‘EXPERIENCED Chef opens modern British brasserie in Manchester suburb’ is good news, but not always worthy of excitement, so I wasn’t necessary expecting anything special.
It was the best dessert I have ever had – and I have had a lot of desserts (and then some more). It was so good that even a sleep deprived, pre-menstrual Mary Berry wouldn’t have been able to find fault.
My husband is always encouraging me to get to the point first and fill in the details later, so I’ll start by telling you that I really did enjoy this one. I loved it mainly because they’ve kept it simple with no pretentions or mucking about. The French are generally very good at doing simple things well in their average village brasseries, but it’s a concept many chefs fail to master.
Having faith in the quality of your ingredients and the confidence not to hide behind spumes, foams, sous-vide, butter, cream, deep frying, smoke, mirrors and a thousand other cheffy tricks takes some balls.
The balls in this case belong to 42 year old Chef Proprietor Paul Faulkner who has headed the kitchens of Zinc, The Modern and more recently Albert Square Chop House (so recently, his image is still on their website). Having just completed its first month in business, Brassica Grill is his new 48 seat restaurant on a Heaton Moor side street. His opening menu is full of things people actually want to eat at reasonable prices – another obvious step many fail to get right.
There are only half a dozen each of starters, mains, grills and puddings. I chose ‘Pulled Pheasant, Beetroot and Cider Chutney with Sourdough Toast’ (£6) to start.A few years ago pulling birds meant something entirely different, but nowadays it’s almost impossible to find a menu without some proteinous element that hasn’t been shredded after cooking. Pheasant worked well in a warming autumnal kind of way with the fleshy strings bound in juices infused with gentle aromatic spices. The beetroot chutney was a bit polite though so could have benefited by something punchier like vinegar or chilli.
‘Scottish scallops with avocado, cubes of mango, cashew nuts and lemon dressing’ (£8, main image) brought three decent sized and perfectly cooked fresh scallops but again, the guacamole needed beefing up and the advertised cashews were no more than a light dusting.
I knew my mother was going to order the 12oz Barnsley Chop before she did. My folks love them and always seek out this hearty, double-sided lamb loin chop from independent butchers whenever they see them. You almost never see a Barnsley Chop on a menu.
For £16, you get a massive hunk of meat, chips, flat mushroom and a choice of sauce. Mum didn’t want Béarnaise/peppercorn/blue cheese butter or onion and bone marrow, but asked instead for a bit of mint sauce. When she then asked for her lamb to be cooked ‘medium to well’ I braced myself for an icily polite response but our server was chilled in a good way. Fortunately Chef Paul ignored her cooking suggestion and when the lamb arrived, it was as close to pink as her sensibilities would allow, with a tiny pot of mint sauce. I later saw them bringing a bottle of Heinz ketchup to another table for their chips. See? No pretentions.
Seafood Skewers (£14) were also perfectly grilled; caramelised on the outside but not dry in the middle. Salmon and tuna were lightly marinated then threaded onto wooden skewers with king prawns before being seared on the grill with precision timing. They were served with lightly pickled shaved fennel, tomato concasse, good extra virgin olive oil and tiny bonsai sprigs of basil packed with flavour.
A friend and 'proper' food critic once advised me that during a review you should choose a restaurant’s signature dish and also something to test the kitchen a bit. So far, we’d seen that Chef Paul can work a grill as well as Lewis Hamilton can work a race car, but how well could the kitchen handle ‘Baked Raspberry Soufflé with homemade vanilla ice cream’ (£6)?
I could have written a full review about this dessert alone. Just think of all the properties a good raspberry soufflé should have and then take it that this one ticked all the boxes. It was the best dessert I have ever had – and I have had a lot of desserts (and then some more). I can’t promise it’ll be like this every time, but on the one day this reviewer popped in, it was absolute perfection. It was so good that even a sleep deprived, pre-menstrual Mary Berry wouldn’t have been able to find fault.
So, the award-winning and experienced chef, Paul Faulkner, went and opened his own little place in Heaton Moor. It’s not fancy or flashy, trendy or glitzy. What it is though is a fine example of a good, independent, neighbourhood brasserie, one that you could confidently take anyone to enjoy a relaxed meal, leave with a full belly and not an empty wallet. You can't ask for much more than that.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commerical relationship.
Brassica Grill, 27 Shaw Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport, SK4 4AG.
Tel: 0161 442 6730
Food: 8/10 (Pheasant 7, Scallops 7, Barnsley Chop 9, Seafood Skewers 8, Raspberry Soufflé 10)
PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. The scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it; 6-9 call the Golden Dragon and stick Netflix on; 10-11 if you must; 12-13 only if you’re passing; 14-15 worth a trip; 16-17 very good; 18 exceptional; 19 pure quality; 20 perfection. More than 20, slap us back around.