We visit The Dysart Arms in Bunbury to sample their widely renowned menu.
The Dysart Arms in Bunbury, Cheshire, part of the Brunning and Price group, is undoubtedly a classic English pub complete with open fires, lots of oak, real ales, a welcoming atmosphere and plenty of character. The pub has been run by husband and wife team, Rob and Kate John since April 2013. Under their watch, the pub was refurbished, with its grand reopening taking place in August. 'Brunning and Price are like a family,' says Kate. 'They were and continue to be very supportive of everything we've been trying to do. They help make sure that the regulars are happy and that we're happy too!'
Rob is also head chef at the pub and having gained two AA rosettes and mentions in The Good Food Guide at his previous restaurant, he's more than qualified for the job. 'We update the menu regularly – usually once a month,' explains Kate. 'We make sure that all the food is up to Rob's high standards.'
We decided to put those standards to the test. To whet our appetites, we began with an appetiser of home roasted walnuts and cashews, which were wolfed down in seconds, the sweet and spicy flavours leaving us wanting more and more! The expansive menu meant that we grappled to find the best combination of starters, but we eventually decided to take on the Charcuterie Board between the three of us. It arrived on a wooden platter, the slices of salami and parma ham so beautifully arranged like flower-heads we were hesitant at first to take our pickings. With generous helpings of olives marinated in herbs, sun dried tomatoes, pickled onions and gherkins, chicken liver pate and toasted ciabatta bread, one could almost conjure up the scorching heat of a summer afternoon.
It being a Sunday we could not pass on a helping of the rare roast topside of Conwy Valley beef and it was not until the plate made its way to our table that we realized what a bold move it was; laden with an enormous Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes the size of a grown man's fist and a dollop of red cabbage, it was a wonder the plate could withhold such weight! And they were not shy with the helping of beef either; the two thick slices were beautifully tender and soft, smothered in a fragrant beef jus. Curiosity was what fuelled us to pick out the Basque seafood stew from among the other classic pub dishes of 10oz rump steak, 8oz steak burger, deep-fried haddock and venison. Topped with garlic bruschetta, the salmon, calamari, king prawns and mussels were cooked in a creamy butter sauce and garnished with a saffron aioli, the rich aromas impossible to ignore. Following on with the oceanic theme, next up was the smoked haddock and salmon fishcakes. Seated on a bed of rocket and tomatoes, the fishcakes, bountiful in size as is the way of the Dysart Arms, featured creamy mashed potato and chives, and were coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. With only the squeeze of a lemon and a dollop of homemade tartar sauce, it was the pure simplicity of this dish that makes it without doubt one of the classics.
Looking at the pudding menu, we were in for some more tough decisions; it featured everything from the timeless sticky toffee pudding to a sophisticated pear tarte tatin with blackberry and liquorice ice cream. We chose a helping of the treacle tart, and on seeing there were also a selection of the much-loved Cheshire Farms ice creams and sorbets up for grabs, we couldn't resist a bowful of that either. The treacle tart was everything it said on the packet; gooey and golden, a true delight. The helping of amaretto ice cream and raspberry sorbet also went down a storm; one scoop of the amaretto flavour simply wasn't enough, and the tangy raspberry sorbet calmed our stomachs after the evening's escapade.
The pub is named after the Tollemache family, who were the Earls of Dysart, and has their coat of arms above the door to this day. Originally the building, dating from the mid 1700’s, was a farm belonging to the estate and the original pub was in the building over the road, now known as Orchard House. It moved into the current premises in the nineteenth century, and was simultaneously a pub, a butcher's shop, a farm, and an abattoir which supplied the butcher's shop on the other side of the church. However this was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War dropped by a German bomber who was jettisoning its load on this return from Liverpool Docks. The Tollemache family themselves had some 25,000 acres in Cheshire and extensive estates in Scotland, but lived in London at the family seat of Ham House in Richmond. Brunning and Price bought the Dysart Arms in 1996 and converted the extensive outbuildings into kitchens, connecting them to the original pub building with a conservatory.
Home roasted walnuts and cashews sweet and spicy glaze £3.25
Charcuterie board Cured meats, chicken liver pate, pickled onions, pickled gherkins, olives, sun dried tomatoes, toasted ciabatta and chutney - ideal to share £14.95
Rare roast topside of Conwy Valley beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and beef jus £12.95
Basque seafood stew topped with garlic bruschetta and saffron aïoli £13.95
Smoked haddock and salmon fishcakes with tomato salad £10.95
Treacle tart with lemon posset £5.95
Cheshire farms ice cream vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, honeycomb or amaretto three scoops £5.25
Cheshire farm Sorbets Green apple, raspberry, and lemon, three scoops £4.85
The Dysart Arms
Bowes Gate Road, Bunbury, Near Tarporley, Cheshire, CW6 9PH
We visit Battlefield 1403 to find out just what makes their range of meat so special.
