Samuel Buckley’s (Juniper, L’Enclume) intimate dining space in Stockport has been quietly touted as the new culinary gem of Greater Manchester. On Saturday myself and the wife had a friend up from London and thought it was the perfect opportunity to see if this really was the case.
At 8pm on the first truly chilly night of the year our Uber dropped us ‘around’, the location. Guided only by a photograph of the doorway on the restaurant’s Facebook page and a friendly passer-by (who now doubles as a proxy tour guide, sweeping lost sheep in the right direction) we found some unassuming stairs, at the top of which was a dining space that echoes both Finest founder Lee Isherwood’s beautiful home and the Masterchef studio in its style and openness.
Upon arrival we were ushered to the lounge area where the sommelier, Caroline, asked if we were interested in opting for paired wines with our meal. Naturally, our response was “yes please” and what an excellent decision that was! She first brought over the welcome cocktail (roasted pear juice, homemade ginger beer and calvados – which warmed our souls), then throughout the course of the evening we were treated to 4 different (and unusual) wines, drawn from vineyards across Europe, including a moreish Romanian red and a Swiss white, which tasted almost savoury.
whereas many meals blur into the memories of weekends past, WTLGI will stick out as one of the most enjoyable and entertaining I’ve ever had…
Onto the food. There’s no menu which adds to the excitement of the evening as you don’t know what’s coming up next and the food changes from week to week, with the emphasis being on seasonal, locally sourced and foraged food. You can, however, see into the kitchen as the venue is completely open – so you can certainly speculate what might be in store. There’s also no hierarchy, with the food being brought to us by the chefs and waiting staff alike, which made for a lovely informal atmosphere.
The menu started with a few nibbles, which were brought over to us whilst were sipping our cocktails in the lounge area and consisted of sprats (similar to sardines) with a bitter lemon sauce and onion crackers. Then came one of the stranger dishes – bull balls. When Samuel brought them over we thought perhaps he was joking, but he assured us that they were indeed bull balls, which had been brined then deep-fried. These were actually pretty delicious as long as you didn’t overthink them!
At that point we were taken over to the table for the next dish – beetroot parcels, which were pleasantly tasty – followed by freshly baked bread with whipped butter and chicken salt, which was quickly demolished.
Samuel then brought out a dish with the comment, “this is a bit weird” – and he was right! Foraged mushrooms and leaves (which I later found out you weren’t supposed to eat…) with a broth. Amazing to think that Samuel had created a dish around food he basically just found on the ground!
Next came my wife’s favourite course – a delightful dish of plaice with raddichio and salted plums. This was followed by another of the slightly more unusual dishes: raw ox’s heart finely cubed with a very citrusy quince – carpaccio-esque and very flavoursome. A rib of beef with delicious greens was next, which would give diners with less adventurous tastes something to shout about.
The tasting menu was rounded off with a couple of sweet dishes: firstly, a pre-dessert shot and secondly, a black chocolate tart, with horseradish shavings and pear sorbet which was another definite crowd pleaser.
Some of the courses were bigger hits than others, but each was interesting and unusual. A visit to WTLGI is definitely more of an event that a simple meal out – the staff each took the time to speak with us and answer our questions, which meant that we felt like we’d learned something during our visit, and the uniqueness of the dishes meant that conversation with my wife and friend never ran dry!
Overall, a great experience, a real night out to remember: whereas many meals blur into the memories of weekends past, WTLGI will stick out as one of the most enjoyable and entertaining I’ve ever had. Samuel, his staff and the low-key ness of the whole deal – easily as much as the food itself – make this a very different and special venture.
If I were you I’d book soon.