Sticky Walnut, Hoole

My grandmother used to live in Hoole. It wasn’t very cool then; as kids our dining highlight was lunch in the Morrison’s cafe. We haven’t changed much – my sister and I still bicker incessantly after a few hours in each other’s company, and my dad still thinks it’s hilarious to wind everyone up – but luckily Hoole has. It’s now got some decent drinking holes, a hip barbershop doing a roaring beard trade, and the place we are here for – Sticky Walnut.

It’s charmingly bijou for a place with such a big Twitter presence. I like it a lot; the cookbooks lining the walls, the striped aprons hanging by the door, the relaxed, friendly service. It’s warm and unfussy, exactly the sort of neighbourhood bistro that everybody should have nearby.

Whilst browsing the menu, we drink a cherry bellini and a fantastic negroni that makes me want to go home and hone my cocktail making skills. The lunch deal is obscenely cheap – 1 course is £12, rising to £19 for 3 courses – with a quality far beyond it’s price point.

We start with fat Gordal olives and rosemary and thyme focaccia. My sister moans that it’s too salty; she is wrong. My boyfriend and I fight over her last piece.

My first course is a chicken liver pate that a previous guest claimed (via the always informative Trip Advisor) gave him instant food poisoning. Luckily I escaped this medical miracle and thought my generous slab of pate, served with red onion marmalade and more of that focaccia, was a brilliant rendition of a bistro classic. Butternut squash soup with chestnuts, miso butter and a milk roll had beautiful depth of flavour and umami tang, whilst the mackerel fillet with burnt apple, labneh, za’atar and cucumber was probably delightful, but unfortunately my dad fails to share. Typical.

Hours of my life have been spent drooling over photos of Sticky’s signature braised featherblade, so I was never going to order anything else. I’m not sure what deal Sticky have struck with the devil to produce a dish this fucking delicious but it was definitely worth it. The meat is braised into a tender, rich, sticky heap of bovine goodness that is every bit what I imagined and more. An onion purée and curly kale accompany it, as do moreish truffle and Parmesan chips. We order more bowls for the table and all swiftly disappear. A pork chop with Romesco sauce is simple and effective, although one of three is cooked slightly rarer than we’d usually take it, and pan fried sea bream is stunning; perfectly crisp skin, Jerusalem artichoke purée and a salted lemon tapenade that has me frantically searching the internet for a dupe recipe.

It’s my birthday when we visit – organised by my boyfriend as a surprise – and with every birthday must come cake. My boyfriend has a habit of writing things on plates and so appears a chocolate mousse cake, topped with strawberries and honeycomb, to wish me happy birthday. It’s probably the nicest birthday cake anyone’s ever got me, but it’s testament to Sticky’s menu that I am still insistent on trying the almond and fig frangipane tart that I picked out days in advance. Fuck it, it’s my birthday and I can have two desserts if I want to.

I don’t need to shout about how Sticky seem to just get get it – they’ve got four restaurants and Gary Usher to do that – but they really, really do. Please Gary, can we have an Elite Bistro in Birmingham?!

You can find Sticky Walnut at 11 Charles Street, Chester, CH2 3AZ.

Sticky Walnut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Simpsons x Sticky Walnut collaboration

A couple of weeks ago I turned 25. And as if I wasn’t already depressed about reaching my first quarter century, the birthday gods also decided to bless me with two accountancy exams on my birthday.

It would have been the worst birthday ever if my lovely boyfriend hadn’t booked us a table at the Simpsons x Sticky Walnut collaboration as a surprise (I say it was a surprise, but I accidentally ruined this one months ago by also booking us a table, forcing him to confess!).

Sticky Walnut is a neighbourhood bistro in Chester with a fistful of accolades & a brilliantly entertaining Twitter account (@stickywalnut). I have family in Cheshire so have wanted to eat there for a while, but Simpsons brought them to me – even better!

Simpsons is tucked away in a gorgeous building in Edgbaston. The décor is elegant and classy with beautiful design features – it’s the perfect setting to sit and enjoy a meal. Here’s me trying to look fancy and civilised..

For the evening, Sticky had put together a 5 course tasting menu. We started with some canapés; lamb tartare (with anchovies, linseed), salmon (squid ink, egg yolk) and calves brain (beef fat beetroot, walnut and verjus). They were all fantastic. The lamb and the salmon were perfect mouthfuls with amazing flavour and texture.

I have to admit I was a little bit terrified of the calves brain at first, especially because I’m not much of a beetroot fan either (probably due to bad school dinner flashbacks). But it turned out to be one of my favourite dishes of the night. It was full of flavour and I loved the crunchy exterior with the smooth, soft inside. It paired perfectly with the rich sweet beetroot  – I think Sticky have managed to convert me into a fan! I also enjoyed the fact that it kind of looks like a chicken nugget..

The second course was wood pigeon, apple, morcilla & savoury granola. I love morcilla (it’s basically the Spanish version of black pudding) but usually just have it on the BBQ in Spain so it was great to try it combined with the rest of the ingredients. It looked beautiful and tasted even better.

Next up was halibut with romesco & gem lettuce. Every part of this dish tasted good but the romesco was incredible. If I hadn’t been trying to behave myself in Simpsons I definitely would have licked my plate clean..

Course number four was lamb rump, scichimi togarashi (a Japanese spice mix – I had to google it as well..), carrot, goats curd and burnt onion. The sauce was super rich, so the goats curd brought a nice freshness to the dish. One of my favourites of the evening.

Dessert was toasted porter, treacle, caramel and chocolate. It didn’t blow my mind but was a solid, tasty end to the meal. We went for the drinks flight with our meal & instead of wine, the dessert came with a chocolate & orange old fashioned. I’m not a big whiskey drinker but this was so good and I’d order it again in a heartbeat.

I had an amazing birthday evening & it more than made up for the fact that I am now officially closer to 30 than 20 (ugh). Big shout out to the boyfriend for treating me – sorry for ruining my surprise!

Sticky Walnut can usually be found at 11 Charles Street, Chester, CH2 3AZ (WEBSITEwhilst Simpsons is at 20 Highfield Road, B15 3DU (WEBSITE).

Simpsons Restaurants Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato