Travel writer Helen Warwick shares some of her favourite swank-free spots

Ah Cheshire. A land of rolling plains where Real Housewives totter around slurping Champagne in-between filler appointments and all-money-no-taste footballers live in flashy mansions. And if that’s your view of Cheshire, then think again. Yes it’s got its fill of Range Rovers, botox and boob jobs. But quite frankly, there’s a lot more to this sprawling county. We’ve scoured its nooks and crannies to give you the lowdown on Cheshire’s coolest bars, restaurants and cafes, away from the usual swanky suspects.

2018 11 13 Cheshire Bars Restaurants Dexterjones2

Dexter and Jones

Jumping on the craft and artisan booze bandwagon, Knutsford-based Dexter and Jones is doing a fine job of doling out top-notch beers and gin to a discerning bunch of locals every day of the week. And this humble little spot has all the makings of a brilliant neighbourhood drinking den: it’s the kind of place to pull up a pew on one of its wooden tables and linger over a few drinks in the company of high-spirited locals. Staff really know their stuff… and good job, given its walls are cluttered with more than 450 craft beers and 100 gins from distilleries around the world, plus there’s a rotating clutch of keg beers on draft. Go for the seriously refreshing Didsbury raspberry and elderflower gin and tonic with lashings of ice, and polish off a balloon glass of Zymurgorium cherry on top bakewell gin and tonic – it’s one hell of a nightcap. 10 Princess St, Knutsford WA16 6DD website

Con Club

The Con Club

Altrincham is the new hub of cool with a crop of fresh indie bars and restaurants. And this humming dining room is another flavoursome addition, where the vibe is grown-up and the atmosphere is buzzing. Nab a table on the terrace on a balmy summer’s evening and work your way through some shakingly strong espresso martinis, or hunker down inside amongst the white painted bricks, the bare bulbs, and leather-clad booths with a soundtrack of chattering revellers and feel-good tunes. The menu ticks a lot of boxes: it’s an international smorgasbord with sushi, ceviche, grills and salads, but the standout dishes are the superb cuts of steak, and the roasted lamb rack coming a close second. Small plates of padron peppers, breaded pork belly and serrano ham are worth a nibble. And its inventive collection of Bloody Marys – with far-flung flavours such as plum-infused sake and chipotle salt – will cure any hangover. 48 Greenwood St, Altrincham WA14 1RZ website

2018 11 13 Cheshire Bars Restaurants Project53

Project 53

A new kid on the block in Knutsford drawing an eclectic crowd, Project 53 is the second spin-off of the Mobberley Brewhouse; the second of which is in Stockport. Dreamt up by head brewer and young gun, James Roberts, who’s been working his magic on craft beer since 2011, it opened its doors in autumn, and is already hitting its stride as the place for a tasting tour of the microbrewery’s best bottles. Punters sit cheek-by-jowl on the large rustic wooden tables with pared-down, modern industrial touches – exposed pipes, white brick, low lighting - sinking beers and iced gin, in an intimate space that’s set to grow Knutsford’s drinking den credentials. Food-wise, lip-smacking pizzas line the stomachs of the crowd and a host of local live music acts add to the appeal – and the buzz. Watch this space – this new tap room is going to be a corker. 15 Minshull St, Knutsford WA16 6HG website

2018 11 13 Cheshire Bars Restaurants Woodfiresmoke3

Wood Fire Smoke

This slither of Cheshire is overrun with Italian restaurants – mainly chains where the food is bog-standard and the prices, dubiously high. Yet this neighbourhood joint has been attracting a loyal following since opening in 2017, cooking up superb wood-fired pizzas for around a tenner from a stoking clay oven that takes centre stage. Diners perch on bar stools in front of the oven, grazing on olives and prosciutto, as waiters zip around with excellent salads and bruschetta, or park on one of the tables under the amber glow of bare bulbs. There are no real game-changers on the menu, but sometimes you just need cult classics cooked to perfection. There are a bunch ‘without tomato’ with the smoked mozzarella, wild broccoli, Tuscan sausage and chilli hitting the high notes, whilst the red pepper, black olives, basil, feta and red onion chutney is spot-on. Sharing is the way to go here. That and the knock-your-socks-off basil aioli. Oh and it’s BYOB. Winner. 31 Water Ln, Wilmslow SK9 5AR website

