I find myself in Macclesfield for the weekend, secretly shitting myself that I will make an idiot of myself in front of my prospective future in-laws. I am on my best behaviour, something that I never knew existed, curbing my foul mouth, opening doors, and cooking meals badly. It’s nice here, far nicer than others would have me believe. It’s not even raining. I know, I can’t believe it either. We go for long walks in the Peak District that remind me of the beauty of the Lake District, only without the, err, lakes. In the evening we are to dine at a pub in a nearby village where I will be grilled, possibly both in conversation and over flames should my answers not be correct.
The pub in question is the Lord Clyde, a quaint low ceilinged space in the village of Bollington, where the white washed walls jostle for attention with the darken wooden beams. This week, and completely unbeknownst to us at the time, it reached the lofty heights of the 63rd best restaurant outside of London, which I believe makes it the 63rd best restaurant in the country without a God complex. The menu is concise and well-formed, with starters topping out at eight quid, mains typically around mid teens. It takes us some time to decide what to order.
Whilst waiting for the starters to arrive we get a nibble of chicken liver parfait on a potato crisp, radish and a little dandelion. The parfait is textbook; deep and full of offal flavour. The rest works to play support to this, though the potato base is a little greasy and flimsy, as if the wet ingredients had been on it for too long at the pass.
Three of the five starters are ordered. We like the simplicity of the pork loin most, with it’s battered shallot rings, spinach, and black pudding puree that completes the dish once we have added a little more salt to it. Asparagus with duck egg and hollandaise is a classic. The sauce is correctly sharp, the addition of radish a clever one, but I would have personally have taken the woody stems of the asparagus a little higher. Ham hock croquettes are properly crisp, with tussles of the pork lightly dressed in grain mustard. Pickled red onion has enough inherent acidity to cut through it all, with a creamy aioli full of buttery garlic notes. It’s rustic cooking in the best possible sense.
I never order steak at a restaurant because I feel like I have a duty to write about more interesting stuff, but tonight I am that man. I order it because the rib eye is aged for 50 days, a period of hanging that should only be reserved for bits of cow and all of Piers Morgan. It’s accurately cooked to the medium rare I request, the thick pockets of milky white fat only just starting to melt. It’s a very good bit of beef, a fraction under seasoned, but still deep in bovine flavour. The peppercorn sauce is expertly made, as are the Jenga pile of chips that crack and fluff.
The other two mains are a mixed bag. The duck is genuinely lovely, crisp skin with a consistent baby pink meat. There is another stellar sauce (sauces are an obvious high point here) with salty nuggets of pancetta that lift the seasoning across the plate. Claire thinks that the gnocchi are not as good as the ones she made at Simpsons, but then she would say that. I tried them and they were good. It’s a very good plate of food. The trout is more timid. The lentils, samphire, and mussels are all coheshive, but it needs something else to get the dish going.
Portions here are on the Northern side of generous and we debate whether to order dessert at all. In the end we order one portion of sticky toffee pudding with four spoons, using only two of them. The pudding is lighter than it looks, the additions of honeycomb and a very good vanilla ice cream more than welcome. What lifts it is the salt content in the sauce that gives further depth to the sweeter elements. It is a technically accomplished and well thought out way to end the meal.
The bill hits fifty quid a head between four with a two bottles of wine listed without vintage. We all enjoyed Lord Clyde, which delivered attractive plates of food cooked without skill. That said, it was not without fault, namely some erratic seasoning issues that need addressing. It’s a handy place to stop for food and with the trips up North looking likely to increase, is a place that I can see myself giving frequent returns to.