Monday, 10 February 2014

Taster Menu at The Parkers Arms.

There's a restaurant in San Sebastian called Ibai. In a town of wonderful restaurants (probably the best in Europe) this is apparently one of the very best. But it's not a Michelin starred place, in fact it's almost a secret, hidden away behind a tapas bar in an unassuming little back room. But people who've eaten there say it's stunning; not showy or trendy just genuinely consistently wonderful cooking using outstanding quality ingredients.
I feel like that about The Parkers Arms, although it's no secret; every food lover, chef and restaurant blogger in the North West will tell you about how good it is there. So why on Friday lunch time was it so quiet with only us and another table taken? Well you tell me. I suppose its location doesn't help, it's a wonderful part of the world but it's miles away, from us at least. It annoys the hell out of me to be honest, there are several restaurants not too far away from me in Chorlton that are quite frankly crap that were most likely doing more trade. But then I've not been to The Parkers in the evening when it's busier, and on a sunny Sunday afternoon when we first went, all the tables outside were taken. *This weekend Stosie told me that they had 70 un-booked walk-ins on Sunday, so my advice is if you're going then, reserve a table first.
It was a grey, rainy, cold lunchtime on Friday but Mrs Bacon had the day off so I couldn't think of many better things to do than this. Especially as a taster menu was in the offing. Chef Stosie had told us about her idea to introduce a gold card for regulars; £25 for 6 courses and £35 for 8. If you know of a better value taster menu in the UK I'd love to know where it is. This also included extra 'tweet treats', little snacks she generously sends out for anyone who follows her on twitter. Social media is a vital aid for chefs and Stosie has spoken about how bloggers have helped spread the word about The Parkers as well as winning several awards including the Craft Guild of Chefs 'Pub Chef' Restaurant Award.
Lets not forget AJ, a more charming and funny FOH you're not likely to find and a visit to The Parkers arms feels less like a restaurant and more like you're with friends and you're being properly looked after. Plus Sam the dog gets loads of treats too. 
Anyway I've waffled on enough, onto the food.
Bacon on the beech Tasting Menu 07/02/2014. Stosie did this taster menu for us - our only proviso was Mrs B's aversion for liver and pigeon.
Skins n things. Potato & pork Skins, chutney. The pork skins especially were a revelation. The potato skins I find a tad too hard.

House smoked salmon. Parkers sesame rice cracker.
Goosnargh chicken skin & parfait. Beautiful. I can't get enough of chicken skin like this, we had some at L'enclume recently.

Tweet treats.
Lancashire onion soup, Lancashire cheese stick.
Mushroom parfait, soused mushrooms.
Warm Parkers corned beef in dripping, molasses bread. One of our favourites of the meal, as far away from tinned corned beef as you'd imagine. The home made bread was superb.
A few things for us were slightly over salted (the soup, and a few parfaits), but we tend to under-salt at home and chefs often add salt more than we would so it's more of a personal thing rather than a criticism. (Chef had also had a root canal operation so was feeling slightly under par. I'd never have guessed it from the food coming out).
More treats; Shrimp and home made crumpet then Chunky country terrine, piccalilli. We seem to be eating a lot of terrine lately and neither of us generally love them but this was one of the best we've had.
Crab parfait, soused fennel & cucumber, lemon jelly. Stosie knows how much I love this and wonderfully made it especially, despite the fact that it was tricky to get supplies of crab due to the bad weather. Now that's service for you!
Grilled mackerel, rhubarb leaves salad, roast & fresh rhubarb. Excellent.
Braised Newton rabbit, creamed mash, buttered kale, crispy bacon. 
 A surprise big hit with us, and made us realise that we really like rabbit. The mash is perfect. I'm now asking Mrs B if we can have mash like Parkers at home.
Orange caramel flan, caramelised oranges. Such a pretty dish, the desserts here are always excellent. The only thing was the thin peel is quite bitter, perhaps I shouldn't have eaten that bit!
Parkers in house fresh warm ricotta, oat crunch, rhubarb jelly, purée and roasted. I adore rhubarb but the ricotta wasn't my favourite, there was something in the texture I wasn't sure about.
Home made treats to finish a wonderful meal.
Our final bill came to just £66.80 for two with a few drinks. This taster menu is a quarter of the price of some restaurants I could mention with stars in their eyes and for me the food is superior. 
So what are you waiting for, get down to Parkers. You won't regret it, I reckon that this is the best value taster menu in the UK and one of my favourite places to eat. 8/10.

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