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Oct 11, 2012 02:51 AM

[Heswall, Wirral] Sheldrakes

We were very VERY brave and veered off Harters' tips for the Wirral! Sheldrakes is an old converted sailing club/beach shack overlooking the marshes of the Dee Estuary and the North Wales coast.

The interior was utterly unexpected - opulent, funky, cocktail lounge type without being up itself. And the menu was moderately ambitious which, again, was a surprise for somewhere 10 mins walk from our front door and, tbh, in the middle of nowhere.

Prosecco to start served in proper champagne glasses, then wonderfully cooked HUGE scallops for me, on morcilla, with a swoosh of pureed salsify and pumpkin dust, and braised pigs cheek for himself with a Scotch quail's egg (never one to say no to slow cooked porky products).

A lamb rack, again perfectly cooked to a blush, with a fennel and potato rosti and truffle sauce for me, and seared snapper (skin was so crisp) and a crabby parmentier potato base with a pear cider and mussel sauce for him.

All really, really good. There's clearly a dab hand in the kitchen as everything was cooked to the teetering on the brink of undercooked point (which I love), and the (oddly, entirely Romanian, apparently the restaurant advertised there so loads of people came over and live locally) waiting staff were charming and efficient.

We were on the £25 for 3 courses Autumn special, but were actually too full for pudding, alas, but will be back. Again and again.

Other intriguing highlights on the menu include: home roasted smoked salmon with a lobster cake and vodka chantilly, Autumn mushrooms on gingerbread toast, pan fried turbot with a salsify and port reduction, peppered venison with an aniseed and parsnip puree and a beetroot and potato dauphinoise, lime panacotta with a G&T sorbet and olive caviar...

I will enjoy our menu exploration! They do a sounds-a-bit-better-than-Toby Sunday carvery, and bistro dishes at lunch. Only word of warning, which came from the waiter, is that they make their money by hosting weddings at the weekend (we were one of only 3 tables last night). They actually have three this wet-and-wild October Wirral weekend. So call ahead as, with the best will in the world, I think you might get a bit ignored if they have 150 wedding guests to look after too.

But thoroughly recommended. For once, food to match a view.

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  1. Some brill piccies on their website. Looks like they have a terrace which should be great if ever we have anotherproper summer.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      They do indeed. It's stunning! Will try to go back during daylight hours so I can capture some atmospherically heeling boats on the mud :) At this moment in time, what with this, and Da Piero, and then am sampling the Wheatsheaf's black pudding and cheese toastie tomorrow, am loving the Wirral!!!

      1. re: helen b

        I'm a big fan of the Wheatsheaf - it's our default lunch place if we're over that way.

        There was mention, on egullet, that the Irby Mill can be decent pub food.

    2. I'm really glad you tried the place out. I think they must have had something of an overhaul kitchen-wise since I last ate there many moons ago. I had resigned myself to the fact that it was an amazing place for a sunday drink in the sunshine, but not worth eating there - so not worth driving over from Liverpool.

      We will now go back - their terrace is lovely and it's great walking along the side of the beach/marshes - very atmospheric and beautiful in any weather.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Theresa

        I think the operation has changed, yes. We almost didn't go because the Tripadvisor reviews were dire, but they referred to a Greek/Cypriot tapas type menu, and it's now modern British/European. I think the owner is from Cyprus, but she's brought in new staff.

        It's not going to be the meal of your life but, London snobs that we are, we kept going 'oo!' to each other, and the chef clearly has a palate and an imagination. Plus the place is just gorgeous.

        1. re: helen b

          I think the last time I was there was pre-greek tapas - and it was a British/European type menu then, but it was probably 10 years ago, so I think there have probably been several phases since. It was the kind of place that would have got great reviews on Trip Advisor - which always puts me off!

      2. Did anyone see this week's "Who Do You Think You Are" (the John Barnes one) on the Beeb.

        The opening shots show him outside of a Merseyside place that I'd guess was Sheldrakes (not been but it looked similar to the website and seemed to fit the geography)

        1 Reply
        1. re: Harters

          It is indeed! He lives in Heswall, along with other footballing sundries and a certain ex Beatle still keeps a house...dead posh here :)

        2. Right. A stern correction, as we've now had a couple of duds. The first was a dinner on New Year's Eve Eve which seemed very much B Team eg the lardons in a salad were just thin strips of anaemic supermarket bacon. Not horrendous, but not exactly covering themselves in honour. Then another dinner last Saturday, when, despite booking and arriving on time, we were left standing for almost twenty minutes whilst waiting staff ignored us, the owner assured us she'd be a minute, but then just hovered round other waiters serving a large table. Pressure to sit in the bar area and order drinks (presumably to aid the margin) and then a grace-less seating at our dining table.

          My son's rabbit terrine with ham hock had multiple small rabbit bones in it. Not good. We complained and were promised something compliementary, which never materialised, and it was left on the bill. His red snapper was then woefully overcooked.

          My sea bass with 'textures of rhubarb' and salad was an OK cooked fillet with 4 slices of cooked rhubarb and a supermarket, undressed salad. My venison was MUCH better, thankfully. They also messed up my son's wine order.

          But the thing which now sticks in my throat a bit about this place is learning that the owner advertises for staff in Eastern Europe. All the waiters have been transplanted. That makes me worry a) how much/little they're paid and b) just seems a bit wrong on the Wirral, given it's had the stuffing kicked out of it with the demise of industry, to such an extent the biggest employers in the county are Tesco and Aldi.

          It's had 3 chances now, so won't be back. HOWEVER, have Fraiche, L'Enclume, Tyddan Llan, Simon Radley at the Grosvenor and Michael Caines at the Abode all booked in the ensuing months, so here's to a better 2013 :)

          1 Reply
          1. re: helen b

            I'll be particularly interested to read your take on Simon Radley. We enjoyed out meal there in 2008 but have not felt the need to go back, as yet. It all seemed a bit, erm "stiff upper lip", if you see what I mean. And the comparitively few diners were all corralled in one corner of the rather large room - a tactic to save the legs of staff, no doubt. I recall perhaps the finest service of cheese I've ever had - and it was down to the skill and enthusiasm of the young French waiter.