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Restaurant review: The Church Green

Jonathan Schofield gets dazed and confused by too much on his plate at Aiden Byrne's Lymm venture

Written by . Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: The Church Green

Lymm arrived in a welter of well-to-do modern estates of slightly too small ‘detached’ houses.

In the last two decades, the tiny but very pretty town centre has been completely drowned by an unreasonable flood of up-marketish overspill. This has been designed by those popular suburban architects: Noddy Toytown Associates.

But excitement was in the gastronomic air.

We were bound for the Church Green restaurant/pub, we were off to get a bit of Aiden Byrne’s nosh. Liverpool-born Byrne is ex of the Dorchester and was the youngest ever winner of a Michelin star.

He was seven when he got this.

Ok that’s a joke, he was twelve.

All right, all right. He was 22.

First impressions of the building weren’t brilliant but then again this was going to be all about the food.

The interior of the Church Green is full of useless fireplaces, bits of florid wallpaper, bric-a-brac, you’ve seen it all before. The designers should have kept it simple like the sweet Cheshire facade of painted brick you pass through on entering.

Nor had I known what Aiden Byrne looked like before I went to the Church Green. I really couldn’t have given a toss.

Now I feel I am him.

His image is all over the place. There are books and photographs everywhere with the young gent’s earnest features starring out from them, in moody black and white if I recall. The self-love is so clear maybe they should re-name the place The Aiden Byrne, forget the Church Green. If things go wrong he could always add a y and call it a Byrney Inn and sell knickerbocker glories and Irish coffees.

Unfortunately the self-reverence worked its way into the cooking.

One of the mains the five of us enjoyed was the most expensive item on the menu. This was the braised veal and lobster tail with lentils, apple puree and several thousand other elements. I ran out of paper recording them. Total £24.

Here’s a little parable.

I once knew a friend of a friend’s grandparents who had too much money. One Christmas they bought their four year old grandson loads of

presents over and above what other people, including the lad’s parents, had bought. Most of the gifts were expensive and wrapped professionally. The boy got bored half way through opening and was soon playing with one of the toys he’d received earlier in the day. The grandparents were devastated.

Byrne’s signature veal and lobster tail dish was like this. It was simply too much of a good thing. Taken individually it was all pretty good – especially that finely textured, exquisite, lobster tail. Maybe Byrne should have split the dish up, tucked each item into a different ramekin with the veal and lobster out on their own. Taken as a whole on a single plate, it was like a football manager with an inflated squad trying to keep everyone happy by playing them all. The result was a confused mess.

None of the five mains we had worked.

For example, the monkfish (£17.50) was fine, but it came with an unnecessary razor clam, along with a claggy courgette puree, a fondant potato and not very nice peppers. The best main was the splendid Herdwick lamb (£17), cooked medium rare as requested. But there was a confusing cauliflower cous cous on the dish with it, spoiling things by being too harsh a contrast. A nice touch, but again pointless, was a sealed tub of horse-radishy shepherd’s pie, delivered at the same time.

Of the starters, the weirdest was the salad of baby artichokes, with artichoke mousse and toasted brioche (£6.50) on a slate. The best dish of the meal was the beetroot cured salmon with avocado mousse (£6.50) with the beetroot a real and intriguing addition to the flavour. A pudding of chocolate mousse and chocolate orange ice cream was almost as good. There was a competent cheeseboard of Blacksticks Blue, Raven’s Oak goats cheese and Butler’s Lancashire.

But we left with our heads in a whirl, unconvinced by the cult of Byrne. Following all the debate about the lack of Michelin stars in the North West, I really wanted this place to shine. It doesn’t. It occasionally dazzles but only in the way that looking into a torch does.

Yet evidently this is a very talented chef. Everyone says so.

Maybe Byrne works better under a strong restaurant manager, maybe he needs someone to tell him to stop trying so hard. He needs to breathe deeply, slow down and re-write the menu. And get rid of some of the endless purees and mousses.

He might then be able to lower the prices a little. Looking at the bill, I realised that going to Lymm had cost an arm and a leg.

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: Don't be daft.

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DigMarch 24th 2009.

Isn't he also related to David Byrne from Talking Heads, my old mate Louis Byrne from The Dorchester Hotel and that Pete Byrne from that Big Brother nonsense and Italian blokes article here on Liverpool Confidential? I'm sure that is all perfectly true and accurate

Professor ChucklebuttyMarch 24th 2009.

