[Little Budworth, Cheshire] Cabbage Hall
Over the years, I’ve passed Cabbage Hall many times without needing to go in. But Jay Rayner’s review in the Guardian, some months ago, convinced me otherwise. It was littered with words like “affectation”, “self-aggrandisement”, “pretension”, “preening”. OK, Jay, enough. I’m sold on the place – this is Cheshire after all and I’m a Cestrian – sounds perfect for lunch.
Of course, in amongst the considerable shafting of the restaurant, the review has some elements with which I’d completely agree. There is a “preening” – in the display of certificates, Cheshire Life awards, photographs of who I presume to be the chef, Robert Kisby, posing with assorted farmyard animals. The “preening” continues into the menu which starts with the reference to “my award winning style of Cuisine.” Note the upper case “C”.
And it’s the menu that irritated more than anything. And when I say “menu”, I mean “menus”. It’s just so confusing – there are effectively four lunchtime menus – there’s a main menu, priced a la carte (2 starters, 5 mains, 6 desserts); there the “One Piece Menu” – yep, single dishes like burger; there’s the “Designer” platter menu (yes, honestly, that’s what it’s called) of mainly north western produce designed for sharing – “British tapas” as it was described by the waitress “although I’ve known a couple of larger men manage it on their own” . I think she may have sneaked a glance at my not inconsiderable belly. And then there’s the “Tailor’s” menu. No, me neither. The reasoning for this name isn’t explained anywhere – but it’s what you and I would call the table d’hote – two courses for £15.95, a few quid more for a third. And this is what we went for.
We both went for the starter of smoked haddock, spinach, hollandaise, poached egg. Pretty classic – but none the worse for that. Decent bit of haddock, spinach wilted but not done to death, perfectly poached egg. And a hollandaise that was a bit cloying – it needed quite more lemon. Bread had been offered (it’s an extra, of course) and whilst it was nothing to write home about, was good for mopping up the plate. By now, we were quite chuffed – things weren’t going to be as bad as we’d feared.
There’d been four main courses on offer and there was never any doubt that I was going to have the belly pork. This was a tasty piece of very succulent piggy with very crisp crackling. It sat on some cabbage and there were sauté potatoes. And a couple of slices of a rather nice ham and black pudding roll. Good dish – and one that came in a “proper” portion – not the tiny offerings one often gets at low priced lunches.
Across the table, my wife went for the vegetarian offering. In the bottom of the bowl, a lightly spiced bean and tomato “stew”. On top, an artichoke heart topped with sauté courgettes and peppers. This was interesting and bang-on for flavour – one of those veggie dishes where you don’t miss the meat at all.
We didn’t fancy dessert so finished with coffee. There were only three other tables occupied so it was no surprise that service was absolutely fine. In conclusion, a decent lunch in pleasant surroundings and we’d go again if in the immediate area, but there’s no need to rush back.
I was dreading eating here for my sister-in -law's birthday after reading Jay Rayner's review. It was a pleasant surprise once I'd got through the confusing array of menus. The lobster risotto was good and I enjoyed the duck. Don't be put off by Jay Rayner or the pretentious prose of the menu and website - the cooking is top notch.