I am not, by nature, an adventurous person, despite my wishes to the contrary. I would dearly love to be the type to spontaneously throw a few items into a bag and find myself in Paris two hours later, but I am not - and thus you shouldn't mock when I say that getting on a train and travelling to Alderley Edge last week was really quite an exciting turn of events. I was off to meet a friend (a seasoned Alderley Edger, adept at identifying various footballing WAGs out and about in their enormous cars) for dinner at Tomfoolery at 34, a new bar/restaurant on the main drag in Alderley headed up by chef Brice Moore, previously of Manchester House, Gidleigh Park (two Michelin stars) and Paul Ainsworth at No 6 in Padstow (one star). With such a pedigree, you'd be forgiven for expecting a grown up, sophisticated type of place, particularly considering its location - one imagines whippet-thin waifs idling delicately with a morsel of beautifully manicured lettuce and perhaps a couple of lightly steamed green beans.
This is quite magnificently not the case. Tomfoolery at 34 is an astonishing place, full of mismatched chairs, and clashing wallpaper, and chandeliers, and upside-down lampshades, and old arcade machines, and Muppets serviettes, and menus just begging to be coloured in with the crayons helpfully provided for that very purpose. It sounds a little contrived, and indeed, I was wary as soon as I saw the rather studiously wacky website - I'm not always keen on things that purport to be "fun", and Tomfoolery looked as if it might be trying just a little too hard. In the flesh, however, it works: the effect is interesting and charming rather than off-putting, and I did find myself colouring in my menu before too much of the evening had passed, pausing every so often to admire my efforts.
It would be a shame if the decor overshadowed the food, so I will say no more about the interior and confirm that the food here is excellent. Everything is handmade in house, using locally sourced ingredients as far as possible, and whilst the menu is limited, this attention to detail and quality was apparent throughout our meal. We started with a dish we hadn't ordered - Brice sent us out the Truffled Baby Carrots from the Sides menu, and we were very glad he did as quite frankly, we'd never had such alluring veg. Tiny, dainty carrots roasted with truffle oil and toasted seeds and then topped with creamy, salty goats' cheese, these were so good that we practically scrapped over the last one, and I'm virtually certain I have never fought over a carrot before. Food at Tomfoolery comes out as and when it's ready, and the two sides we'd ordered as starters came out with our mains, creating a pleasing if impractically large smorgasbord of goodies; I'd have preferred them to come out first, but let's not pretend that I'm not perfectly capable of eating several different courses at once.
The starters/sides in question were the Totally Winging It chicken wings and the half rack of BBQ lamb ribs. The first dish was exemplary, a little bowl of meaty wings in a hot, spicy sauce and then drizzled with a piquant buttermilk and blue cheese dressing, whilst the latter was the only bum note of the whole meal. I'd never had lamb ribs before and would be wary of ordering them again - the taste was rich and hearty, but whilst one of lamb's great joys is the fattiness that creates this flavour, these were fatty to the point of flabbiness. We mentioned this to Brice at the end of the meal; he'd already had similar feedback from other diners and is looking at rectifying the situation.
Mains were excellent. The "Gone Fishin'" burger was my idea of a perfect dish - the meaty piece of delicately cooked cod served in a homemade squid ink bun with deep-fried calamari, salad and red pepper mayo was a great combination of flavours and textures, and I would happily eat it all day long. The "Swayze" burger was similarly well-received - a homemade steak patty served with beef bacon, Emmental cheese, dill pickle, onion, lettuce and tomato. The patty was fat and pink, the in-house sourdough-brioche bun as light as a feather, and we felt that Emmental was an unusual but good choice of cheese as it retained its texture rather than melting into a formless mass. Prices are very reasonable - each of these came served with a very generous portion of fries at £11 and £12 respectively; you can upgrade to Parmesan and truffle fries for an extra £2 (no-one will be surprised to see evidence of said fancy fries alongside my "Gone Fishin'").
We were too full for dessert, which on reflection may have been a mistake; I've since heard great things about their cakes and puddings. We did manage a bottle of truly lovely Jackalberry Sauvignon Blanc, and both agreed we haven't had many nicer £20 restaurant whites; we did have to pour it ourselves from time to time depending on which server was around, but on the whole service was very good throughout the night.
I really hope Tomfoolery wins over the good people of Alderley Edge - it was quietish for a Friday night, and based on my very limited first impressions of Alderley, this is something a little different for the area. They're still finding their feet however, tweaking the menu in response to customer feedback, full of enthusiasm for the new venture, and with a chef at the helm who really knows what he's doing and who has completely the right attitude towards food and cooking. I'm already looking forward to going back for tea and cake...and anyway, I've got some very tricky colouring in to finish.
- Tomfoolery at 34 is at 34 London Road, Alderley Edge, Cheshire SK9 7DZ. We were invited to review and were not asked to pay for dinner or drinks, but we liked it so much we bought drinks in the downstairs bar after our meal.