I can’t remember how exactly I came to follow Sticky Walnut restaurant on Twitter; I suspect it was owing to the fact I first followed the account of the Chef-Patrons (oh he’s going to hate that phrase!) brother on Twitter and he must have posted about them at some stage. Anyway, once I did become aware of them, it wasn’t long until I became a serious fan, not just because of Gary Ushers’ (the aforementioned “Chef Patron”) passionate, no nonsense approach to running his local neighbourhood bistro, which often took the form of humorous diatribes against unfair and unpleasant Trip Advisor reviews, but also due to the fact that the menus he was serving looked absolutely delicious & showed serious talent.
Long story short (then we can get to the food) after contributing to two successful kickstarter campaigns to open two subsequent restaurants (Burnt Truffle in Heswall and Hispi in Didsbury) I was determined to use my lunch voucher to eat at Sticky Walnut when I was back in the UK, even if my parents thought I was nuts for going from London to Chester for less than 3.5 hours in order to do so!
Brilliantly, my friend Jules happened to land at Manchester airport that very same morning, after her trip home to Singapore, and both she and her friend Emma were able stop off in Chester on the way back home to North Wales & join me for what I had designated as a belated birthday lunch for Jules.
Sticky Walnut really is the kind of local restaurant every small-medium sized town in the UK should have as opposed to the boring identikit chains that seem to have popped up everywhere in the years since i have been overseas. Harpenden, the town my parents live in, is absolutely crying out for a Sticky Walnut concept as opposed to the numerous Italian chain restaurants that they inexplicably seem to have instead. I seem to remember reading that Gary was brought up in the neighbouring town of St Albans – who knows, maybe a move south could be next (she says, ever hopeful!)
The floor is run by extremely smily, friendly young staff who ran what was a full-house lunch service with ease and charm. We had guessed from the warmth of our welcome that we were going to be well looked after, but they really made us feel so at home we couldn’t fail to be impressed.
Simply, and extremely reasonably priced, the 2 course lunch menu is available for £16 with both starters and desserts priced at £5 and main courses at £11. After much consultation we agreed to all order different dishes so that we could taste as many of the dishes as possible, including an extra starter and a couple of extra desserts along the way!
I started with the Flamed Mackerel with Black Pudding, Piquillo Peppers & Hazelnut Puree, the oiliness of the mackerel being perfectly offset by the tart piquillo peppers and .. black pudding. Jules chose the Dill & Coriander Cured Salmon with Focaccia Crumb, Dill Mayonnaise & Cucumber (+£1) and Emma the Chicken Liver Pate with Apple & Date Chutney & Toasted Brioche with an extra order of Heritage Tomatoes & Flamed Burrata to share, all of which were equally well received and were polished off with fairly indecent haste!
Its worth noting that Sticky Walnut make all their own breads, simple enough you might say but having worked in Michelin starred restaurants that purchased bread from outside, this is a true sign of dedication & high standards in my book.
For mains, I decided to stay with fish and try the Seabream with Chargrilled Courgette, Salt Cod, Saffron Rouille and Fennel Puree (+£2) with delicious Mediterranean flavours just leaping from the plate (I really do love salt cod!) Jules chose a hearty Cassoulet with Merguez Sausage, Butterbeans, Ham Hock & Pancetta and Emma the impossibly glossy Braised Jacobs Ladder with Turnip Puree & Truffle & Parmesan Chips (+£2)
I loved the Modern European – Mediterranean feel of the menu and was impressed with how well balanced it was, plenty of choice for vegetarians and pescatarians, as well as the hardened meat lovers amongst us. You could see how much thought goes into putting the menu together, as well as putting the ingredients onto the plate, and it reminded me once again of just how badly restaurants like this are needed.
For desserts we ordered Mango Mousse with Pineapple & Mango Salsa & Elderflower Granita (absolute perfection – so light and fresh it was the perfect end to our meal) Honeycomb Ice-Cream with Fresh Honeycomb (one of the largest chunks of honeycomb I’ve seen!) and Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch & Yoghurt Sorbet (the yoghurt sorbet made for a much better accompaniment than a standard vanilla ice cream.) The Chef very kindly also sent out a flawless Vanilla Creme Brûlée and a delicious Damson & Almond Tart with Damson Jam & Clotted Cream Ice-Cream (SO GOOD!) so we were more than full to burst by the time we finished but WOW! what a great meal!
We left extremely full & satisfied, happy in the knowledge that what had been rather a complicated lunch to coordinate, what with International flights and Virgin trains to contend with, had been more than worth the effort.
Not content with 3 fantastic restaurants, the team at Sticky Walnut are about to crowd fund another restaurant, this time in Liverpool. Look it up on Kickstarter & donate, trust me the lunch voucher you get in return will be more than worth it!
11 Charles Street
01244 400 400
Monday to Sunday 12-2.30pm
Sunday to Thursday 6-9pm
Friday and Saturday 6-10pm
*Please be aware that the restaurant closes at 16:30 until 18:00