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Friday, 19 February 2016

New Guest Blog Post, in which Matt celebrates 20 years of Chorlton's Lead Station

I’ve lived in Manchester on and off for about 12 years and my first flat happened to be in Chorlton. During our initial trip down Beech Road, we first remarked that it was very different to anywhere else in Chorlton, and I piped up with ‘Looks like this is the Chelsea of the North’ (I’ll let you make your own minds up on this one). I’m a little bit addicted to eggs and, needing some kind of breakfast, on our meandering we came across the Lead Station. There was a whole leafy street to explore but we thought if we were going to spend a lot of time eating around Chorlton we might as well start here, particularly since its former-police-station location is so unusual and so inviting. Now it was 12 years ago but from what I remember the food was good and when I was asked to go back there for the launch of their 20 year cookbook, I first thought, ‘Blimey where has the time gone’ and my second thought was ‘Why the hell haven’t I been back here for 12 years?’ (Now after writing this I remember my City-loving friend and I stopped off for lunch last summer, but still, the point remains.)

Anyway, enough of this nostalgia. I arrived for the 20 year celebration dinner and cookbook launch and was greeted with a really tasty mini fish and chips in a small cone. I love canapes and this really hit the spot - to be honest I could have eaten at least 8 of them. We all sat down in the back room and were greeted by Nick, the Lead Station’s owner. The menu looked appetizing and we got to choose from a selection of starters, mains and puds - for my first course I went for Grilled Goats Cheese with Sesame Seed & Balsamic Beetroot. Beetroot and Goats Cheese is a magical combination (which I probably eat 3-4 times a week) and it was nice to see it was on a measured piece of toasted bread - this is a classic way to serve it in France and I was glad to see it here as I don’t find it in many places. The sesame added a nice balance to the rich, earthy beetroot. I did manage to pilfer a little morsel of the Crab & Prawn Spring Rolls which were plump and meaty, and the Vietnamese Dipping Sauce was really moreish.

Any dish that has peas, pea puree, or any pea combination I will always order, so I couldn’t resist the Seabass & Scallops with Pea & Mint Puree with Pea Shoots. I’m not sure about you but I like the roe from the scallops being included in the dish, as they give a slight saltiness to the plump, sweet pan-fried scallops. The sea bass was perfectly cooked and the very generous portion of scallops was a lovely match paired with the creamy, rich pea puree. A big dish in every respect so I think it could have done with a little jug/helping of citrus buerre blanc to really marry the rich flavours. But all in all I’d order that dish again (and cook it as it’s in the new cookbook).

I love sharing food, maybe because I don’t ever want to miss out, so had a little taste of the Posh Shepherd’s Pie with Seasoned Greens (again from the cookbook). I’d have liked the potato a little crispier on the top but the flavours were rich and complementary, and I think that’s where the cookbook really stands out, it actually replicates the recipes from the Lead Station. A lot of places make a homage to their restaurant dishes but when you have a really good plate of food you want to create it to the exact recipe and this is where the cookbook really works.

Having a mild allergy to milk and cream (I’m ok with cheese and butter as the lactose is very much lower than pure milk and cream) I couldn’t really manage the puddings but was presented with a lovely board of classic cheeses instead - very thoughtful. The two pots of chutney were delicious and complemented the cheese very well. A delightful evening with fantastic food and good company, what more could you want on a crisp winter’s evening? The next day I delved into the cookbook.

What first struck me was the beautiful photography (I very rarely buy a cookbook that has sub-standard pics). The dishes looked inviting and immediately made me hungry - below you see a few of the dishes that really stood out for me. I’m not one for cooking massive breakfasts at home so would probably visit the Lead Station and take the breakfast firmly in hand, as well as this dish, and as a previously stated lover of beetroot, I think the beetroot risotto will become a staple dish in my household (apart from when I get in a cab and hot foot it down to the Lead Station, which will be happening on many more occasions than twice in 12 years). It's a really well-produced, useful book that will get regular use in my kitchen from now on.

- Many thanks to the Lead Station for the dinner and the book, both of which were provided free of charge for review purposes. For copies of The Cookbook please email Nick de Sousa has owned and operated The Lead Station at 99 Beech Rd, Manchester M21 9EQ since 2007, and it is the sister restaurant to its ‘young upstart’ little brother Tariff & Dale, located in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

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