Olivia Potts enjoys a trip into the hills for some fine food
Fold is the latest addition to Marple Bridge’s buzzy high street. A ‘bistro and bottleshop’, it ticks all the trendy boxes: small places, fancy ceramics, natural wines. The menu plays on nostalgia, with whimsical reinventions of older dishes. These kinds of places often miss the mark, either because you feel like you’re at a themed supper club circa 2010, or because the chefs take themselves much more seriously than the menu would suggest. I’m pleased to report that Fold successfully navigates this tricky balance.
Fold is bold and there’s an energy running through it
When we arrive, Fold is overwhelmingly busy and loud (though, to be fair, it’s only recently opened). A good thing, obviously, for a new neighbourhood restaurant, but by the time I’ve squeezed my way through to my table I feel overstimulated.
The menu is a little overstimulating, too: each dish features an exhaustive roll call of ingredients – ‘Hampshire Trout | Radish | Fire Roasted Lemon | Toasted Seeds | Crème fraîche’ – which simultaneously tells you everything and nothing about what will arrive. Nevertheless, there are plenty of things I like the sound of, from the ‘coronation arancini’ and ‘oyster-less oysters’ to a ‘Boddingtons gravy emulsion’.
We start with chip shop croquettes: little fried morsels that look unassumingly like the kind of potato croquettes your Mum would have a bag of in the freezer. Biting into them unleashes a burst of triumphantly authentic chip shop curry sauce, juicy peas, and delicate slivers of monkfish. God, they’re good; I could have eaten 20.
Seafood charcuterie comprises trout pastrami (a lovely whack of flavour, but a little salty), tuna bresaola (exactly as good as it sounds), and a ‘scampi fry’. The latter is a perfect golden orb, which smells and tastes just like the king of pub snacks. I cut it in two and magnanimously share it with my dining companion, but I wish I hadn’t.
The ‘Fold leaves’ are a sleeper hit. We get them for the appearance of health, to balance out the many fried/cheesy things we order, but they are wonderful in their own right: a generous mix of soft green leaves, tender Barbie-pink bitter stems with crisp shallots, and lots of shavings of aged parmesan, with a Japanese citrus dressing. A salad this good is the mark of a chef who’s paying attention.
The much-talked about squid bolognese doesn’t work for me. I love the idea: a riff on the classic British spag bol and its obligatory accompaniments of garlic bread and lots of cheese. Sadly, my nostalgic urges aren’t slaked. The ragu is overbearing, the ribbons of squid that form the ‘pasta’ are lost, and no crisp little morsel, however delicious, can live up to supermarket garlic bread. It feels overengineered, and stands out alongside the more cohesive, nostalgic dishes.
The lamb “hotpot”, on the other hand, is wonderful. Slow-cooked lamb sits in a dark gravy-like sauce, with handkerchiefs of some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten woven throughout. The Boddingtons sauce is spiked with rosemary and honey, and my dining companion describes it as ‘distractingly sweet’, but he’s wrong: it’s sweet, yes, but also deep and rich and meaty. If it had been poured into a glass, I’d happily have drunk a pint of it.
The delightful rhubarb pudding is a delight. A flamingo-pink rocher of lusciously smooth, sweet-sour sorbet; batons of perfectly poached fruit; a thick buttermilk sauce and little leggy wiggles of lemon balm, concealed by a guard of crunchy caramelised milk tuilles, which they should sell in packets to eat in front of the telly.
I wish I could say the same for the sticky toffee custard tart. I love both the surprisingly-light Gold Top ice cream and the salty toffee sauce that accompany it, but the tart itself is a miss. The shortcrust pastry is soft, like it has sat in a fridge for a little while, and the custard too firm.
If you’re putting out a bunch of inventive and technically clever small plates, there will always be misses. I didn’t love the squid bolognese, but I spent much more time thinking about how good the pasta was, and how much I enjoyed the scampi fry. This isn’t the sort of place you’d pop in to on a whim – but then, given its popularity when we visited, it would hard to do so anyway.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Fold is punchily priced. Puddings are generally £8–12, and a bowl of salad – albeit a very nice salad – is nine quid. I love the fact that there’s an old-fashioned savoury on the pudding menu, but I baulk at paying £16 for cheese on toast. Who knows, maybe it would’ve been the best cheese on toast I’d ever eaten, but I won’t be the only diner who declines to take the chance.
Fold is bold. It has personality and spark, and there’s an energy running through it: through the menu, through the wine list, and through the diners themselves. Everyone there was clearly, delightfully, having a whale of a time. Which makes sense, because above all, Fold nails the oh-so-tricky fun factor. We actually start laughing when we eat the chip shop croquettes, because they’re silly and they’re clever. And for heaven’s sake, couldn’t we do with some fun right now?
Fold Bistro and Bottle Shop, 14-16 Town St, Marple Bridge, Stockport SK6 5AA
About the writer
Olivia won the Fortnum and Mason Debut Food Book of the Year in 2020, as well as Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the year. She also writes Spectator Life's Vintage Chef column for The Spectator magazine. She has two books in print, A Half Baked Idea and Butter: A Celebration.
Follow Olivia on Twitter @_Poots_ or on Instagram @ahalfbakedidea
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Focaccia 7.5 Sea charcuterie 8.5 Chip shop croquettes 8 Fold leaves 9 Squid bolognese 6 Lamb hotpot 8.5 Sticky toffee custard tart 6.5 Rhubarb 9