tough meat – and the cardinal sin – not enough gravy, conspire to leave me wishing I had stayed home and made spag bol.
But this particular Sunday, with its temperatures in the minus figures, seemed designed for a hearty roast of some sort.
So my husband and I took a drive out to The Chester Fields pub and restaurant near Bridge Trafford in the heart of the Cheshire countryside.
It was not until we arrived that we realised The Chester Fields was formerly The Barn, a swanky restaurant at which we enjoyed a memorable meal with friends one very snowy December evening a couple of years back.
We learned from a barman that the new owners took the place on just over a year ago and certainly much has changed. Gone is the super-trendy dining room and in its place is a warm and cosy eaterie decked with kitsch posters and prints and the compulsory roaring fires.
They describe the decor as rustic yet refined and that sums it up perfectly.
When we arrived the place was home to a number of large family gatherings and there were a few children dashing here and there, but let’s not hold that against them.
We were seated quickly and asked what we would like to drink. We didn’t yet have menus but the waiter made suggestions when we said we were looking for a red and a white wine by the glass. I went with his off the wine list recommendation of a Syrah while my other half played it safe with a Tribbiano (both £6). Wine lovers note, The Chester Fields has an extensive offering of bins.
The various North West towns and villages mentioned on the menu make it clear that the team here are serious about using local produce. Well it is a veritable must these days. But I will forgive them for going all the way to the south coast for my starter of Cornish crab cakes (£6.50) because they tasted so damn good.
The two cakes arrived served with the expected sweet chilli jam and a nicely tangy lime creme fraiche. The fish had a good, strong crab flavour and they were beautifully fluffy.
My other half also had a hit on his hands with his starter – pressing of ham hock and roasted vegetable with parsnip puree and glazed walnuts (£6.75).
From the mouthful I managed to steal, I can testify it was delicious. Salty and fleshy and the caramelised walnuts were a genius addition.
So it was onto the mains. The Sunday menu we were ordering from offered six dishes, plus four steaks and of course the Sunday roasts.
Having seen the huge plates delivered to other tables, we were tempted to share the roast chicken for two (£24.50) but in the interests of food research I left my husband to the chicken (for one, I might add!) and ordered the traditional roast sirloin of beef with both dishes coming in at a very reasonable £12.50 each.
We were on our second round of drinks – I had moved onto a small Pinot noir (£4.50) and my designated driver a still water (£1.80) – when the mains arrived.
Both looked beautiful. Picture perfect Sunday lunches with all the trimmings.
But the proof is in the eating and I am pleased to report my beef measured up there too. It was pleasantly pink and tender and there was oodles of gravy.
My Yorkshire pudding was just as it should be – big and fluffy and ever so slightly chewy. The vegetables: roast potatoes, green beans, carrots and broccoli were spot on too, with just enough bite.
My husband’s chicken was not to be outdone by my beef. It was perfectly cooked, nice and moist and more importantly, there was lots of it.
It wouldn’t be a true Sunday lunch without a good old fashioned dessert and The Chester Fields seems to have quite the reputation for doing these well.
Had I spotted it (and I am not quite sure how I didn’t, maybe it just wasn’t on offer that day) I would have ordered The Chester Fields sharing dessert – Arctic roll, honeycomb, chocolate fondue, pistachio macaroons, raspberry frangipani fingers – which is highlighted on the restaurant’s website.
As it was, we ordered two classics to share: chocolate fudge brownie and sticky toffee pudding (both £5.75). They were excellent. There were tasty pieces of toffee in the ice cream which accompanied the pudding and the brownie was warm and gooey.
We settled the bill over a latte, which to my joy came in a huge mug not a glass. We left reassured that there are great Sunday lunches out there and not once did I wish I had stayed home and eaten pasta.