The Rock Tavern @ Marple Bridge

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OUT on its own in terms of location but very familiar in so many ways, it’s a case of back to the future for the Rock Tavern.
This traditional looking stone pub in the hills of Marple Bridge advertising its real ales and varied menu looks enticing enough on a windswept winter’s night.
The swaying pampas grass outside gives just a little hint of what’s through the door – yes it’s 1984.
Not the classic book, you understand, no, this pub restaurant is actually still in 1984. From the décor to the menu and, even the staff, look faintly reminiscent of a time 20 odd years ago.
We managed to secure the only remaining the table for a Saturday night, facing the wall bearing the legend “duck or grouse!” and perused the wood effect vinyl menu while sampling a pint of substantial Landord’s and a glass of respectable house Merlot and listening to a “now-that’s-what-I-call-a-cover-hit-from-the-80s” compilation.
Going with the flow we started off with one “traditional” prawn cocktail (£4.95) which had seemingly come rather too recently from the freezer and was still bearing ice plus a helping of what was described on the menu as “camembert wedges”(£4.25).
I imagined large hunks hacked from a whole cheese, deep fried until golden and oozing with molten cheesy loveliness ready to be slathered with the redcurrant sauce.
Disappointingly what arrived were perfectly circular discs of fairly bland cheese which looked suspiciously like those found in the freezer department of major supermarkets.
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Onto the main event. His steak, onion rings and mushrooms (£14.95) looked like something which could grace the pages of glossy magazine from the era. What a perfect specimen – and cooked to the requested medium state with aplomb.
Likewise the venison casserole(£8.95) was well-cooked, stuffed full with melt-in the-mouth meat, cooked with baby onion and hiding slivers of pepper.
Both meals came with helpings of carrot, cauliflower cheese and broccoli in the sort of side plate arrangement that is still sometimes spied at the back of the those establishments which Gordon Ramsey takes to task on his television programme.
We scoured the menu for black forest gateaux but had to settle for profiteroles(£3.75). A decision promptly regretted with the choux pastry buns having the texture of shoe leather piled onto a plate lashed with squirty cream.
The Rock was still bringing in the diners as we left and has obviously built up a loyal customer base which no doubt gets a consistent food at good prices even if it could never be accused of pandering to gastro pub aspirations.
The freezer style starters and desert might have let the side down but the main courses saved the day – well cooked, fresh, with attention to detail.
If only the home cooking had only continued into the other courses.
The Rock Tavern is at Glossop Road, Marple Bridge. SK6 5RX Tel: 01457 899354.
There more pictures from this review and others at my Flickrstream.

Angel delights

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IT’S all over for another year but hopefully the Christmas feast suited you well. With the turkey sandwiches and bottle recycling bins beckoning as we all return to work, It all seemed to be over very quickly this year.
But before it all fades into the distance I think one of my lasting memories from this year is the sheer effort which goes into making Christmas magical.
It is one of the few times of the year when everything around the meal is special – the decorations, the side dishes and the table dressing are almost as important as the food.
My traditional turkey (not the expected goose in the end) was served with so many accompaniments I lost count – cranberry, chestnut, walnut, fruit stuffing, savouring stuffing etc etc.
And then there was this delightful table setting (pictured). Each angel danced around the carousel tapping a delicate bell powered only by candlelight.
Completely charming!
Meals won’t seem quite the same without them.

Merry Christmas all!

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So here we are, it’s nearly Christmas and in this household (pictured), it seems even the cat’s plucked and ready for a roasting.
Yes it seems the whole world is ready for a mass oven switch on, a stomach stretching workout on the sofa and the avoidance of the washing up/parlour games/family rows.
My blow out this year (without any hard work from me) is apparently going to be goose, a new experience so I’ll let you know how it works out just as soon as I’m back with computer access.

In the meantime, a very Happy Christmas to you all.

