I seem to be spending a lot more time in Knutsford at the moment.
It’s a quick hop from the city centre (or if you’re Trafford based like me, Alty is your quicker option). It might have something to do with Dexter & Jones, and the discovery that an old friend works there. That and their gin and beer selection might also hold sway.
It might be because the Makers Market is also a bit of a draw. Or it might just be because it’s rather a pretty place to find yourself.
And a new hotel and restaurant opening there hasn’t hurt either.
The Courthouse Hotel is, in the old crown court on Toft Road. The big imposing building with it’s high windows and wood panels, is now a boutique hotel, with bar and restaurant, and a (soon to open, though not too soon because the weather hasn’t been exactly brilliant) rooftop garden.
Whilst I’m waiting for a proper nosey of the hotel and the garden, I’ve been able to visit the bar and restaurant, and the event space, both at the initial launch, and last week when Mr GFB and I popped in for dinner.
The Barristers, the bar and restaurant is the first space you walk into and it’s former life is very evident. Not only in the wood panelling and staggered seating of this Georgian building, but the new owners have kept the legal history alive with original drawings and prints, and commissioned pop art images featuring famous felons.
I have to admit, Mr GFB and I didn’t agree about the decor. I wasn’t enamoured with the new pieces, found the Betty Boop umbrella stand odd, but loved the historical prints and art. Mr GFB rather liked the newer pieces, but we both agreed on two elements. The building is bloody lovely, and we loved the high ceilings and original features. But the metal door-knocker style rings on the backs of the chairs were definitely odd (and apparently a current trend in interiors).
But enough about interiors. Let’s get down to the food.
The menu for the evening is a delightful blend of fine dining and something a little more casual. From steak and chips, through to something a little more refined, there’s no worrying about there not being something for everyone. Which for us, made choosing a little more difficult. The lunch is more casual (I’m told the Sunday lunches are to die for) and they’ve also just added Afternoon Tea to the menu.
Mr GFB’s starter was visually stunning. Cured cod with red cabbage, squid ink, cucumber and caviar it was pretty, light, but full of flavour. Mine by contrast was a little more substantial.
Described as ‘Pannacotta’, it was more of a Burt’s blue cheese pat with Comice pear, port gel and candied walnuts. Hiding behind the slice of dehydrated pear was the pate itself which was rich, dense and delicious – but perhaps a little large portion size wise.
After a quick request, the kitchen were more than happy to save me from wasting a cheese that is known in our house as ‘The Precious’ (and is made locally in Altrincham). In fact when spread on fresh sourdough it became something quite heavenly and now I need this recipe because it might just be my new way to enjoy cheese on toast.
Onto mains and mine was a little more traditional.
Sometimes there’s a need for something meaty, and the sirloin steak was calling my name. Served with truffle and parmesan chips, and a gently astringent Bearnaise sauce (other sauces are available on the menu) it was cooked beautifully. My steak knife was effectively redundant for this rare steak was soft as butter.
That didn’t stop me having food envy, however.
Mr GFB’s Best End of Lamb, was not only pretty to look at, but similarly pretty to eat. The lamb was pink and tender, with the fat soft and crisp. I was similarly envious of the rosemary jus, which was lip smackingly sticky.
For dessert, we both went sweet.
Mr GFB’s sweet tooth lead him to banoffie: banana parfait with salted caramel, torched bananas and Chantilly cream. Rich, soft, sweet, he was a very happy chap.
I went for another favourite – tatin. This one with pineapple, a lime cremeux, and coconut marshmallow ice cream made me yearn for a good apple tarte tatin. I’ve had so many poor ones, but the caramelisation and sticky nature of this one was just right.
At the recommendation of our bartender, we opted for a cocktail instead of coffee – though my well balanced Flat White Espresso Martini ticked both boxes at the same time.
Perhaps not one for those who don’t have a high caffeine tolerance, who should maybe opt for the Manchester Tart.
This intensely sweet blend of all things raspberry and custard, would be an easy swap for dessert.
Barristers, you surprised us – in a good way. While we may argue about the decor some more, the food was fabulous, and the service can’t be faulted.
If I were looking for yet another reason to visit Knutsford, I might have just found it.