You could live your whole life in a city and never find a gem as precious or as well hidden as Eddie Sheps' The Walled Gardens.
Arriving at Eddie’s home we’re met at the door by the man himself and walk through to a nicely presented open plan kitchen diner, as if taking a tour of a friends place only to take a seat in high anticipation of what’s to come. At that moment I think on how I ended up here and why I’m so high on expectation.
Simple really, I saw an interesting looking dish on Instagram one afternoon with a “Guardian’s Top 20 Restaurants in the UK” accolade and I thought that looks interesting, One click later and… wait a minute Whalley Range? How on earth did Eddie Shepherd and his Walled Gardens pass me by, it’s 12 minutes from my house I’ve literally no excuse. Anyway, we got there so let’s return.
A small welcome cocktail settles us into the night and scanning the room the signs of wide ranging gastronomic experimentation are fairly clear to see, not least of which the large scientific looking machine that sits atop the side table and the cupboard full of hand labelled gin and spirit bottles.
Then arrives our first dish – Hen of The Woods Croquette with dandelion petal & honey dipping sauce from Eddie’s own garden and of course his own bees – which feature throughout the evening and each time in a new and interesting way.
The next dish somewhat blew my mind – Rose flavoured Halloumi in a Charcoal Batter and a Rhubarb Molasses. The Halloumi had been infused with the rose in such a way I can’t quite recall – a vacuum and the flavour absorbs more intensely or some such thing that was absolutely amazing.
Following this with a Corn Taco of Mexican Truffle, Chipotle Sauce and Goosberry the savoury dishes were individually like nothing I’ve tasted before whilst at the same time moving from one to the next in a meticulously considered way.
The sweet dishes didn’t let up on both visual interest and flavour levels. A Chocolate Parfait with Honey and Wildflower Granita, with a rather unique lavender flavour, followed by a Lemon & Thyme Cordial Tube Shot that added a new experience to my list.
Last but by no means least the Double Fermented Chocolate with Passionfruit Ganache infused with Scotch Bonnet was just a mic-drop moment really.
The Scotch Bonnet is boiled / reduced in a low temperature vacuum (I think I got that right Eddie) which retains the flavour but removes the heat and simply put you get this amazingly vibrant Chilli Chocolate vibe.
I’ve not described everything, it would be impossible to do so and the liquid nitrogen live cooking with the intricate plating and delicate nature of every dish… I mean the whole thing has to be experienced to be believed and I count myself as lucky to have done so.
My biggest takeaway from the evening though is this, Eddie Shepherd has to be the most welcoming and genuinely friendly chef on planet earth, we’re lucky he’s in Manchester and his presence, explanations and genuine love for his craft really makes the evening.