Thanks to kittenagogo for the cat picture on this page. I have to agree with other Flickr commentators though – freaky. Even a plucked goose would probably be more cuddly

I want Heston’s perfect dinner

Wasn’t Heston’s perfect Christmas dinner (BBC2 last night) just the most magical piece of cookery TV?
The whole theatre of creating a snow-covered outdoor room, the surprise treats such as edible tree baubles and the completely fanatical attention to detail made even viewing the experience a complete treat.
Those celebrities lucky enough to partake of the gold, frankincense and myrrh from the lost city of Ubah or the reindeer milk from Siberia seemed dumbstruck by the enormity of it all and I’m not surprised.
It was about as far removed from the roast bird and soggy sprouts option it’s able to be.
Even so, the programme obviously didn’t grab The Guardian’s columnist in the same way this morning, but for me it was just the PR Christmas dinner needs.
A mixture of magic, wonderment and childlike enjoyment – I wish you all a Christmas dinner which will conjure this.

Chaiaporn’s prawn toasts

Properly known as kanom bang na sarong.
Thanks to the head chef Chaiaporn Sornslip at the recently re-launched Boddington and Dragon in Wilmslow for this authentic Thai receipe.
Certainly surprised me – despite the name, there’s no prawns!
What you need
6 slices of white bread medium
4 small garlic gloves finely chopped
6 coriander stalks with leaves, chopped finely
250g minced chicken breast
1 egg
2 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
Pinch of white pepper
Sunflower oil for deep frying
200g Sesame seeds
What you do
In a food processor blend the garlic, coriander, minced chicken, egg, white pepper and fish sauce until mixed.
Evenly spread the mixture onto the six slices of bread, place the bread in the sesame seeds mixture side up ensuring you coat all the mixture.
Deep fry in the oil at 180c until golden brown and cooked through.
Remove the crusts and cut into four even sized pieces.
Serve with thinly sliced cucumber and sweet chilli sauce.
Serves 4
Do you have a recipe for me? Send it by email here or submit it below.

Mistletoe and whine

It must be Christmas because my email inbox is stuffed full of requests to “order now and still get it in time” for the big day.
Would you trust your entire Christmas dinner to a postal delivery? And what happens if they “substitute for similar”? In my experience of online supermarket shopping, you could end up with just about anything on the menu.
Another packet of chicken and stuffing crisps anyone?
Thankfully I’m not lifting a finger for the mammoth feast this year (other than making some cranberry sauce, which is already done) but if anyone is brave enough to risk it all on a one hit order – let me know how it went. Better still, send me a picture!

Most useless kitchen buy of 2007

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I’m naming this garlic press as the most useless gadget purchased this year. In the manner of those lists which pad out magazines at this time of year, I started out to create a list if “best of” and worst of” when it comes to cooking, but changed my mind and have instead just chosed to shame this one particular gadget.
I’d wanted one of these Alessi garlic presses for some time. Time enough for them to have been succeeded by far more recent inventions from the designer Italian kitchen brand in shops across Manchester, so I had to search further afield.
I tracked this one down on eBay, won a hard fought auction and it finally arrived from some far flung part of Europe. Whatever environmentally unfriendly processes might (or might not) be involved in its plasticky manufacture, it also has its own carbon footprint to shame it.
But I could forgive all that if it actually worked. It looks fairly good on the shelf near to some other pink objects that it was purchased to complement but sadly it doiesn’t manage to do the required task – crush garlic.
Although those chunky legs look as though they would give good leverage, the garlic isn’t pushed hard enough to make it successfully through the metal grill. Worse than that, the grill is removable for cleaning but also tends to fall out when you’re trying to retrieve the garlic.
So it now sits gathering dust; a pink, plastic reminder that successful design should always follow function.

Pizza man cuts off penis

If you think this seems to be an over reaction to the wrong topping being delivered, then worry no more.
Staff and customers at the London branch of pizza chain Zizzi were horrified when a customer grabbed a knife and attacked himself.
In what might stand as this year’s most irrelevant comment the BBC was told by a spokesman: “the man was not thought to have any connection with the restaurant. ”
So that’s alright then, I’m sure everyone concerned is highly relieved to know that.

How to present a casserole

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Just how can you present a casserole in an attractive fashion? This difficulty came to mind at the weekend when I ordered this tasty venison casserole at the Rock Tavern in Marple Bridge.

Anyway you look at it, this has the appearence, frankly, of a dog’s dinner.

But how could it be done differently? I have to sympathise with the chefs on this one.
Something that is essentially chunks of meat in a sloppy sauce is never going to look good on the plate. Inventive solutions welcome below.
There’s more pictures from the meal at the Rock Taven on my Flickr stream and a full review is to follow soon.