Whether you're quitting booze, eating healthy or just plain skint, the first month of the year can be a bit of slog. Plenty gets spouted about this annual ritual of self-flagellation, but if you ask me January is a month to make certain you enjoy yourself, and a visit to the Railway Kitchen last week proved I'm not alone in my thinking.
On a dull, damp, dark, winter Wednesday I swear the whole place was grinning. Originally opened as a pop up offering, the Alderley Edge venue has proved a real hit and a couple of years later it's still going strong. If their drool inducing small plates and a seriously lengthy gin list isn't enough to break you from hibernation then there's something wrong.
Those aforementioned small plates make up the bulk of a menu that is pleasingly uncomplicated. It's the sort of browse where you try and find the things you don't want to eat, if you know what I mean. Using the process of elimination we were never going to sacrifice the lamb sliders, and they kicked things off nicely - perked up with pickled daikon and spiced mayo. Wafu fried chicken, flavoured with sesame, had a nutty richness to it almost comparable to a hint of peanut butter, it worked for me, and made a change from the usual buttermilk stuff you find everywhere right now.
Sitting proudly at the top of the menu, crispy duck flat breads with sriracha and fried quail eggs, surely not many diners look past them. If I saw these guys arrive on the table beside me and I hadn't picked them I'd be changing my order. A brilliant combination - meaty, tangy, tenderness atop a pillowy light little bread, a bite that brings together some of the best bits of south Asian cuisines. The seabass in masala sauce recalls a more familiar style of cooking, fried fish in curry sauce gets me thinking about the chippy at the end of my street. This is, of course, more refined - but no less alluring.
Fluffy little smoked fish cakes with mango salsa and mojo verde were well executed, if nothing particularly special. I was a little disappointed to find the venison carpacio was all gone, too popular for its own good I guess, I'd been looking forward to that. Anyway it was replaced by a raw beef nigiri special, the meat was nice although the rice was a bit overcooked I thought, probably sushi isn't something to just dabble in.
Another interesting dish came in the guise of seared yellow fin tuna. Sprinkled on top were little crispy puffs of wild black rice, putting this somewhere half way between tataki and bombay mix, wherever it was it worked for me. Finally, lamb chops with coriander pesto were simple but oh-so-effective. Crisp, juicy, spiced perfectly then kicked up a notch by that pesto.
Our desserts each centered around a drink in their own way. First the chocolate delice with pistachio crumb and cherries soaked in gin, perhaps a little sweet for my taste but nice nonetheless. More impressive I thought was the Matcha white chocolate creme brulee. I'm not normally too taken with green tea flavoured puddings but this was definitely the nicest I've tried, the white chocolate and buttery shortbread perfectly balanced that slightly bitter earthiness of the Matcha powder.
It's strange walking away from a restaurant where you've been wowed by the food thinking more about the atmosphere, but that was almost the case with the Railway Kitchen. I did regret not having the time to linger at the bar a little longer. There are some real crackers on that small plate menu though, this place is a real gem, the sort you don't want anyone else to find.
7 London Rd, Alderley Edge SK9 7JT