Expect simple cooking with robust flavours using seasonal bounty
AFTER setting out with good intentions to pursue culinary projects that ultimately didn’t come to fruition, award-winning chef Alex Shaw seems to have finally found his perfect match. He has joined the team at Blanchflower Bakery and Kitchen, an all-day dining venue which opened in Altrincham in December 2017.
The independent restaurant is owned by Phil and Claire Howells, who utilise culinary craft techniques to create simple food, full of robust flavours and focussed on seasonal bounty. This is an ethos shared by Chef Alex, who was named Manchester Food and Drink Festival Chef of the Year 2015/2016, when his innovative cooking style at Volta in Didsbury attracted national acclaim.
Craft production is integral to Blanchflower, with the kitchen and bakery working side-by-side, supporting each other through different service periods throughout the day; whether it’s a coffee and a pastry in the morning, lunch, wine and mid-afternoon nibbles, or an evening meal.
Very few items on the menu have been sourced externally. They bake their own bread, cakes and pastries and the kitchen team cure salmon and beef on site as well as making their own bacon and sausages, fermenting and pickling their vegetables.
These are all techniques which Chef Shaw has adopted in his previous roles as Head Chef at the award-winning Eagle and Child in Ramsbottom, and more recently alongside Robert Owen Brown at the Hinchliffe Arms in West Yorkshire. During his earlier career, Shaw also enjoyed stints at The Wig and Pen in Sheffield, Nunsmere Hall in Cheshire and was pastry chef at The Old Vicarage Ridgeway when it received its first Michelin star.
“I met Phil last year and we hit it off immediately”, said Shaw. “We have the same outlook on food and while I wasn’t in a position to join the team at that point, I’m looking forward to joining forces with Phil and Claire to create something really special at Blanchflower.”
Shaw had been set to take on a role as the executive chef of the group which has taken on the closed Odd bar sites in Northern Quarter and Chorlton, but plans fell through due to undisclosed 'creative differences'.
Alex was my first choice to join us from the outset
Shaw will now be working alongside the Blanchflower team and the talented pastry section to devise a new all-day dining menu, with a real focus on creating a casual dining experience in the evening.
“The restaurant receives a lot of walk-in trade and the plan going forwards is to make the evening menu a lot more relaxed,” said Shaw. “Whether people want to come in for a glass of wine and a light bite, or come down with a group of friends and spend all night with us, we will have cater for both and all in between.
"Our bakery is doing fantastically well during the day and the ambition is to create that same level of success in the evening.”
New dishes will include the likes of red mullet fillet, prawn cracker crust and sweetcorn broth; chargrilled Cheshire asparagus, poached duck egg, orange butter and crispy sourdough crumbs, and Pork 'T-bone' with white beans, sage, shallot and lemon casserole. The menu will continue to offer snacks and a selection of sharing plates and sides, before finishing with a selection of desserts, all made in-house.
Phil Howells said; “Alex was my first choice to join us from the outset and when he became available I knew I had to make the changes to bring him on board.
“Claire and I have a real vision for Blanchflower and we’re confident that Alex can help us to achieve that. It’s so unusual to have a world-class bakery and a top-class chef in tandem, and we want to push that combination to its limits.
“We share a vision to create exciting, cutting-edge food and an obsession for the kind of small details that can sometimes be overlooked. I am very excited to have this chance to overhaul the lunch and evening menus. Alex joining us provides a perfect punctuation mark, allowing us to pause and perfect.”