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Sunday Dinners: Bells of Peover

Gordo goes nuts over a Knutsford pub with lovely food and weird decor

Written by . Published on February 27th 2012.


Sunday Dinners: Bells of Peover

IN the eighties Manchester, and for that matter Liverpool, was poorly served with restaurants. There were no more than 15% of the numbers we have today, simply because no one lived in the cities. Everyone got on the trains and in their cars to get back to the suburbs and beyond every night.

If you are looking for a great Sunday lunch,
this is one. Only 50 minutes from Liverpool

The best restaurants were out in Cheshire, many of them having changed little from the 1950s. Gordo had his first experience of the kitchens in these places, working as a kitchen porter in places like The White House and The Legh Arms in Prestbury. The food in the latter Robinson’s pub was appalling but it was picture-postcard: a really beautiful black and white building.

4Qva_H
It was taken over by a fantastic restaurateur, Mr Polyanski, a Polish national who flew in the now famous Polish Hurricane Squadrons during the Battle of Britain, was shot down twice and had 11 kills to his credit.



Mr Polyanski transformed it through the eighties and early nineties. Today it’s ordinary, a typical Robinson’s pub with food. Better than most, but still feels like an ugly sister dressed in Lanvin. All the brewery seems to care about here is selling beer.

Another absolutely beautiful Robinson’s pub is The Bells of Peover, five minutes outside Knutsford. A stunning place to drive out to for a few pints, particularly on a sunny day. You can sit with your beer on a tombstone in the adjoining cemetery, all overgrown and a bit Pre-Raphaelite.

The food has been appalling for three and a half decades. Truly appalling.

4Qv3_HPosh Egg With Even Posher Artichoke Soldiers

Recently though, Gordo noticed a few of his tweeters saying good things about the place. These can be relied on for an informed opinion, along with ones who can be relied on to both report well on the food and have a good fight at the end of the evening - Frosty the butcher, Nutter the chef and Jason the animal. Gordo decided that he needed to try.

The drive up to the pub is picturesque even on a cold bleak January day. Three miles south of Knutsford, cobbles, semi-frozen fountains, outbuildings where anarchists are hiding. A church materialises out of the gloom and then the Bells, sharing the cemetery that goes back hundreds of years.

4Qv1_H
Walking into the restaurant, which, from the outside, has changed little since Gordo was there ten years ago, and the mood changes. Gone is the gloomy interior of tobacco smoke, dirty creams and dark oak; a designer has been at work with mixed results, lightening the place up a little. Overall it’s good, more contemporary, along with some weirdness. This includes booths that look like they’ve been dragged out of a lap-dancing club.

These, in one room, apart from being odd also show that someone without restaurant planning experience has been involved. Over-designed, they limit the space to twelve covers when floating tables would have allowed a further six in different configurations.

Table are supported by chunky pillars that get in the way of long legs. Just saying. Gordo isn’t accusing the designer of being a short-arse. Apart from that, it’s a great place and looks comfortable and definitely feels it. The chairs are all lush and hug you, encouraging that extra glass of port.

Service is on two layers. Some of the seniors are serious players, Gordo recognised Andre from the Chester Grosvenor, who is the general manager, along with a couple of other stalwarts. These are true pros.

The second level are juniors being trained up, who are a bit nervous as someone has clearly let the kitchen know that Gordo had arrived. If they knew any better, they would have been a good deal more nervous of Gordo’s companion, Kate Leech, ‘The Peach’, destroyer of men and far more critical than Yours Truly.

4Quy_HScallops And Black Pudding

A couple of mistakes were outweighed by the charm of the girls on service. They made Gordo laugh and The Peach fell in love with them.

The place has managed to build on the atmosphere of a 1950s pub-restaurant, weaving in layers of 21st century practicality which doesn’t spoil the experience.

The menu is a looker, one of those which takes a while to read and longer to come to decisions about.

We were there on a Sunday Lunch (the roast beef is the main picture at the top of the page), which is great value via a limited but useful choice which comes in at two courses for £19.50 or three for £24.50. Given the starters are normally around £7 and mains £18, along with the lovely reality that they don’t cut down from the a la carte menu, leads Gordo to believe the guys are great marketeers. Are they good cooks though?