Battlefield 1403, located just north of Shrewsbury, is well known for its fantastic range of local produce, including locally sourced meat from its butchery, much of which is reared on site. The butchery is run by a team of experienced butchers, led by head butcher, Steve Jones. Steve has 17 years’ experience as a butcher, working in both retail and wholesale.
‘I work closely with the farm manager,’ Steve explains. ‘So, I know what we have in stock and how the meat is being reared. It’s important that we care for the livestock as it helps the quality of the meat, giving a better flavour. For beef, I have to make sure that it has a good fat covering – the right amount means it can be hung for longer, but too much fat is just a waste.
‘Our beef and lamb is raised on site, while our free range pork is sourced from Staffordshire. We also have British Lop pork, which we source from Market Drayton. We always aim for complete traceability so people can know exactly where their food came from.’
Marketing manager Chris Darlington explains why the butchery is so central to operations at Battlefield 1403: ‘We are butchery led because not only is it where customers buy our meat direct, but we also use the meat in the kitchen,’ he says. ‘The meat goes into our ready meals and many of our other products – it’s really the heart of the operation!’
‘We make 16 varieties of sausages on site using beef, pork or lamb, many of which have won local awards,’ Steve continues. ‘Overall, with our product range here at Battlefield, we’ve won at least one Great Taste award every year that we’ve entered. We make at least eight to 10 varieties a week and rotate them so regular visitors will always have something different to try.
‘Our beef is extra mature and is hung for five to six weeks. From October to April, we use beef from the Albrighton Estate, of which Battlefield 1403 is part. We have 90 heads of cattle – it’s a single suckler herd, which means that each cow only has one calf. They are kept outside during the warm weather, brought inside for their first winter, and then eventually slaughtered at 24 to 28 months. The rest of the time we source beef locally using meat from similar breeds that are raised to the same high welfare standards. Among the breeds that we use are Simmental and a Hereford/Limousin cross.
‘We’re happy to take orders and will make everything to order. Everything is freezable, but we make sure that your order will be fresh when it arrives. We can also source other meats, such as game, to order.’
Find out more about Battlefield 1403 and the Albrighton Estate by visiting www.battlefield1403.com. Should you wish to visit Battlefield 1403 and see what is on offer for yourself, they are open 9:30am until 5:30pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am until 4pm on Sundays.
Yattar Yattar heads to Hodnet near the town of Market Drayton to meet the team who have brought The Bear out of hibernation.
In just over a year’s time, visionary co-owners Greg Williams and Alyn Jones have managed to transform The Bear at Hodnet into what can only be described as a relaxed and friendly inn where the food served is well above standard pub fare.
The Bear’s Journey
You wouldn’t believe walking in that Greg has not been behind the bar at The Bear longer, he’s a welcoming host and the pub atmosphere this cold wintery evening is a jovial one as regulars sit and chat in the unpretentious bar area. The interior is cosy and entirely inviting, with a casual mix-and-match of pine and oak furniture, comfy chairs and roaring fires. It’s difficult to believe Greg when he tell us of dartboards clothing the walls, blocked up bookcases, and a pool table room that used to be at The Bear. ‘In just over a month the inn was transformed to what you see today, rectory-red walls, exposed bookshelves, hand-chosen pictures, restored wooden beams and a log-fire added to every room!’ Each touch adds to the relaxed ambience. So why The Bear? ‘After working in a renowned Cheshire pub I felt I had outgrown my role,’ says Greg. ‘It was the history of The Bear which captured me, there is something charmingly magical that I couldn’t resist!’
It certainly seems things have worked out as even on a Monday evening the restaurant was almost full. ‘When we first opened in February 2012 we were only doing about eight to ten covers, now we’re doubling that and even have functions booked in for up to a hundred people in what used to be the medieval banquet room,’ explains Greg. Upstairs the medieval banquet room boasts high ceilings, a large fire, heavy drapes and elegant chandeliers – a hidden surprise on our tour.
Food for Thought
‘Here at The Bear, the focus is food’ Greg explains. ‘Head chef Alyn’s food philosophy is based on using the best ingredients, he places much importance on the ability to change our menu daily if needs be, to ensure that we are serving the freshest and most seasonal produce available to us on any one day’.
Following Greg’s advice my dining partner and I opt for the more unusual dishes available on the menu, starting with a game terrine complemented by spiced fig and apple relish and also the cured salmon ballotine. The pressed terrine looked spectacular with the mixed layers of rabbit, pheasant and black pudding and tasted delicious! I’m told the salmon was also delicious, the best part of the dish being the pickled fennel, which was pickled on site.
