Like The Beatles heading back to Liverpool after a few months touring the world, I entered the boundaries of Oldham to the cheers and whoops one would most closely associate with Beatlemania - except less fainting and more drinking.
I was on the train to Greenfield, one of the stops on the famous ‘Ale Trail’, and those cheers and whoops came from the gaggle of middle-aged blokes, wearing their brand new Fosters Menswear clobber and getting giddy because they’ve managed to get away from the wife and kids for an afternoon.
I wasn’t on the train for the Trail – I was there to get myself to Uppermill and check out Muse, a rather spiffing restaurant and bar which I’d been hearing about from my Oldham crew, and so a perfect excuse for me to go down and get involved and see what all the fuss is about.
A quick Google search for Muse in Uppermill and you’ll get a load of entries referring to the fact that it’s owned by some geezer who was in Hollyoaks. Considering I’ve never watched it – and never will – I’ll brush past that in one sentence and start talking about what matters most – namely food and booze.
Uppermill, for someone from the outskirts of Derker, would be considered part of the ‘posh’ bit of Oldham. The area is truly stunning, perched right on the edge of the Pennines and featuring the kind of scenery you’d see in an old jigsaw your Nan would spend 2 years putting together.
As a result, my expectations for Muse were high. It would have to be a cut above the rest in Uppermill in order to compete with some already well established bars and restaurants in the rather small village. It must be said though, upon entering – Muse is stylish and pretty – with some great pop-icon pictures and neon adorning the proper old brick walls, as well as a great annex in which we were sat to eat.
The menu at Muse is what you could call eclectic. There’s quite a lot going on, with a decent selection of sharing platters, them kebab skewers that everyone loves and your standard Grill and Mains section. What surprised me was the amount of Vegan and Veggie options available – which is extensive (compared to most restaurants anyway). When I was a Vegetarian I would usually be reduced to 2 or 3 dishes at the most, but at Muse there’s plenty on offer – including 6 main meals.
To start with we opted for the Avocado & Tomato Bruschetta and the Peri-Peri Chicken Wings. My girlfriend, perpetually keen to get involved in a fad, was always a shoe-in for ordering something with avocado – probably the most on-trend vegetable since Walter Raleigh brought the potato back and invented the deep fat fryer. She twisted my arm to order the chicken wings too – which isn’t something I’d usually order for a starter, but to be fair to her – when they came, I was happy she did.
With the wings I was pretty much just expecting to get some wings like you’d get in Nando’s but I was very pleasantly wrong. The Peri-Peri flavouring on these bad boys was exceptional, with a spicy initial kick but cooled down with a twang of sweetness. The chicken was wonderfully moist too – it couldn’t wait to shed itself off the bones from the merest touch of my manky pegs. Very satisfying indeed.
Heading into the mains and I was a little concerned about the choices on offer and what to expect. Looking at the menu at Muse, they feature many of the classic dishes you’d expect in a gastropub; such as fish & chips, a burger and steaks, but there’s also a selection of more fine, gourmet dining options – such as their Pan Fried Sea Bass or Roast Peppered Pork.
My concern came from the fact that perhaps the menu was a bit all over the place, not knowing what audience to truly appeal to. With this in mind, we ordered two rather contrasting dishes – the Roast Peppered Pork for myself and the Buttermilk Fried Chicken for my girlfriend.
When the food arrived it was clear just by the presentation how different these two dishes were. One was presented with such panache that it wouldn’t look out of place on Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen table, while the other came placed on a plate the size of a satellite dish.
I must admit that my Roast Peppered Pork was exceptional. Coming served on a bed on Black Pudding, with perfectly crisp and seasoned pressed potatoes and topped with some pork chicharrón – the dish was everything I hoped it would be. The pork had a sharp pepper twang to it, which worked really well with the meaty black pudding and apple sauce. I was a massive fan of the pressed potatoes – they were cooked to perfection and crisped up with what I suspect was some very tasty animal fat.
The Buttermilk Chicken was also very, very good. Due to the fact that the portion size was massive, I ended up eating a considerable part of my girlfriend’s dish as she was too full. The chicken was perfectly moist and the seasoning on the coating was as good, if not better than the Peri-Peri one previously experienced on the wings for starters. Topped with a huge mound of chips, and some of the best chicken gravy this side of the Atlantic – it’s a fantastic choice for anyone looking to not have to eat for the next few days.
Even though the two dishes were very different, they were both excellent and we finished up satisfied. There is a rather eclectic choice of dishes on the menu, but I think this may prove to be beneficial – with plenty of options available for the different clientele that are likely to frequent Muse.
It’s both restaurant and a bar – and gets packed to the rafters on Friday and Saturday evenings of punters looking for something to soak up the copious amount of wine they are due to drink throughout the night. On the other hand, it’s also perfect for a nice relaxing Sunday Lunch or mid-week Date Night. Having such a range of dishes can only make this place an extremely attractive and viable option for the people of Uppermill and beyond.
Finally, I should give a shout out to Grandpa Greene’s Ice Cream which I had for dessert. This stuff, made just down the road in Diggle is phenomenal – I defy anyone in the world not to claim it ten times better than any other ice cream out there. I still often think about my Salted Caramel scoops to this day.
Muse is well worth a visit, and the ice cream is just the cherry on top of an overall excellent restaurant and venue.
Muse, 27 High St, Uppermill, Oldham OL3 6HS