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The Cheshire foodie scene has matured exponentially in the past few years, paving the way for concept restaurants such as this nifty number in Altrincham. It’s a moodily lit joint – bare brick, velvet chairs, and industrial-style wooden tables, offset by natural light pouring in, whilst chef Ed Carr scurries around the kitchen creating wonderful things with bread. You could play it safe with a classic eggs Benedict or black pudding and bacon on crumpets. But the Vietnamese prawns with lemon and caper dressing and the Korean BBQ beef with pickled mouli and carrot are particularly knockout.  Whatever you do, don’t skip on dessert: with big guns such as ‘black forest gateau’ (cherry jam, cherries and chocolate mousse on chocolate chip brioche) and ‘chocolate and marshmallow’ (chocolate and hazelnut spread with melted marshmallows) on the menu, no one will be going home hungry. 63 Stamford New Rd, Altrincham WA14 1DS website

Zumu Sushi


This newbie in Hale doesn’t do bling. Thank goodness. The design is stripped-back and no-frills, from dangling bare bulbs to stark white walls and booth-like tables. Bright and breezy staff take you through the extensive menu of sushi and hot plates – all are very pretty with top-notch attention to detail. Kick off with the faultless Zumu special urumaki – artfully crafted rolls of prawn, seared salmon and teriyaki barbecue sauce with snappy bursts of flavour. From the steamed menu, go for the pork gyoza… you’ll be fighting over the last one, and the pan-fried duck breast with cherry ponzu sauce and beef tataki – cracking thin slices of seared beef – are just the kind of precise dishes you’d expect to find in Tokyo. Forget everything you know about sushi – Zumu is offering authentic and excellent plates of Japanese to Cheshire in the most unassuming setting. And it just works. 191 Ashley Rd, Hale, Altrincham WA15 9SQ website

2018 11 13 Cheshire Bars Restaurants The Elk2

The Elk of Hale

As soon as you duck into this watering hole, you know you’re set for a laid-back night. A far cry from some of the Champagne -quaffing hotspots in the area, this hangout is all about straight-up fun without being too try-hard. It’s a place to loosen ties, kick off heels, switch off social media, and to dawdle over impeccably made cocktails. Billed as an apres-ski bar-cum-German beer hall, it’s decked in wood, leather seating, and metal bistro chairs, with a bar stacked with wooden crates and a playlist of Britpop and nineties tunes. There are a decent few bottles of wine and craft beers but devote your full attention to the cocktails: the Mexican Bee, a whizz-banger of a drink with cazcabel honey tequila, lemon and agave goes down a treat. Next order one of the boozy hot chocolates. Three words: Oreo Bourbon Brownie. Enough said. 193 Ashley Rd, Hale, Altrincham WA15 9DR website

2018 11 13 Cheshire Bars Restaurants Wizard Tearoom

Wizard Tea Room

This dinky tea room is an alluring little pit-stop whilst exploring the winding trails of The Edge, where it’s said King Arthur and his knights are sleeping in the darkness. In the thick of summer, locals grab a seat on the sun-blushed terrace and cool off with an iced coffee and fruity infusions, or huddle inside on higgledy-piggledy tables laid with glowing candles, wildflowers and vintage crockery. You can’t go wrong with the breakfast baps – thick slices of crisp bacon and quality sausages - and you won’t find a better plate of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs in Cheshire. Inventive soups and sandwiches make up the rest of the menu, whilst the cakes will make you really swoon, from a tangy lemon and courgette loaf to cracking raw cacao bars. They may not be reinventing the wheel, but there’s something to be said for dishing up old favourites with style and bang-on flavours. Macclesfield Rd, Nether Alderley, Macclesfield SK10 4UB website