Jonathan Schofield finds greenery with good food scenery
Public parks in the region have been getting more civilised in recent years. Catering has returned. My nearest parks, Longford Park and Alexandra Park, now have decent cafes with snacks, cakes and soft drinks.
It’s a bit different in Bruntwood Park in Cheadle. Here fine dining is available. Chef Ian Moss is producing excellent dishes and his restaurant, surrounded by a sea of green in the form of grass, shrub and tree, is more than worth an excursion.
The Galloping Major restaurant occupies the old ballroom of an 1860s mansion in the centre of the park. The building is now Oddfellows on the Park, a boutique hotel with a sister in Chester. It’s a fine place, a big bold Gothic building in sandstone, a touch austere on the outside but more feminine inside. There are 22 bedrooms, six suites, a bar, a restaurant, function spaces and a spa.
The clever design, themed on elements associated with the history of the place, needs a separate write-up. The stairwell over a rediscovered and gorgeous Minton tile floor is just one of the highlights.
The dining room is delightful with an arcade, a gorgeous plasterwork ceiling and vast wooden fireplace. It’s a happy place to sit in and be ministered to by Michal, the restaurant manager who people may recognise from the Abode Hotel when he looked after things for Michael Caines. Ask him for the wine recommendations. It’s a fine list and he’s a good guide.
A starter of venison carpaccio with pickled mushroom, mushroom purée, crispy shallots is £7. Get it. It’s a cracker. Venison works perfectly for carpaccio delivering a dusky game kick, better than the more predictable flavours of, say, beef. The earthy elements are enhanced by the mushroom puree and sharpened by the pickled mushrooms. The crispy shallots add a different texture and work perfectly.
Another starter of crab ravioli, asparagus and grapefruit foam (£9.95) didn’t work quite so well. The foam was lovely, the ravioli lacked edge, more seasoning maybe. It was an elegant dish but a drop down from the carpaccio.
Fortunately another winner in the starters is the ‘54 degree cured’ sea trout and buttered potato (£7.50). This looks lovely and tastes lovely, especially combined with the blobs of dill skyr, a sort of herbal Scandi yoghurt.
The star of the mains was the suckling pig, langoustine, peas, broad beans and a simply lovely consistency of celeriac puree. It’s £21.50 and is a refined ‘surf and turf’. You get meat from the leg, shoulder and belly and it’s all grand. The fried shoulder is an especial treat with its fibrous character. When Michal asked me whether I was enjoying it, I oinked. It seemed apt. I’m still oinking.
Two other mains, the lamb rump (see top) and the halibut - £16 and £21.50 respectively - lived up to billing. The caper berry jam adding interest to a fine cut of lamb and the cauliflower was an unexpected star, with a halibut that was anything but boring white fish. The hint of liquorice with the latter dish was welcome too.
The killer deal with dessert was the frozen clotted cream parfait with sorbet, jelly, strawberries and a strawberry macaroon (see top). £7.50 and a real sweet treat. The clotted cream parfait threw me back decades to childhood holidays in Devon and for some reason being given a sip of scrumpy in an aromatic and sunny garden. Which made me think that’s where the drinking started. Lovely pudd this.
The salted caramel parfait with raspberry granola, also £7.50, is a difficult eat and needs to be reworked. It’s too bitty and not dessert-sweet enough. Nor is the deconstructed doughnut, rhubarb and custard. Desserts are the Christmas party at the end of a meal and they need flounce and exaggeration and nothing Puritan.
The Galloping Major restaurant is named after James Platt who bought the house and the estate in 1883 and was cash rich from being a scion of one of the great British engineering firms, Platt of Oldham. James was not of an industrious nature however, and after years in the army loved nothing more than to charge around the countryside on his gee-gee. Apparently he had a bit of a reputation of being a serial shagger too. Naughty boy.
As an aside, because the main visit was on a Sunday, we were given (yes, given, so I can’t score it) a big Sunday roast. It was cracker with good beef, excellent roasties and a fine Yorkshire.
On the way out of the park we passed the butts of the Bruntwood Bowmen (why does that sentence always make people giggle?). The butts sports one of the finest A4 signs in Greater Manchester: ‘Caution: flying arrows’. The sign is perched about fifteen metres from the kids playground. I don’t think any of them have been hit yet.
Generally Ian Moss in the Galloping Major restaurant hits the target. Some strings need tightening but generally…er…he…is…(writer searching for a play on words and failing) pretty focussed. I want people to give our only fine dining experience in a public park a try out. The fact that you have Barry and Colleen wandering past outside only adds to the experience. And I am not being facetious, it’s called democracy.
The Galloping Major Restaurant, Oddfellows on the Park, Cheadle, SK8 1HX t: 016 697 3066
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. 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)
Bread 8, venison carpaccio 8.5, crab 7, sea trout 7.5, suckling pig 8.5, halibut 7.5, lamb 7.5, clotted cream parfait 8.5, doughnut 6, salted caramel 6.5
Michal is a fine guide
Clever design in a big bold Gothic building - a happy place to be