For many, Oddfellows on Lower Bridge Street is an obvious choice for an overnight stay and a wind-down cocktail in the garden. But what it also pulls off with spectacular flair is a fine dining experience free of pretention and bursting with creativity and colour. They’re very proud of new chef Elliot Hill, and so they should be. He’s enthusiastic; visibly energised noting guests enjoying his food and evidently keen to push boundaries in the kitchen. We pop over for a late lunch on an overcast day, intrigued to taste the invigorated menu. Elliot doesn’t disappoint; delighting us with a few of his favourites from the playfully named, Odd Plates Lunch Menu.
First up, we tuck into a heritage tomato, celery and smoked lemon salad, proving (to my palette at least) that summer is still going strong. The leaves are handpicked locally, tomatoes sourced from Knutsford and everything else is from Cheshire (lemons aside). Apart from being bright and beautiful to look at, the flavours are fresh and delicate – a thoughtfully crafted light dish. The second starter is another delivered season – this time a winter warmer; goats cheese custard, smoked leek, pickled onion and hazelnut. It’s an entirely British dish, deliciously rich and immediately comforting. Every aspect complements and intensifies the others – the silky custard is surprisingly packed with flavour. This is our joint favourite from the selection, we would’ve quite happily sat there and devoured a vat of the stuff.
Plates clean, we move on to two main courses. The stonebass, smoked haddock and mussel veloute, with chive and grelot, follows on wonderfully from the leek starter – comforting without being heavy, the flavours perfectly balanced. With it, we try duck with pineapple, rum and ginger – a tropical wildcard. The duck is slow cooked (we clash forks over the final, succulent piece) and accompanied with a bursting wonton (reluctantly shared). I’m a big fan of the drizzles: pineapple ketchup with ginger, and a sauce split with rum and ginger. I often order duck when eating out and love it with sweet fruit. The rum twist works wonderfully here too – a bit of imagination applied to a winning classic.
The desserts are gloriously portioned and tantalisingly vibrant. Despite telling Elliot I’m not a massive fan of chocolate desserts, I end up eating most of the chocolate cremeux with salted caramel. It’s a crowd pleaser at the restaurant, sensationally rich and layered. Not as indulgent but just as inventive – raspberries with clotted cream and Jamaican ginger cake. British raspberries are in season, plump and sweet. Several are suspended in a raspberry and ginger clear jelly. The dish is incredibly pretty and interesting to look at – an aesthetic joy (and we know we eat with our eyes).
We emerge from Oddfellows full and thoroughly satisfied, knowing that whatever we try to throw together for dinner will inevitably disappoint. If you’re looking for a special occasion restaurant, with a relaxed atmosphere and warm staff, this gem of a find awaits. Likewise, at £17 for two courses, and £23 for three, the Odd Plates Lunch menu is fine dining at a steal and could easily be a regular treat. This is inspired cooking, celebrating local produce, which avoids the potholes of tiny portions and crazy prices. You can book a table (you know you deserve it) here.
Better still, treat yourself with a reservation for Elliot Hill’s Supper Club on 20th September at £35pp. The one-off menu is designed to use the best of Cheshire’s ingredients and to (no doubt) show-off more of Elliot’s delicious concoctions. We’ll see you there.