Sticky Walnut - The Food
Dinner for two. Table 5. Our Kickstarter reward. A few descriptions, observations and reactions.
The food was only one part of our whole ‘Sticky’ experience. I’ll expand on the rest elsewhere. That ‘elsewhere’ will be more important than these musings. But if you like great food, do stay here and tag along.
This post gives due credit to this award winning local bistro’s statement of intent: “… serving humble dishes using the best possible ingredients”
Photographs here (all the good ones) link to the social media from which I have pinched them. There seems little point in offering my own sub-standard pics which would undermine the quality of food which we enjoyed. And in any case, as you might know, when we are aht and abaht I don’t waste precious time distracting from food so perfectly thought out, cooked and delivered by whipping out my macro lens. If the owners of these images object I am pleased to immediately remove them (the pics, not the owners, ya daft lot!).
Food on its way. But before that. My biggest expertise with wine is remaining open to suggestion from others who probably know more than I do. Quinta dos Carvalhais, Encruzado, Dao, Portugal was given pole position at the top of the list in ruby red printer’s ink and we trusted this nudge of recommendation. It went down very well. The whole list looks like someone has taken good care to create interest and value.
What Mrs Cheoff ate.
All the usual suspects for this starter. Except the obvious one. Goat’s cheese was replaced by whipped ricotta. Not wholly unusual but the lack of tang and the concentration on creaminess provided a different balance. Not the balance Mrs C would have preferred. She didn’t quibble for long. Everything here was really well done. Enough flavour and texture contrasts to keep up interest in even a small dish. The humble but tasty had begun… with an early appearance of sticky from those walnuts.
Roast dinner without knobs on? Perhaps. But any lack of the usual ‘trimmings’ still twiddled my wife’s dials up to maximum appreciation levels. Softness, wetness and richness was all here - with a satisfying resistant crunch from those glistening, erect green spears. I wanted to get ‘throbbing’ in there somewhere but drew back before the arrival of a full-on Mills & Boon. The depth of flavour from hours of ‘gravy’ production as well as the final quality of last minute cooking shone through here. Reassuring stuff. I was given a minuscule fork end of the potato terrine to stop my covetous looks.
This replaced duck which Mrs C would have ordered from the menu I’d downloaded the day before. Any disappointment lasted no more than seconds after starting her substitute. A menu which can change daily suggests that the kitchen reacts to exactly the right things. Availability of ingredients would be one of those. But my favourite notion is that there are chefs here who think, “This is what I fancy cooking tonight.” Not a bad approach if you want to stave off the drudgery of offering the same dish day after day.
No hesitation from Mrs C in choosing this one. Equally quick nods of approval and low squeaks of delight as she tucked in. The poached apricots were even closer to Al Pacino (just a bit hard) than they were to al dente. This was perfectly fine given that they were sidling up to softer, silkier bed-fellows. I did a spot of quality control on that sorbet and then saw Mrs C’s glowering eyebrows and diplomatically decided to let her luxuriate in all the last remaining mouthfuls.
Time to collect my thoughts and assemble them in a feeble attempt to do wordy justice to the excellence of three more dishes which formed my meal. Oh, never fear. The high standard doesn’t drop at Sticky Walnut.
What Cheoff ate.
So it’s back to savoury with my meal starter. Filaments of soft, only slightly fatty but very porky pork were encased in a crunch of fine breadcrumbs. I’m relying on the Instagram post of a rather elevated member of the culinary world to show the plating. I’m not great and seldom good but following the picture link above leads you to someone who is both of those and a bit more. It was delightful to find out that Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms’ chef owner Gareth Ward had looked across at our table as he enjoyed a Sunday lunch on his visit here a few days after us. His assessment of the ‘epic’ and ‘so so tasty’ food was all the way up there in agreement with ours.
Pork and apple is just right. Righter still when the sharp-sweet fruit is caramelised after being treated to something close to brunoise knife skills. As close, that is, as a kitchen which throws poncey in the slop bucket can get.
And then you hit on that glob of filthy dirty gorgeous brown goodness. Whacks of soy and star anise are trapped in a silky smooth sauce. You can probably buy the equivalent in a bottle with some sort of dragon on it but it wouldn’t match up to the competition here. This is one of those store cupboard essentials which good kitchens work on and perfect so that the only thing left is for paying guests to put the “Oooh!” into umami.
I reckon BBQ stands for the Bloody Big Queue of people who would like the recipe for this one… my email request is on its way!
A different approach from my previous ‘best ever’ cod dish at Yummie Brummie’s. That was a glassy, flaking thing of beauty. This chunk of freshness had been given quicker hotter treatment. None of which stopped it being a complete star. Due, of course, to another complete star in the kitchen who had judged the cooking so perfectly before plating. Lardo was already adding a melt-in-the-mouth luxury coating. The finest golden crust on the fish from initial hot pan contact gave way to perfect softness but with just enough resistance to break away into my tooth gaps for exploration later!
Tender stem broccoli on the night instead of leaves. The potato puree held its own against the only slightly smoother parsley sauce. Another sauce of quality. Depth of flavour again of course. But the main magic was its vibrancy. It takes a clever cook to offer something which tells you what the colour green tastes like.
Four simple elements combining to give delight. This seems to happen a lot here. I’m putting this one in equal first fish dish position alongside my previous offering from Chef Purnell.
Pretty sure a fair few top chefs regard white chocolate as a second rate cousin to the darker, sexier stuff. Silly buggers are missing out on producing crowd pleasers like this. All its creaminess is cut back here with a tangy pineapple jelly topping. The poached pineapple was taken just far enough to be coated in a sweet caramel. Those sugars needed more balancing. And, balanced they were by the presence of a vibrant citrus and herb sorbet. The printed menu omitted to reference that herb but it quickly said hello before I even put the first spoonful in my mouth. The equivalent of a face slap from two huge bunches of mint hit me before lime reminded me it was also along for the ride. This was a Mojito sorbet without the alcohol… but intoxicating all the same.
Oh - if you think that cheesecake looks like it had a soggy bottom you’d be right. But it also managed not to! Mrs Cheoff puts grape nuts in her key lime pie base and something similar was going on here. An informative chat at the pass revealed that crunchy feuilletine did the job.
No let-downs with the pudding then. That’s six out of six perfectly delivered dishes for the two of us.
Saved me cooking a birthday meal for the love of my life, eh. Ah, yes. We were celebrating here just a couple of days before the arrival of a new year in the life of Mrs. Cheoff - but as usual we kept that knowledge from our hosts. And with hosts who made us and every other diner feel like treasured old friends it would have been pointless to ask for more delicious fuss than we were treated to in any case.
A truly great meal thanks to a talented, intelligent and generous team.
Only five more Elite Bistros left for us to try. That won’t be any hardship.
Keep keeping it sassy, guys!