Monday 27 May 2013

Heathcote's Brasserie, Preston

I like Paul Heathcote, or Paul Heathcote, Esq. MBE as he should properly be called: he's a good bloke and a mighty fine cook. I've followed his work and been on nodding terms with him almost since he first moved back home to Lancashire to run the kitchen at the Broughton Park Hotel (now the Preston Marriott), though I may well have eaten his cooking before when he worked at Sharrow Bay or under the great Michel Bourdin at the Connaught Hotel in London.

He moved on from Broughton Park in 1990 to open his own restaurant in Longridge that became the 2-Michelin starred flagship for a large, varied group of restaurants across the north west.  Paul Heathcote's two remaining restaurants are both in the same building in Preston's Winckley Square.  The Olive Press is downstairs, and the Brasserie is upstairs, both with a completely different vibe.

The Brasserie is a big space (I wasn't even in the main room, which remained unused) and on the December lunchtime when I popped in for this meal, there were only two other tables occupied, so it felt a little soulless, and staff managed to do that being too busy being at a loose end to be entirely effective thing.

The menu is attractive, with plenty of interest, and in addition there was (I realised later) a good value set lunch, which I wasn't shown.

Bread was a nice fruited malt loaf came, but the single slice in the bottom of the rustic little box looked a bit mean, smacking a bit too much of tight portion control.

I started with black pudding fritters with poached egg, buttered peas and lettuce.  The latter two elements, with some unadvertised lardons and pearl onions, made a very good petits pois à la française.  Heathcote's black pudding used to be one of his signature dishes (and has returned in its classic 2-star form to the menu since this visit): here too, the black pudding was homemade, the breading light, and the frying clean.  A very good dish; light and yet satisfying at the same time.
Heathcotes black pudding fritter, poached egg, butters peas and lettuce
One service failure came when the first course plates were cleared: they were put on a tray on a stand which had been brought to the table, and then left there, until the mains came. Bizarre.

My main course was an excellent dish of lemon sole (coyly called Morecambe Bay sole on the menu, presumably allowing cheaper soles to be substituted if necessary) with crushed potatoes and a very generous helping indeed of warm potted shrimps.  A whole sole with what must have been getting on for a fiver's worth of shrimps retail for £17.50 was good definitely good value.  The sole was cooked absolutely bang on, and the whole dish hung together really well.  I was impressed.
Morecambe Bay sole, crushed potatoes, warm potted shrimps
I didn't have dessert this time, but if you go, do bear in mind that there is no finer bread and butter pudding than Paul Heathcote's.

So, on this brief visit, excellent food, let down a bit by front of house staff and setting, though I think the FOH failings were all down to them being too quiet.

Heathcotes Brasserie on Urbanspoon

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