Gordo and grandson enjoy a welcome addition to cosy old Knutsford
It's a bistro, with small plates of food and a trendy ‘low intervention’ wine shop on the side, on a quaint, near-Dickensian street in Knutsford, Cheshire. It’s not a provisions store selling chewing tobacco and equipment for gold miners in Baron’s Knee, Wyoming. Apparently, the name comes from a road on which the chef used to live. I’ll leave that there and let’s not mention Google to the marketing team.
Knutsford has a lot of banality about it when it comes to restaurants. Apart from the chippy Hooked on the Heath which is a blinder. Confidentials’ Editor David ‘Beardy’ Adamson had picked out Linden Stores for me to review; he knows how much I love small plates. And low intervention wines.
I'll support family independents at every turn. They put their balls on the line. Support them, they’re worth it.
"But it’s cosy, Gordo. Cosy. And look at the local press they are getting," says David from beneath his beard. "It NESTLES in a charming town! It’s CAPTIVATING the hearts and taste buds of Cheshire’s food enthusiasts! They’ve had UNFORGETTABLE gastronomic experiences!"
Reading the local Shires-type magazine reviews, generally written by fuckwits DESPERATE to please, I suspected David was taking THE FUCKING PISS.
Anyway, I picked up the grandson, who was fidgeting - no doubt concerned as to where his next spliff was coming from - and trundled over to Knutsford.
Linden Stores is owned by a couple who are working as a team. The female side of the partnership runs the front of house, the male, the kitchen. Having spent many a year in France, sometimes having sold a company, others to dodge bailiffs, this generally is a good sign. The exterior really can be described as charming.
As for the interior, the wine isn’t the only thing that’s low intervention. They haven’t been bothering Farrow and Ball, the chairs have been ‘rescued’ from a closed-down pub in Wythenshawe, the ‘distressed wood’ wall coverings were courtesy of a comatose lorry driver on an overnight stay at Knutsford Services transporting empty pallets, whilst the toilets were immaculate.
I loved the place. And Ella, our server.
There’s a chef’s menu at £40. It consists of five courses. There are then four ‘add-ons’ expertly upsold by Ella. I think there’s an a la carte.
A glass of un-oaked white Rioja tickled my fancy, £30 the bottle, £5 the glass. I like the white wines coming out of Spain, they’ve improved since my father used to describe them as weak oil slicks in the seventies. Far better bang for your buck than New World, this Gran Cerdo is a good pick. Which couldn’t be said for the pickled mussels, upsold to me by Ella for £7; the cure killed them, the trout roe was similarly overpowered but the thin slivers of fennel were good. Rethink that one, chef.
The house focaccia was superb, the sea salt butter reminded me of Anglesey when I was a fat, red-headed, spotty kid. The farm we stayed near on our holidays used to sell their own, loaded with salt crystals. Happy days. Harry inhaled three of the four slices. Cheshire smoked duck with pickled walnuts was a right little day out, still a bit warm, bitter greens beautifully dressed. I loved this and wanted a second plate to make sandwiches out of with that bread and butter. But I behaved myself.
Bubble and squeak croquettes were meatier than I thought, the shell nice and crisp with a big blob of marmite mayonnaise. Chef, I’m nicking that one.
The Isle of Man scallops, with cauliflower and chilli lemon butter, had four chunky fellers with their roe (extra marks), all on a rugged cauliflower puree that had tiny florets dotted about. They may have been roasted, the chilli lemon butter dribbled over and the toasted breadcrumbs adding texture. This could have been fussy. It wasn’t and marks this chef out as a talent to be watched.
The same thing goes for his venison, celeriac, burnt shallots and quince. All brilliantly cooked, sat on a bed of celeriac puree. Big flavours working together. I loved the shallots. But therein lies a problem. These two dishes shouldn’t be served on a vertical taster next to each other. They are too ‘samey’ from a texture point of view and the number of flavour points overpowers somewhat. Separately they are dynamite.
The chocolate and peanut butter tart started off worrying me. On a scale of 10, the richness looked like a 12. "The peanut butter inside sorts that out Grandad," remarks the stoner. "And that slightly sour whipped cream sharpens it up nicely."
Blimey, he was right.
Seems there is a great pastry chef at work as well.
I drank the 6N Turkey, 2021, a Karasakiz Merlot to be served chilled, and it worked well with the two ‘major’ plates, the scallops and venison. The growers are being a bit cheeky with the pricing points (£48) I think but the stand out cherry notes turn me on.
I enjoyed Linden Stores.
It’s a great addition to Knutsford, which is relying too much on chains; there are a couple of good ones but generally it’s a bit, well, boring. Pretty, but a pretty person with no personality is quickly cast aside. This couple have made a good start on changing that. I'll support family independents at every turn. They put their balls on the line, as have mine for five generations. Support them, they’re worth it and will improve from their current offering, which is still bloody delightful.
Linden Stores, 15 Minshull St, Knutsford WA16 6HG
Mussels 4, Focaccia 8, Duck 7.25, Bubble 7, Scallops 8.25, Venison 8.25, Tart 8