When Molly, one of the fine staff at Red Willow Bar in Macclesfield first told me about a “not to be missed” event coming soon to the bar, I immediately said “when, count me in” and stuck the date in my diary. However I must admit to being a little startled at the £50 per ticket price tag when later I saw the full announcement, but knowing Toby and Caroline Mckenzie’s passion for quality I went with it and handed over the loot. By god I’m glad I did.
The event was to be a five course beer and food matching dinner, based on the tasting menu created by chef Ernst Van Zyl of The Lord Clyde in Kerridge, just outside Macclesfield. I’d not been to The Lord Clyde before, but had heard Toby speak highly of it many times previously and once I took a look at the website too, Ernst’s own track record working at many famous food establishments spoke for itself.
“Heston’s The Fat Duck, Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, London’s Park Lane Hotel, Noma in Copenhagen, Restaurant Frantzén and latterly Head Chef at Etrop Grange Hotel … Ernst and Sarah’s careers are as colourful as the creativity produced in their kitchen”
Before I crack on with my view on the nights events, I just need to add that I am not a food writer, nor am I a beer and food matching expert, enthusiast yes, specialist no. There were many things on the night that were completely new to me, a proper learning experience was had as well as a really good evening. Also as I was intent on enjoying and not writing, I made only mental notes, so I’ve added Ernst’s own brief descriptions to add a little more meat to the bone so to speak.
The menu promised five courses of delicious sounding food (with a hint of mystery for the uninitiated) each paired with one and on occasion two beers designed to complement each dish, where two beers were on the table, this was for you to make the choice as it could not be agreed upon when the menu was planned.
We were made welcome on arrival with a glass of refreshing “cider sour”, something different ahead of the beery pleasures to come, this was a blend of Skidbrooke dry cider, Wild Turkey bourbon and fresh ginger, cool, palette cleansing with a zingy warming aftertaste, soon quaffed as Toby introduced us to our chef and we took our seats at the table.
First to arrive was an unannounced but most welcome pre-meal treat of freshly baked warm sourdough bread served with a smoked butter, the latter arriving in a small stoneware pot that softly smoked as the lid was removed. Normally I am not a fan of butter (shock horror), also my wife of smoked food, but this was delicious and melted into the warm bread wonderfully giving it a salty subtly smoked edge.
Chef Ernst’s notes: Poached salmon with heirloom tomatoes, blueberries pickled and purée, pick grapefruit cells, celery and jack by the hedge. This was quite possibly the nicest tasting piece of salmon I have ever eaten, it looked raw but wasn’t it had such a wonderful melt in the mouth texture. Cooked using the sous-vide method I believe, with the tomato and other accompaniments it tasted just superb. Both beers went with the dish really well, the HOP particularly with the salmon but weirdly perhaps too similar, with the effect of complimenting rather than any contrast or change. The saison was the star though, with the cutting floral notes twisting flavours this way and that, bringing different tastes to the fore.
Beetroot and goats cheese, Marmite and grapes, served with RedWillow “Reckless” and Beavertown “Black Betty”.
Chef Ernst’s notes: Salt baked beetroot, pickled pink beetroot, raw yellow beetroot, grapes as poached, fluid gel and fresh, mini Marmite meringues and as powdered and goats cheese. A challenging dish here for some, me included as I absolutely detest goats cheese and of course for some, Marmite is a tricky one too. Firstly, what a beautiful plate of food! Second, Marmite meringue, who knew?? Although I have to confess to only eating a little goats cheese with a few of its plate mates to see how they blended together I also have to say I actually enjoyed this dish. The meringue was delicious, imagine a slightly crunchy exterior concealing as sort of savoury toffee, slightly sweet, but not really recognisable at all from the base ingredient, for me on both novelty value and in how it worked so well with the cheese, the star of this dish. Two very different beers on offer again this time, with I think Wreckless added late on to the menu. However it was definitely a winner, the tropical fruit and bitterness just worked. Black Betty is a top quality beer which I love, but here those roasty flavours slightly overpowered rather than combined. That said, I could have still quaffed another…
Jacobs ladder, tarragon, shallot and egg, served with RedWillow “Smokeless”.
Chef Ernst’s notes: Seared Jacobs ladder, with roast shallot emulsion, tarragon purée, brined egg yolk, caramelised shallot purée, pickled red onion, shallot wafer crumbs. Another new one for me in “Jacobs ladder” which I now know to be beef short ribs. On the night though I had no real idea of what was concealed inside the carefully laced pickled red onion outer layer. Served almost rare, with a slightly firmer texture than I expected (once I realised what it was), it was a mighty mouthful of flavours when combined with the various purées and smooth creamy egg. Smokeless worked well, it’s soft toasty smoky notes drawing out the succulence of the beef and complimenting the creamy egg yolk.
Lamb and heritage carrot, broad beans and curry, served with RedWillow “Sleepless”
Chef Ernst’s notes: Pan fried lamb rump with spiced sausage, heritage carrots, Israeli couscous, broad beans and a lamb jus. Not all of the pictures here are great, bad light, phone pics swiftly snapped in between lots of conversation. This one in particular does not do the dish justice, nor does it portray the warming spice aroma wafting from the plate. The lamb was cooked perfectly, soft and juicy and bursting with strong flavour, the sausage firm and meaty with a lovely peppery after-burn, and yet another new experience, Israeli couscous in a lightly curried sauce. It looked a little like tiny peas, tasted a like little popping dumpling pearls and I want some more. (I have tried, but very hard to find) Sleepless was a good pairing, it wasn’t my favourite but the chewy toffee malt went well with the meat, with the prickly hops complimenting the subtle spices.
Strawberry and tonk a bean, hazelnut and nasturtium, served with The Kernel “Export Stout”
Chef Ernst’s notes: Textures of strawberries with tonk a bean rice pudding, crispy white chocolate, milk crumble, hazelnuts and nasturtium. Personally speaking I’m not normally a big sweet person when I’m drinking beer, normally at this point I’d choose the cheese board every time, but man oh man this dish rocked. The almost nougat-like tubes of tonka bean rice pudding were super creamy, add the strawberry combination of textures, dusted with chocolate and toasted nuts it was not overly sweet, but super tasty. The Export stout was an inspired choice, rich with coffee, fruit, chocolate and vanilla with a drying hoppy finish, it seemed to just elongate every mouthful, new tastes popping into the mind just as you’d got over the last. Definitely the pairing of the night for me, closely followed on the night by the Saison Cazeau.
All in all a really enjoyable night and good value for money too. The food and service were excellent, timings perfect. The dishes were beautifully presented and ample in proportion, with plenty of beer to match, with a good third to half of each. Meaning we left happy and content rather than bloated and hammered, happily tootling off to the station in good time after sampling a few more of RedWillow Bar’s tip-top selection and lastly the “gin section”.
The Lord Clyde offer various dining experiences from a full tasting menu down to sarnies, so if ever you are in the area it maybe wise to take a detour, here’s the latest menu. Then of course park the car in Macc and wash it down with a few beers at the Red Willow Bar and other fine local establishments.
A massive thanks for reading and to everyone involved, a resounding success!