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Awayday restaurant review: Aumbry, Prestwich

If you can cope with a 48 minute trip up the motorway, Gordo has found a duck breast which is better than not one but two high class call girls

Written by . Published on January 14th 2010.

Awayday restaurant review: Aumbry, Prestwich

GORDO is partial to a bit of duck.

It needs to be done one of two ways. First, long roasted, very crispy. This suits those Cherry Valley ducks that are actually good for being frozen. Then there are mallards and their cousins over in France, which are pretty lean and need to be served very bloody.

Now, the duck. Roast mallard, pumpkin puree, savoy cabbage and braised leg meat. If Gordo was back in Madame Jo-Jo’s, Europe’s finest brothel, being offered the choice of a brace of Madam’s finest for the night or Aumbry’s mallard, it would be with the mallard.

But there is a problem with these guys, the legs finish up inedible. Unless, that is, the chef knows what he, or indeed she, is doing.

The chefs at La Tour d’Argent in Paris do. Arguably the oldest restaurant in Paris, it is famous for a few things. When you walk in the ground floor reception you go through the old dining room to the lifts which take you to the dining room proper, on the fourth floor overlooking Notre Dame and the Seine. It is the most beautiful room that Gordo has dined in.

Just before the lift, there is a table that has been laid up for three, covered in a large Perspex dome that has been untouched for over a hundred years; it was where one of the highest profile dinners in a public restaurant was held.

1867 saw Alexander II, Csar of all the Russias sit down with his pals, the Prince of Bismark and Wilhelm I, King of Prussia. They, like Gordo sometime later, were eating the now famous duck. The way they dealt with the problem of the leg being uncooked was to serve in two dishes, the breast sliced thinly and nearly blue, with a jus thickened with the blood of the duck, whilst the legs were taken away and roasted to a crisp, in strips. Served with green salad.

Last night saw Gordo eating a dish every bit as good as the La Tour’s duck.

In Prestwich.

Gordo kids you not.

Aumbry is the name of the restaurant and the chef patrons are Mary–Ellen McTague and Laurence Tottingham. Gordo had been alerted to the place from a few different people, not the least being Chris at Ramsons in Ramsbottom for whom Mary-Ellen did a stint. Laurence has cooked for Gordo before, at Heathcotes restaurant in Alderley Edge (click here) which was one of the best meals of 2009, scoring 8/10 for the food. Service, by the way, got 5/5. Interestingly, the front of house delight then, Siobhan Sewell, served Gordo last night as well and was outstanding.

The restaurant is on a side street off the A56, it looks like someone’s cottage on the outside, with lemony-yellow lit windows welcoming Gordo on a misty, rainy November evening. The room is bright, with crisp white linen on the tables, candles and flowers softening the features. A lovely old dressing table sits next to the open plan kitchen, a pretty tiny affair which serves twenty two covers at lunch and dinner Wednesday to Sunday. It feels warm and cosy, and with all the white painted comfy chairs Gordo was feeling pampered.

The prices are low. Two courses for £18.50 and three for £22.50 at dinner. Roast Jerusalem artichoke salad with welsh goats cheese, hazelnuts winter leaves and golden beetroot was a studded leather jacket of a salad, definitely not cashmere. Darkly interesting, the artichokes all crispy and crunchy, the goats cheese could be smeared on top. Stick a couple of leaves and top off with crunchy hazelnuts and you find yourself on a Harley Davidson with the wind in your hair and Jack Nicholson riding pillion.

Soused herring with beetroot and horseradish cream was as silky and smooth as a wooden Riva motorboat skimming the surface of Lake Como whilst Bury black pudding Scotch egg purred on the plate with the attitude of an Aston Martin outside the Casino.

All three ‘starters’ were utterly faultless in taste, seasoning, construction and looks. They are class acts.

Aberdeen Angus rump steak with curly kale, chips and marrow bone sauce saw a beautifully executed dark, slightly tangy, hugely sexy jus finished with bone marrow. Reader, this is a trick of the very best French chefs, if you haven’t had it before, you will get no better anywhere in the UK and this team, rumoured to have done stints at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck could keep up with the French.

Now, the duck. Roast mallard, pumpkin puree, savoy cabbage and braised leg meat. If Gordo was back in Madame Jo-Jo’s, Europe’s finest brothel, being offered the choice of a brace of Madam’s finest for the night or Aumbry’s mallard, it would be with the mallard. The breast had been cooked beautifully pink; cutting through the slices was dreamlike, tender as you please.

Cleverly, the leg had been minced and braised to the point where the meat had the consistency of a course pate, then wrapped and steamed with aromatics in a parcel of Savoy cabbage. Good eh? But the genius was in the pumpkin puree. A master class in smooth texture and concentration of flavour. This married up with the duck breast meat as well as a bottle of Krug and a large dollop of Beluga caviar.

Puddings didn’t disappoint as an Eton Mess came along having been introduced to fresh lime. It smelt like a Mojito from Black Jacks on Key Largo; perfect gooeyness with crunch and lashings of cream. Then a Pedro Ximenes sherry trifle which was constructed with care and simplicity, resulting in a perfect sweetness and soft yummy sponge. No Duchess down the ages would have been disappointed here.

The wines are from Boutinot and you can tell that their representative and Gordo’s pal, Shifty Ed, has been behaving himself. Apart from the omnipresent Monte Real Gran Reserva Rioja (£49.06), the vast majority of the wines are under twenty quid. Gordo had the Rioja Tempranillo, Bodegas Artesa, (Spain £17.50) which was a fantastically great value wine. With a prominent nose of slightly rotting vegetation and a finish of deep velvet. It was a sexy little number and would stand up to wines twice its price.

Cat’s glass of Prosecco was a triumph and at £3.95, you get the idea that the team are pricing the place to sell.

“We feel that as a neighbourhood restaurant,” says Laurence, “We need to keep the prices down until people get to know us”.

This place, dear reader, is not a neighbourhood restaurant.

It’s a destination restaurant.

You might be fighting to get into Aumbry next year at twice the price. Go. Wherever you are, its five minutes off the motorway junction and this team deserve your support.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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