The Cock O’Barton

By EssentialsMAG food critic SALLY ANGLESEA


 
 

The Cock O’Barton
Barton Road (A534), Nr Chester,  Cheshire SY14 7HU
01829 782 277
Website: www.cobcheshire.com


Cost for three course meal, with nibbles, for two people, without drinks: £60-£70.


Abbreviations and acronyms are officially forming the basis of a totally (totes) new language. ‘Obviously’ has been shaved down to its more satisfying monosyllabic counterpart, ‘obvs’; ‘adorable’ has been ruthlessly abandoned, in favour of the less time consuming, ’adorbs’; and of course, ‘LOL’ remains the most convenient and efficient way to ‘laugh out loud’.

So, with that in mind, perhaps one of the first things to note when visiting the ‘Cock O’Barton’ is to ignore your potential instinct to abbreviate and instead, opt for the restaurant’s acronym, ‘COB’. That is, unless you possess a level of maturity and can actually say ‘Cock’ without snorting prosecco out through your nostrils in sheer hilarity.

I, unfortunately, cannot.

Prosecco snorting nostrils aside, the Cock O’Barton is a beautiful restaurant, offering an equally stunning menu, drenched in local produce.  Nestled within the Cheshire countryside, the restaurant’s picturesque setting and enviable interior ooze a comforting charm that instantly make you feel at home and, once you see the menu, hungry.

It’s the Tuesday following Bank Holiday Monday but it feels like Friday  -  the sun is shining, spirits are high and the cocktail menu is in my hand.  Alongside tantalising descriptions, each concoction is also accompanied by its own satisfying sketch  -  very much like they used to use in the Great British Bake Off (I’m still not over it).  If you’re looking for a fruity and refreshing thirst-quencher, I recommend ‘Barton Breeze’ and for a sharp and sophisticated aperitif, ‘Sidecar’ is sure to rev your engine.  My absolute favourite, though, has to be ‘Grey Goose le Fizz’: smooth Grey Goose vodka, sweet elderflower liqueur, zesty fresh lime and a dash of soda water, all served in an exceptionally tall flute.  Which, importantly, is filled to the brim.

Before moving to our table, we enjoyed our drinks and scanned the main menu in the lively bar area.  All of the staff members at COB are a total delight, and our waitress, Becca, was no exception: friendly, funny and not afraid to make her own recommendations.  I am a notoriously indecisive diner, so the latter came in particularly useful when I was on the cusp of my usual ‘MEAT OR FISH?!!’ induced nervous breakdown.

One thing I am incapable of resisting, however, is Salt ‘n’ Pepper Squid so, naturally, I ordered a portion of it from the ‘nibbles’ section to accompany me in my dithering torment.  When it arrived, the classically naked battered squid I was envisaging had instead been coated in a sticky sauce.  As a loyal Salt ‘n’ Pepper consumer, I was concerned, bordering on distraught: my partner looked at me; I looked at him; he placed his hand on my own, to reassure me…“Don’t!” I cried, as I moved my hand from his.  “Sally, you don’t have to do this,” he whispered.  “But I do. Don’t you see? I have a duty, and I must fulfil it”, I replied bravely.

I reached into the sticky sauce, plucking a piece of squid from its clutches.  Nervously, I placed it in my mouth.  The experience hit me in a trio of waves: first, the flavour of sweet, salty and slightly fiery sauce; second, the gratifying crunch of crispy batter; third, the soft texture of perfectly cooked squid.  I admit it: I had been prematurely dramatic.  If having Salt ‘n’ Pepper squid served like this is wrong, I never EVER want to be right.

With expectations now high, our starters arrived.  Now, I struggle to get excited about paté (I know, it’s a flaw of mine) but, as far as blended liver goes, the COB’s port and duck liver parfait was pretty exceptional.  Rich, smooth and perfectly matched with their sweet, homemade peach and bourbon chutney, I was more than happy to polish off a hefty portion off my partner’s plate, much to his irritation.  My main focus, however, was the scallop dish, which offered a winning flavour profile: Pea. Cauliflower. Scallop. Curry.  Not a classic combo, granted, but having tasted it, I can assure you it should be.  The scallops were beautifully caramelised, perfectly cooked and, much to my delight, still had the roe attached (huzzah!).  Pea came in the form of a silky smooth and delicately sweet velouté, which offered a sharpness that, by itself, would have been too much but when teamed with the rest of the dish, married perfectly.  Crispy cauliflower fritters then added a welcome texture to the dish whilst crowning swirls of curry foam added a delicate spice  -  delivering just the right balance between haute cuisine and chip shop curry nostalgia.

Just as I managed to stabilise myself from scallop-induced euphoria, our main courses arrived and, instantly, I was struck by dizzying wafts of truffle, which delighted me immensely.  I love truffle.  To the point of slight obsession.  If truffle were a human being, I’d be arrested for stalking it.  However, even I  -  a truffle fanatic  -  can appreciate that a certain balance is needed when using it: too much and it’s sickly; too little and you’re a fool.  The COB fell victim to neither: incorporated into a cream sauce and served with a crispy-skinned chicken supreme and a wild mushroom croquette, everything about it was exquisitely executed.

The lamb was equally exceptional.  A tower of pressed lamb shoulder, soft, seasoned to perfection and interspersed with highly coveted crispy bits.  It was served with cauliflower cous cous, which sounds like a pretty underwhelming prospect but, thankfully, its creamy texture and depth of flavour made it unrecognisable from your bog standard boiled cauli.  Roasted apricot then added a mellow tartness, and a sweet, salty, slightly sweet roasted aubergine purée elevated the dish to a whole new level.  If I’d had enough of it  -  and it was socially acceptable  -  I’d have happily bathed in the stuff.

Despite being on the brink of bursting, dessert was too much to resist  -  and I’m so glad we didn’t.  Classic Eton Mess is re-imagined as a texture and flavour sensation, with the meeting of aromatic basil sponge cake, caramelised white chocolate, shards of sweet meringue, balsamic strawberries and, of course, lashings of whipped cream.  Their culinary wizardry continues with chocolate cake made from polenta, which is dense in chocolatey flavour yet surprisingly light in texture.  Drizzled with a white chocolate and pistachio glaze and served with raspberry ripple ice cream, this pud knows how to please.

The Cock O’Barton, COB, whatever you may or may not want to abbreviate it to: it’s one to watch.  Head Chef, Ian Futter, and his brilliant team are continuously developing new and exciting dishes that will leave your expectations abandoned, your palate delighted and your appetite wholly satisfied.

If you’re looking for somewhere to feel at home, with the promise of exceptional food, drink and service, this is one restaurant you absolutely must pay a visit to. Obvs.


Food: 9.5/10
Service: 10/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Overall: 28.5/30


TOP TIPS:

  • Burger Bargain  -  nab yourself a gourmet burger and a drink (including those of the alcoholic variety) for just £10 every Tuesday
  • Funtime Friday!  Welcome in the weekend with happy hour, every Friday, from 4:30 – 7pm
  • Make a night of it  -  with a selection of stunning rooms, the Cock O’Barton is the perfect place for that much needed short break!

Sally Anglesea.jpg

For more foodie fanaticism and photos, follow Sally on Instagram: @gingernutsaboutfood

Victoria Lee