For my main, I enjoyed the braised feather of beef with parmesan mash and stout gravy, complete with the biggest dumpling I’ve ever seen sat on top of the tender beef. The dish was truly wholesome and well-cooked. I enjoyed the little twists which made the dish modern – parmesan mash and the addition of smoked bacon pieces to the gravy. My dining partner chose the pan fried sea bass with pea and chervil risotto which was a delight with crispy skinned, yet soft and succulent sea bass. The accompanying risotto had a rich, buttery sauce with the taste of saffron coming through strongly. Replete as we were, somehow we both managed desert; hazelnut meringue and Belton’s cheese platter were both a lovely final course, and the sage cheese was a usual delight. The menu runs all day and allows each individual diner to pick and choose - you could pop in for a sandwich, or enjoy a three-course formal meal.
Outstanding Food in an Informal Setting
The Bear was a great choice to dine at on a wintery evening as we were served sat next to a roaring fire. In the summer it will no doubt be a lovely place to enjoy a drink in the sunshine and large beer garden. We hope that Greg and his team continue to grow the business and achieve their plans to establish the inn for its informal feel, but out-standing food. Whether you’re popping in for a pint of real ale, looking to celebrate that special occasion, or staying the night, The Bear can cater to all!
Contact The Bear on 01630 685214 or visit www.bearathodnet.co.uk to find out more.
The Bear’s Tale
The Bear at Hodnet is said to date back at least 500 years and is said to still contains passages that were built to hide monks as they came from church, but which were also used to transport ale underground and avoid taxes. The bear pit that you’ll see at the inn today was created by an enterprising publican in the 1970s and contained two young bears until common sense allowed their release. The original 16th century bear pit is believed to have been in what is now the car park. The owner allegedly kept the bears in a pit below the bar and it is said that regulars fed the bears food and drink – some of the bears are said to have died from alcohol poisoning as!
Pressed rabbit, pheasant and black pudding terrine with a spiced fig and apple relish
Cured salmon ballotine with salsa verdi and a lime pickled fennel salad
Pan fried sea bass with pea and chervil risotto, mussels and a saffron velouté
Braised feather of beef with parmesan mash, smoked bacon, thyme dumpling and a stout gravy
Belton’s cheese taster plate with spiced fruit chutney, grapes and crackers
Hazelnut meringue with mulled fruits and spice vanilla cream
Three courses £19.95 per person from the Christmas set menu
We feel as if we’ve just lived the quintessential Downton Abbey experience, but we were actually enjoying the charm and old world character of Nanteos…
Imagine driving down a narrow country lane in rural north Wales. Overhanging trees have shed most of their leaves and the sun is glinting through the gaps. Suddenly, there before you is Nanteos Mansion, an 18th century Grade I listed former country house that has been lovingly restored, refurbished and transformed into a luxury hotel.
Upon arriving, we are given a warm welcome by Sarah and Gareth, who manage the reception, and then offered a drink in the Library Bar before we go through to lunch. Sarah joins us in the library and tells us some of the history of the house. Records of the estate stretch back to the 13th century when it was one of the most important estates in Ceredigion, covering some 35,000 acres and a major employer of the county. The mansion was built by the wealthy Powell family in 1793 and it remained in family ownership for over 200 years.
As we sit and chat we are joined by chef patron, Nigel Jones who brings with him a selection of delicious canapés to enjoy with our drinks. Nigel has been at Nanteos for two years, first as head chef and more recently as chef patron. Nigel is a larger than life individual who wants to share the unique Nanteos experience with as many people as possible. ‘Nanteos has immense history and charm and despite its size it’s not at all imposing. When people visit us you can watch them mellow as they fall under its spell,’ he explains.
For lunch, we are taken through to the Nightingale Restaurant. The room is elegantly furnished as you would expect, with open fires, wood panelling and a feature bay window that looks out onto the rolling hills. It is difficult to choose from the varied a la carte menu, as everything sounds delicious but I can’t resist the starter of seared devilled lamb kidneys with braised field mushrooms, followed by the Nanteos steak – a 35 day dry aged beef served with roasted bone marrow, wagyu beef dripping chips and selection of butters. With help from Nigel my dining partner opts for the chilli salt squid and venison cutlet to follow.
My devilled kidneys were delicious but it was my steak that really blew me away – unbelievably tender and so full of flavour. The wagyu beef dripping chips were also superb – I was tempted to order some more as my partner kept stealing them! Her squid was fabulous, and the venison cutlet was beautifully presented with roast baby turnips, salsify, sweet red cabbage and a roasted puréed celeriac.
A Special Location
Nanteos sits in a valley and has 50 acres of grounds including woodland, fields, lakes and streams. This gives guests immediate access to outdoor pursuits. ‘Shooting, fishing, walking, cycling, kayaking and canoeing are just a few of the activities that guests can enjoy,’ explains Nigel. For some, simply walking through the unspoilt parkland and breathing in the fresh clean air is enough, but for those with an adrenaline seeking personality there are great adventures to be had whether on wheels, on horseback, on water or in the air..
