We were lucky enough to be invited to this J W Lees Pub to sample their new Spring Menu which has been created by Dan – head chef who cannot talk enough about the exciting dishes on the menu and this pub is luck enough to showcase this menu which will be rolled out to other of the J W Lees owned pubs around. He has working alongside him Lukasz who is second in command in the busy kitchen and also Nick Kettle who is Barman and the Rope and Anchor Media guru making sure people know about them thanks Nick for coming in to see us even on your day off!

We chose a Friday evening to sample the menu and fine wines off the new wine menu which had been paired with each dish all chosen by the very keen staff something which we very much liked the idea of showing their interest and knowledge of what they were offering and they had all tried the foods and wines which you could tell from their conversations about the offerings.

We decided to take a taxi from our abode in Hale to Dunham as a treat and must thank passenger cars for their excellent time keeping good pricing and well organised way of ordering a taxi from them. – top marks and we would use them again for sure.

On arriving at the Rope and Anchor which has a great car park and also an area for dropping off at the front door we were immediately welcomed by Ann Hargreaves (Assistant Manager) and Bev Johnstone (General Manager) and at 6.30 at night the pub already had a great warm friendly feel about it with many people in the premises drinking and eating. Because the building itself deserves a mention of its own – it’s a simply stunning piece of architecture which has been beautifully updated and now has a contemporary feel complimenting the original features of this building and we had a sneaky peek at the upstairs which now hosts a fabulous seating area for around 40 people and housing a well proportioned well thought out bar all of which has double purpose- a great getaway for hosting private functions but also as an ever growing part of the restaurant which is much in demand at the weekends and especially Sundays for the traditional Roast Menu so that you can sit back enjoy fine food and wines and simply breathtaking views of the cheshire countryside whilst only being a stone through away from Hale.

We then before it went dark had a look at what the outside had to offer – and it did not let us down a lovely large car park as mentioned before, great seating for alfresco dining which all of us do love a bit of but when the British weather plays ball – but these guys have something else up their sleeve for when he weather is behaving badly and this a barn which has been converted to outside dining with glass sides and full roof cover with heaters inside tables, chairs and sofas which I have now decided I would like myself for my garden if of course it would fit (only in my dreams would it). This which is in the final stages of completion will be simply fantastic and we are already thinking of what excuse for a do we could have in order to book it.

There is also parents with children catered for with a lovely purpose built wooden climbing area fully enclosed around the sides with around a 3ft fence for safety so parents can dine alfresco whilst being able to still be responsible for their own children but letting them enjoy their time in the countryside too. There is the resident cat who is stunning with her baby kitten who looks just like her who is to be seen in the garden and has a lovely temperament and does like too much fuss so is never a nuisance.

Back inside using the rear doors and passing a truly contemporary fire which was lit behind glass the place was buzzing with customers and both of us were eager to see what we were sampling off the menu tonight.

Dan had chosen for us to try Red Wine poached pear with blue cheese, chicory and walnut dressing (V) priced at £6.25 – matched with a JW Lees Harvest Ale vintage limited edition – the abundance of tastes in the dish with the pear being poached beautifully and then the saltiness of the cheese together with the strong chickory works so well and looked really pleasant on the plate with the intense colour of the pear a great unusual dish and the subtle dressing with small pieces of walnut. The Ale was a great addition to the abundance of taste experiences we had on this plate.

Next was Braised Pork belly with Crackling, apple compote and an apple and watercress salad at £6.95 matched with an Paddock Australian chardonnay – the pork was lovely and moist and soft and easy to cut and the taste combined with the apple compote and then thins strips of apple was a true pleasure to eat. The crackling was dry crisp and not oily and only a true cook could get that right. In fact they are so proud of this that they are going to be serving home made crackling at the bar as a snack in the coming weeks with the homemade apple compote. The wine was a winner as it cut through the tastes and gave the palette a clean almost before the next mouthful.

Last of the starters to try for us was Pan fried scallops with crispy chorizo roasted squash puree and watercress at £6.95 matched with a NZ Sauvignon Blanc – This one was a beautiful plate of food simply oozing Spanish colours and flavours and we were not disappointed. The roasted squash worked brilliantly in both taste and texture and it was a combination we had not experienced before the wine this time complimented the dish fantastically enhancing the flavours and it was a firm favourite of ours (even though one of us isn’t really a fish lover). This was a ‘winner winner not a chicken dinner’

After a brief break and a glass of water to cleanse the palette the next plates of excitement arrived and we could not wait to start to try them.

Confit duck leg with an apple and beetroot puree, sautéed new potatoes and citrus dressed Kale at £14.95 matched with a white Zinfandel from California – this was a match made in heaven the beetroot working so well with the duck and the meat simply falling off the bone , soft warm slightly buttery well seasoned potatoes and then the next taste sensation of citrus dressed kale warm slightly aldente  stunning with the wine which has a slight sweetish edge to it.

Pan fried sea bass with baby potatoes, samphire and roasted beetroot, capers and citrus butter at £12.95 matched with NZ sauvignon blanc – the fish was two pieces of extremely well presented and cooked and was a tasting first with beetroot but it truly did work the meal was light and very tasty and a fish lovers perfect plate of food. The wine being soft subtle and pleasing to the tongue alongside this dish.

Last to try was Roasted butternut squash and courgette risotto with sun dried tomatoes and goats cheese (V) £10.50 matched with a pinot noir – this plate of food was like the marriage of port and a cigar and the wine was perfect for it however it you do not like red wine an alcace or Riesling would be great the goats cheese just melted softly in your mouth creating lovely flavours for your palette intermingled with the tomatoes and beautiful risotto juices. A dark horse of a main course for us.

Only managing one desert now so that we could discuss coffees after too we had been lucky enough to be selected the white chocolate crème brulee with shortbread biscuits all home made. It also had fresh strawberries with toffee sauce on top – this was creamy light and not for some reason over sweet and how Dan had managed that we have no idea. It was crunchy to the point of breaking it like a dream with the back of the desert spoon and the slight bitterness of the sugar was perfect. It was made for sharing.

In fact on that note we must point out that the size of the portions were excellent and Dan and his team had managed to not offset size of portion for quality of food either something quite hard to do.

Paddys and Scotts coffees were then served and we opted for two different types a cappuccino and a latte whole milk or semi-skimmed milk was offered. The came with shortbread biscuits and these we forgot to mention were lovely as they had currants in. The coffees were well presented and had a great bean taste to them a lovely roast and smooth pleasant flavour. We were not disappointed.

The staff took time out to come and talk to us and let us know their thoughts on the food and their personal favourites and it all showed their passions for this pub to work and bring in new customers and keeping existing ones too. It was good to see they offer events in the pub for both locals and customers alike and their aim is to be firmly on people’s map to country pubs on the doorstep which consistently offers good food good prices and caring staff.

We thank all the staff for all their hard work to make our evening so enjoyable and my own personal hang up was that I didn’t try Dan chip’s my favourite food in all the world) and now knowing how good his cooking is I bet they were fantastic.

After calling Passenger cars for our taxi home within a few minutes it was waiting outside with a note on my phone of the type of car and reg plate and we said our good byes and left by yet another door to the side this time and were whisked home full and very happy.

SoHale can only comment on the food served on the day mentioned, SoHale always work In line with our policy of upfront and honest opinion pieces. SoHale took all photos of the food eaten at the review.

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