4Qv0_HScratchingsA dish arrived that Gordo had never had before, at least not like this. A freebie, it has to be said, of upmarket scratchings made from, among other things, duck skins, along with ‘dips’ of great skill, including a fantastic peanut butter. Loved it.



Then, artichoke salad, crispy hen’s egg, Jerusalem artichoke puree, hazelnut dressing. This looked confident and very eatable. Restaurateurs aren’t in love with artichokes as they don’t sell well, but the ‘crispy hen’s egg’ was what did it for Gordo. It’s like very posh and sexy eggs and soldiers. Which, incidentally, are on a good looking kids menu. It’s very child friendly in here. The dish was faultless.

The Peach had pan-fried scallops and black pudding. Gordo recognised the black pudding. It’s from Frosts in Chorlton where Gordo can only surmise the rest of the meat came from. Frosty, as everyone knows Lee Frost, is a great professional. The pudding is a Scottish one, ordinarily thrown in the bin by Gordo. Not enough fat and too much filler with an over-reliance on spices. But Frosty’s is moist perfection with a lingering back taste of apple. Nearer the Normandy style.

Another freebie arrived, a plate of charcuterie.

4Qv4_HCharcuterie

Gordo and his daughter, Georgina, used to set off from the Lancaster Hotel in Paris on their holidays when she was just eight; a hamper was delivered from arguably the best delicatessen in the world, Fauchon. This was the picnic for lunch on the way to their first dinner of the holiday, Bocuse, outside Lyon. The charcuterie was a highlight. The kitchen brigade in The Bells need to know one thing. Theirs is better. Gordo was speechless.

Roast Cheshire fore rib of beef, Yorkshire pudding, root vegetables, roast potatoes and gravy; only Aiden Byrne is better over at Lymm and he managed to purloin two Michelin stars at an old gaff, the Dorchester. And only because his spuds are superior.

4Qv9_HSuckling pig

Gordo’s suckling pig knocked him out. Freshly delivered from the well-regarded Pugh’s Piglets, it seemed to Gordo he had half the little feller laid across the plate, bits of shoulder, a couple of chops, half a leg and something that resembled a stuffed trotter, was brilliant; this was done in the English style, more for the succulence of the flesh than the crispness of skin, which might be a mistake and may not be.

It’s a matter of personal opinion. Gordo could only eat half, had it put in a doggy bag and turned it into a fantastic set of sandwiches for lunch the following Wednesday.

4Qv6_H
Puddings were light and airy, delivering everything you say no to after a huge meal of this calibre but then give in and have a go. When they arrive, the looks turn you right back on and the eating experience doesn’t disappoint. They are all around £6.

Take a look at the pictures. Also have a look at the lemon and orange scented Madeleines, delivered with the coffee, another freebie. Blimey. How good were they? Fresh out of the oven with thick, whipped cream. 

The wine list is a bit middling. Don’t bother with the Laurent Perrier Rose, it’s too expensive at £120. Gordo drank the Bollinger at £85. The wine list has a good spread of wines between £18 and £60. Steer away from the rest; they are for show-offs who don’t know what they are drinking. Particularly the Beychevelle 85 which was showing its age at a private dinner twelve months ago. At £215, someone is taking the mickey. Take the Amarone, Montresor, 2007 at £58 instead, lovely.

If you are looking for a great Sunday lunch, this is the one. Only 50 minutes from Liverpool. 

Thoroughly recommended (Currently for lunch, we will be scoring for dinner soon.)

Follow @GordoManchester on Twitter.

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. Critics dine unannounced and the company picks up their bills - never the restaurant, never a PR company.

Rating:

18/20

Breakdown:

Food 9/10
Service 4.5/5
Ambience 4.5/5

Address:

The Bells of Peover, 
Lower Peover (three miles
south of Knutsford), 
WA16 9PZ. 
01565 722269

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; 16-18 very good to exceptional; 19-20 As good as it gets.

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Latest Rants

Phillip Lawler

I will visit this place once the management and staff have got their act in order.

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seaman staines

Well they say that 'love comes in spurts...'

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Anonymous

Just like the swingers room

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John Bradley

This is a menu for Laconia in 1938, it doesn't look that great.…

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