To find out more about Nanteos visit the website: www.nanteos.com
Weddings at Nanteos
Nanteos offers brides a spectacular backdrop on their special day. The most popular choice for wedding ceremonies is the ornate music room, and it’s easy to see why – with its stunning ceilings, huge mirrors and spectacular picture windows, any bride would feel special in these surroundings. The grounds are also impressive with a beautiful walled garden, an ornamental carp lake and a cobbled stable yard that are ideal for wedding photographs.
Of course, there is also fabulous food available for any wedding at the mansion and Nigel is happy to discuss any requirements. ‘I am always delighted when brides tell us exactly what they want,’ he says. ‘We have an excellent choice of wedding menus but it’s fun to do something a bit different. We always cook everything from scratch using only the finest local ingredients.’.
Special offer for Yattar Yattar readers!
Book an overnight stay at Nanteos and enjoy a 15% discount! Simply mention Yattar Yattar when you book to take advantage of this offer. Call 01970 600522 to make your booking.
We head to a stately hall for a evening of tuxedos and ball gowns, fine dining – and bloody murder!
Turning into the driveway of Mellington Hall at dusk and making your way through the 280 acres of grounds, Offa's Dyke just a blurred silhouette off to the right, it is difficult to imagine a place more secluded and peaceful than this. Warm light glows from windows within the grand Victorian façade as you make your way across the impressive stone porch to the oak door entrance, the architecture growing more and more impressive to the naked eye with every step.
We are greeted by Kim, the event organiser, who shows us through what would normally be the reception, but for the purposes of the Murder Mystery night has been transformed into a glamorous, intimate dining area. Heading through the doorway we are overtaken by a loud and unruly gang of five. It quickly becomes apparent that these are no dinner guests, these are the actors, the life and soul of the grizzly game of whodunit that is set to unfold around us.
Taking our seats at the tables, me and my friend find ourselves next to the mayor of a nearby town, who having been to last year's murder mystery event, tells us proudly that she guessed it correctly and that we're in for a treat. Amidst the chatter of the 80 plus diners, we get to know the five people that are to be our team mates for the evening, and before long the waiters and waitresses are circling round us with plates of fishcakes and duck pate, and bowls of creamy leek and potato soup. But we are not spared much peace, for soon enough the troublesome five seated in the centre of the room finish off their food and stand up to address us. It is Charles Worthington Bell that speaks first, introducing himself as 50% owner of the family department store, followed by his sister Annabelle who owns the other half, and their colleagues Eloise, Tom, and Del Ponte, a man with a somewhat shady Italian accent. Charles, with his oppressive nature and loud mouth, is quickly singled as the one who'll be biting the dust.
After our main course of chicken and swede mash, and for my friend, pork and black pudding, Charles sweeps back in the room, only this time dressed as Santa Claus! Delivering envelopes to each of his employees, and a glass of red wine to his once-alcoholic sister, we anticipate trouble. Each of the envelopes contained something questionable about his employees pasts that Charles had uncovered, making sure that they all have motives for Charles' murder. As for Annabelle, you only had to listen to her brother scolding her throughout the night for looking like a domino in her beloved black and white polka-dot dress to suspect she may snap. Charles leaves, and we all began chattering excitedly, predicting how the deed would be done. In the lounge with the dagger? Or in the ballroom with the candlestick, perhaps?
Dessert of Bailey's cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding accompanies the entrance of the detective, who announces the demise of Charles Worthington Bell, down the fire-escape with a stone statuette, and so we begin our investigation; each table is told to decide on a team name and write down two questions to ask each of the four suspects. Each one of the four stand up and take their turn in the spotlight, and our table, 'Sorry We Haven't A Clue', listen closely for any slip-ups or extra clues. The questioning is light-hearted, each actor keeping to character and ad-libbing their answers to perfection. When Del Ponte takes the stage, there are many giggles as he slips into a thick London accent and we find out he wasn't Italian at all – if only the 'Monty Sherlocks' question of 'can you sing us the Italian national anthem please?' had come up sooner! We all deliver our verdict, and surprise surprise it was only the local table of policeman from the nearby village who guessed correctly! It was a wonderful evening of entertainment, beautiful food and festive fun, and we are certainly looking forward to the Faulty Towers edition this coming spring!
A three-course meal and live murder mystery entertainment cost just £28.50 per person.
If you want to experience some live entertainment at Mellington Hall, then make sure you grab your tickets to Fawlty Towers – The Dinner Show on 1st March for £32.50 per person.
Book your tickets by calling 01588 620456 or find out more at www.mellingtonhallhotel.com
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