Why can’t these places serve you your dinner on a proper plate anymore?I am fed up of food arriving on all sorts of off-cuts, planks, chopping boards, manhole covers and jay-cloths. I was in one place the other week and they brought me a mixed grill on what looked like a bit of old floorboard. It wasn’t until I went upstairs to the gents and fell through the ceiling that I realised it was the floorboards. The worst example was a place in town where a little bald man came to the table, kneeled down beside me and handed me a knife and fork. Then I noticed that my salmon and broccoli mousse with mashed maris pipers in a drizzle of tarragon butter was served on his bald head. And he wasn’t completely bald, as there was a hair in the mousse. Are they too bone idle to wash the bone china. I like to lick the juice off the plate, while nobody is looking, particularly if it’s Heinz beans. You can’t do that with a plank, unless you want a tongue full of splinters. There was a squirrel’s head poking out of the piece of bark they served my Malaysian chicken on. Kept pinching my cashew nuts! Just give me a damned plate, a bowl, a cup and a saucer. No wonder these old restaurants lack the original architectural features, they keep pulling them off to serve your dinner on. Honestly Josiah Wedgewood would turn in his gravy boat.

MariseMarch 24th 2009.

Dont expect customers to come back if the cutlery is dirty, the staff are rude, and the delay is ridiculous.Get your act together.

Ken CatMarch 24th 2009.

It's a bit out on a Lymm though isn't it?

Rusty SpikeMarch 24th 2009.

Erm...how come everyone seems to have popped over to Lymm for noshettes? I thought Lymm was a roundabout off the M62 or M6. Didn't realise it was actually a real place and clearly the bloke, Aiden Byrne (any relation d'ya think to the legendary Paddy Byrne of the Everyman Bistro, whose probably a dab hand himself at the Herdwick lamb?) who owns the eatery mentioned above is either well known to gourmets and gourmands but not us odds and sods, or he's a pal of the foodie critic Jonathan Schofield, or maybe Jonathan Schofield is famous, 'cause his dad Paul certainly is.....Lymm, indeed....

DigMarch 24th 2009.

So that was Des and not Sinead O'Connor? I must have misheard. Phew, I dodged a bullet there. I would have been ill if my lips went anywhere near his shiny head. Talking of dodging bullets I didn't dodge my 'frites' when they were fired at me from the kitchen with a spud gun.

Rusty SpikeMarch 24th 2009.

Come again...Saturday Kitchen?....Gastropub? Isn't Michelin a tyre? And a spare of which you would probably acquire if you indulge in ghastly gastro stuff, I would wager. And, Mr Aiden is erm, famous to millions of TV viewers....golly....sorry.

lynne harrisonMarch 24th 2009.

what the hell is this person moaning about? The food is of a very high standard. the combination aiden creates with his food opens every taste bud! The person that did that review clearly isnt a food lover!

DigMarch 24th 2009.

I've been to that restaurant too Prof. I must have went on a different night as my dinner was served by a beautiful blonde. Although I nearly choked when she whipped her wig off. It was none other than Gail Porter. That's my new claim to fame now. I've eaten & licked pudding from Gail Porters head. If only I was sitting at the next table. I'd have eaten from Sinead O'Connors.

janeycatMarch 24th 2009.

How sad u didnt like it - I loved it - yes agree that the place wasnt too fab but the food i had was outstanding and his commitment to using local produce where he can is impressive.

WagMarch 24th 2009.

If you read it, you will see that Aiden Byrne is a Michelin star chef from Liverpool and is famous to millions of TV viewers from the Saturday Kitchen. That he has just opened a gastropub a short drive away from his home city, is evidently seen as something of interest

AnonymousMarch 24th 2009.

Waited 50 minutes for 2 main courses at a very quiet lunchtime and had to keep prompting staff, never again

Professor ChucklebuttyMarch 24th 2009.

Oh no Dig she's been replaced by Des O'connor. Sinead was better she left one hair on her bald head but at least she made the effort to thread it through three red currants which was a nice touch. Avoid the Duck Balls Platter Puss, it keeps jumping off the table into the soup - which was served in Wilfred hyde White's panama hat. It wouldn't surprise me if they do away with serving the soup in anything and just use a hose pipe from the kitchen door. "open your mouths whoever ordered soup"I wonder if any other readers have had similar experiences. Hovering budgies holding your linguini strips above your head for instance, although i quite enjoyed that as one of them was very knowledgeable about mortgages and the best deals.

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