[Bunbury, Cheshire] Dysart Arms
I don’t know why I order starters in Brunning & Price places. They never seem to be a patch on the main courses. My partner has learned that lesson but, for me, some things are deeply rooted in my north western genes. Like seeing black pudding on a menu and being compelled to order it.
So it was that a plate of black pudding, bacon and tarragon hash cake arrived. It was a sizeable portion but it needed more – more black pudding that is. And more bacon. And much more seasoning. Topped with a little leaf and with a fried egg draped over it, it looked far better than it tasted. And, whilst I’m having a whinge, let me also criticise the egg – it had a crispy base (something I dislike), yet there was a slight snottiness to the white (something I dislike even more). And I’m not at all sure that the tarragon worked. Not good this. Not vile. Just not good.
Far, far better was the main. Chicken and leek pie. Generous portion of chicken, good flavoured béchamel sauce, some bits of leek (more would have been better) and the crispiest pastry I can recall in a long time. This really was a good pie. It came with fried scalloped potatoes and some shredded cabbage and carrot. For my money, as fine a pub lunch dish as I want to come across.
Meanwhile, herself was getting stuck in to braised lamb shoulder. Although each pub fixes its own menu, there must be some central guidance as there is always a braised lamb dish of some sort on each one (and burger and ham/egg/chips). Today’s offering came with dauphinoise potatoes, carrot and mangetout. As always, it was very generous portion – with a very good flavour from the long cooking. Another winner.
We have been meaning to try the Dysart Arms for several years, and finally made it yesterday, and had a lovely meal.
The starter of "juniper-cured pigeon breast" with chestnuts, mushrooms. crispy parsnips and chutney. There were lots going on in this dish, and lots of contrasts between sweet and sour, but it worked. I'm not a big fan of juniper (unless it's gin of course), but the chutney (which was unusual, as some mouthfuls were very sour) was balanced by the chestnuts and parsnips and worked well with the pigeon.
My bloke had haddock and chips as a main, which was perfectly cooked - and I would go so far as to say that it was the fishiest tasting piece of haddock I have had - lovely. I'm sorry if this is blasphemous on these boards, but I aways find haddock and cod bland, to say the least. Not this one though. And the chips were very good.
I had the roast beef, which came with the usuals and particularly good veg (especially the shredded cabbage). The only disappointment of the meal was the beef itself - it was pretty tough.
The wine available by the glass was more interesting than the average foody boozer, and coffee in the sunshine in the lovely garden was good too.
We will definitely return - a great place for a meal during or after a walk in the countryside.
Leaving aside my issues with Brunning & Price starters, I have only ever been really let down by one meal (the place at Colwyn Bay). That lunch was so out of character that I wrote to their head office and got a reasonable letter of apology.
As I understand things on their food front, each pub is run as a semi-independent concern. That said, I think there must be some catering oversight from head office as there are some dishes you will always find on the every menu. Fish & chips, a slow roast lamb dish, burger, etc.
I've yet to try their newish place in Manchester and I wait, with bated breath, the opening of their latest scheme on the outskirts of Wilmslow (as it's just up the road and I've every intention of being a lunch regular)