Political paragraphs, wholesomeness and pram dodging - Jonathan Schofield loves it
BLANCHFLOWER, Altrincham, feels healthy and wholesome.
A visit is like a jog through a buttercup meadow on a lovely spring day, one of those days in which cumulus clouds look like creamy mash, the cows are all shaped like sourdough loaves with legs, the grass is rich green, the hedgerows are fecund with herbs and berries and there’s no barbed wire on which to snag your honeyed walnuts.
But my oh my the pies.
Blanchflower’s pies make me want to take a train down to the Pieminister people in Bristol and shout, “That’s just rubbish!” The chicken and mushroom pie I had for £8.45 was lush with succulent big lumps of cluck-cluck and full to bursting with fungus all in a rich deep creamy perfectly seasoned sauce.
The pastry was a joy, with the pie top collapsing as quickly as a Tory MP trying to prove party unity. The mash was similarly creamy and with a fine consistency, balanced delicately between not too dry and not too loose. There was good gravy but better some cracking charred kale with all the brittleness of Jeremy Corbyn trying to prove he’s a Remainer. (I’m putting this paragraph forward for the Most Balanced Political Food Writing Award at the next Manchester Food and Drink Festival.)
Carrying on with the mushroom theme, another beauty of a dish, was the field mushroom soup with a wild mushroom bruschetta (£4.95) and a bit of artful green crowning. The soup was again correctly seasoned and the bruschetta good for dunking. There was nothing wrong and a lot right too with the broccoli and Stilton tart with sautéed tatties, salad and chutney (£6.95), plus a ripe, moist and creamy main event with good bolstering from the correctly timed spuds.
All the baked products are done in-house and very good bordering on the spectacular with the three-day sourdough bread a hero. I’ve been getting a little tired of the ubiquity of sourdough lately but when it’s this fresh and this forgiving to the bite and yet so distinctive of flavour I’ll still slap it on the back. Try any of the cakes or pudds as well, they’re winners.
I was on the lunch time menu but dinner dishes call for an urgent return on the Metrolink. Enticers include fish stew, charcoal-grill octopus and prawns (£11), home-cured beef, mustard and slow-cooked egg yolk (£8) or cockles, baby turnips and pickled grapes in a sherry and dill broth (£6.50). Blanchflower does a good line in stately dish titles, the winner for grandiosity sounds marvellous, chargrilled free-range herb fed chicken breast and confit leg with green sauce and roast Jerusalem artichokes (£16). Although maybe they should try feeding the mouth not the breast. There are honeyed walnuts somewhere on the menu in case anybody thought the barbed wire line above was gratuitous.
The interior of Blanchflower is crisp rather than colourful with tiles and plain wooden tables often made for sharing with other guests as much as your own group. All the internal vivacity comes from the long serving counter and kitchen. The service is town casual but that’s not a problem.
The name of the place, by the way, comes from two football playing brothers, particularly Danny Blanchflower, the Spurs player, and a hero of Tottenham fan and owner Phil Howells (although Jackie Blanchflower might have been more apt since he was a Manchester United player). It’s Phil and his wife, Claire, who run the operation, a pair who may be familiar to people from their days owning Caffeine and Co in town.
All in all the food in Blanchflower is delightful and you feel sort of clean leaving the place, worthy in a healthy, well-sourced nosh kind of way. It fits the area around Altrincham Market like a glove; genteel, almost prim but pleasantly so. My only problem was I’d necked solo three large glasses of a Spanish Chardonnay which if nothing else made dodging the 4x4 all-terrain humongous prams of the lunching ladies an amusing if hair-raising experience. As if we don’t know the prams are full of bottles of plonk to drink at home.
Blanchflower, 12-14 Shaw's Road, Altrincham, WA14 1QU Tel: 0161 929 6724
mushroom soup 7, tart 7, pie 9, cake 7
plain and homely
very friendly indeed