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[Heatley, Cheshire] La Boheme

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I’m a great believer that you get what you pay for. And, at £27 for three courses, you’re not paying very much. There’s quite a lot of choice – around a dozen starters and similar main courses. Everything is named in French and then explained, at some length, in English. Lots of dishes are “flavoured with”, “finished with” or “accompanied with” and, even, “topped with”.

There wasn’t the best of starts to the evening. A wrong glass of wine was brought – sauvignon blanc ain’t red. The water didn’t come at all – well, not until it was chased. And the bread roll, which was on the plate as we sat down and may have been there for ages, was a disgrace for any restaurant claiming to be French. It was just one of those defrosted mini baguettes that may have been crisp when it was first taken from the oven but, by the time we were eating it , had lost any pretence of crispness

One of the “finished with” starters was a smoked haddock beignet. Strips of lightly smoked fish in a crisp batter; a small handful of leaves and two sauces – one chilli, the other apparently sweet ginger, although this also packed enough chilli to render any other flavour redundant. The other starter featured a pigeon breast, just on medium rare, along with a creamy sauce incorporating baby onions, pancetta and peas. Good dish.

If the chilli had been overdone earlier, the pepper in an “au poivre” sauce was very restrained. It coated a well cooked tasty sirloin steak. Alongside, mixed vegetables and a deep fried potato “roulade” that was intriguing in its construction – looked like fat chips had been softened and then formed into a large circle before being fried. Ballotine of guinea fowl wasn’t the best choice of food I’ve ever made. The bird had little flavour and what there was had been overwhelmed by an orange “farce”. Just to be clear, I use the word in the French sense, not the English. Some good dauphinoise potato, the same veg mix as the other plate and an orange jus completed the plate.

Bread & butter pudding was hardly French. And it was the sort of effort that you might buy from one of the better supermarkets. Came with a decent toffee sauce and rum & raisin ice cream, which managed to taste of neither.

I can rarely resist a lemon tart and can never resist it when it’s described as tarte au citron. Here there was a good, sharp, lemony filling but, like the bread at the beginning of the meal, the pastry had lost any crispness it might once have had.

After the initial glitch, service was fine. And, as indicated earlier, this was reasonably priced meal, although not as reasonably priced as a number of other places we know – all of which also offer generally better food. Not somewhere to rush back to, I’m afraid.

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