Emma Johnson throws calorie caution to the wind while dining in Warrington
YOU are the complete opposite of the phrase you are what you eat, announced a work colleague to me a few days ago. I think it was supposed to be a compliment.
I had just revealed how, the previous weekend I had all but had to be rolled out of a restaurant having devoured three huge courses, among them a divine Beef Wellington which could easily have fed two.
I can see where my colleague is coming from. I am a relatively slim person, a physique achieved by generally being careful about what I eat..
But a girl can only be good so much of the time and if I am going out for dinner, I am going all out.
Which brings me to that Beef Wellington. I found it on the menu at The Grill on the Square, the Square being Palmyra in what is known as Warringtons cultural quarter but is rapidly becoming the dining/drinking centre of the town.
I had been to the restaurant some years back when it was an outpost of the Le Frog chain of restaurants. Now owned by Charles Dobosz and Adam Smith who met while working at Michael Caines (the celebrated chef not the actor) Abode restaurant in Manchester, I had heard good things about the place from Warringtonians.
And so it was, on a rare quiet Saturday my husband and I booked in for dinner.
The new owners have made some changes since the Le Frog days, notably swapping the green colour scheme for duck egg blue and putting in a partial wall to separate the bar and dining area.
The Toulouse Lautrec paintings which adorned the walls are gone but the spacious venue, with its dark wood floors and furnishings, remains largely the same.
When we arrived, a little early for our 9.15pm booking, we were ushered through the bustling bar area to two stools positioned at a grand piano a very nice spot. There was no pianist on our visit but the restaurant regularly hosts live music evenings.
I decided to start the night with a cocktail and was pleased to find the kir royale on the menu, at a reasonable £6.95.
My other half opted for his usual aperitif a vodka and cranberry (£3.25).
The Grill describes its menu as a collection of everyones favourite dishes and drinks with an emphasis on mouth-watering flavours, quality and value for money.
They change menus seasonally and say they can cater for everything from an impromptu lunch, to a romantic candlelit dinner.
It is a bold claim but looking through the various menus on offer, I reckon they pull it off and there are some real bargains had at lunch time and on weekdays.
But this was a Saturday night so caution, calories and cost were thrown to the wind.
We were just on the first glass of a bottle of Chablis Gaston Andre 2008 (£22.95) when our table became available.
The restaurant was busy but not noisy, several big parties, complete with celebratory balloons were occupying long tables with the rest taken up by couples on date night.
After pondering on the seared king scallops, pea pure, pea shoots with onion and bacon sauce (£8.95) as a starter, in the end I went for an old favourite, duck spring roll with sweet and sour dipping sauce (£5.95).
It came on a slate (doesnt anyone use plates these days?) with a little salad garnish and was packed with slightly spiced, rich, moist duck meat.
The sauce was a little on the tart side but that would be my only complaint.
My husband also went with an old favourite albeit one given a twist Thai fish cake, but with curried mayonnaise rather than the usual sweet chilli (£6.95).
The fishcake was a hit, it was big and well seasoned, a good balance of potato and fish.
Again the dip was the only thing it down, he said it tasted like chip shop curry and didnt work anywhere near as well as sweet chilli does.
After a short break it was onto our main courses which is where that Beef Wellington comes in.
While for my arteries sake, I dont allow myself to eat it very often, I have a real weakness for red meat and I adore Beef Wellington. Tasty tenderloin, smooth pate foie gras if you are really lucky and yummy pastry, it is a truly sinful dish.
It is a dinner party classic but not one you find on too many menus these days so as soon as I spied it, at a relatively reasonable £20.95, I had to have it. We were warned it could take up to 25 minutes to prepare but were not kept waiting between courses.
Just in case I was in any doubt about the prestige of the dish, it was brought to the table covered in a silver cloche.
The cloche was whipped away to reveal a perfect Beef Wellington pastry sliced in two, a slab of slightly pink tender-looking beef peeping out.
Fondant potatoes and spinach had been scattered around it and the whole thing drizzled with a light red wine sauce. As I said it could easily have fed two. As I also said, I ate the lot (oops!). It was heavenly.
My husbands lamb shank (£14.95) was equally well presented and delicious. The meat fell off the bone and melted in the mouth exactly how it should. The potato gratin side dish was creamy and buttery and the ratatouille the meat sat on was tangy and not too overcooked.
I am almost ashamed to say this, but after gorging myself on all that Beef Wellington I suddenly wanted something sweet, so after a short break we ordered dessert sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce for me and strawberry cheesecake with strawberry granita and strawberry ice cream for my husband (both £5.95).
The desserts were okay but I think the chef had got carried away.
My husbands cheesecake had so many different strawberry combinations going on he said it tasted like someone had poured a slush puppy on it.
My sticky toffee pudding meanwhile tasted oddly like Christmas pudding. I do like Christmas pudding but it was a bit of a surprise flavour.
Dessert niggles aside, we were both impressed with the Grill on the Square and a return visit is definitely on the cards but for the sake of my waistline if not my tastebuds I think I will be giving the Beef Wellington a miss next time.
People may not always be what they eat but you can have too much of a good thing.