Yet another exciting new restaurant has opened in our city; this time on the outskirts towards Blackburn at the Mercure Preston Samlesbury Hotel. Mr White’s English Chophouse is the latest restaurant to be opened by irritable stock cube fanatic and TV chef Marco Pierre White. My 74 year old mother Yvonne and I went undercover to cast a judgy eye over it.
When we entered the restaurant at 5.30pm we were met by a cheery member of staff who showed us to our table in the otherwise empty large dining room. The interior was welcoming; shiny black with warm, modern lighting and a mixture of comfortable chairs and booths. We both ordered a large glass of house white for £7.50 each whilst we had a think about what to eat.
The menu was traditional, with starters such as pea and ham soup, “quality” salmon, “quality” sardines, Scotch egg and calamari. The peculiar addition of the word “quality” made me envision Mr White trying to flog stolen fish from the back of a van, Del Boy style, which was probably the opposite of how it was intended.
I decided on potted duck prune d’agen, and Yvonne chose the MPW English charcuterie. Once again Yvonne was smashing at it with her fork before I could take a photo, but we patched it successfully. The plate held a variety of cured meats, each with different flavours but all of them excellent.
My potted duck was underwhelming. I was expecting something rustic and robust with the prunes mixed in throughout, livening up what can be quite a greasy meat. The duck had a layer of fat an inch thick on top to preserve it, and perched on top was a single prune for garnish. I scraped off the fat to find that the duck underneath was greasy and bland, with no discernible taste of prune or seasoning. It was not “quality” duck. It also became apparent that the lonely prune garnish that I had so cavalierly hoofed off the top was all the prune I was getting, so I had to go grovelling back to it.
The mains were predominantly meat based, offering steaks, burgers, lamb shank with mustard and beans or chicken and leek pie.
Yvonne chose fish and chips and I went for the burger with Garstang blue cheese. The fish was beautiful, presented lounging all over the triple cooked chips like a battered Cleopatra. The chips held their own, as did the large bowl of mushy peas. Yvonne was particularly delighted that the accompanying half of lemon was wrapped in a small square of muslin, preventing the inconvenience of pips or pulp getting everywhere. She mentioned it at least three times during the meal, which made me conclude that I must be dead inside and incapable of feeling joy. Either that or Yvonne is so relentlessly positive that I can probably get away with giving her an empty box next Christmas and telling her that it’s filled with love.
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My burger was also fabulous. A great big bruiser of a thing, perfectly charred and served slightly pink. It came with a tiny piece of Garstang Blue cheese pinned to the top of the bun. I reverently removed it having learnt from my earlier prune trauma not to blithely assume that there’ll be more inside. Happily this time there was, and in just the right amount. The fries were also great, though I couldn’t manage many as the burger was so good that I wanted to eat as much of it as possible.
Lastly I ordered a warm Bakewell tart. Just the one dessert as Yvonne was adamant that she was stuffed and didn’t like Bakewell tart. What I hadn’t noticed was that Yvonne was cheerfully perched on a throne of lies, and as soon as it was brought to the table she was all over it. I’m lucky that the waiter didn’t throw it at us or she would no doubt have snatched it out of the air like a seagull. Fortunately I managed to snag some of it and it was gorgeous. With light almond sponge, thin pastry, sharp cherry jam and a drizzle of icing sugar, it had none of the overwhelming sweetness of those bought from a shop.
The starters were around £10 each, the burger was £16, fish and chips nearly £17 and approximately £6 for desserts. Apart from the duck it was a fabulous meal as should be expected as Mr White is charging some of the highest prices in Preston. Consequently everything needs to be impeccable as he is up against many excellent restaurants in the Preston area that are charging less for equally good food.
Where the quality of service is concerned, the Assistant Manager who served us and most of the other tables was fantastic. There was a point when I thanked her for something and she tried to say, “you’re welcome,” and “not a problem,” at the same time and ended up saying, “you’re a problem,” which was unexpectedly feisty. The other members of staff didn’t seem to be doing much; there was a lot of standing around with folded arms and it was difficult to figure out which of them was the manager. It didn’t affect the service we received, but it did strike us as an unfair distribution of work and could be a problem when the restaurant gets busier.
The car park is now being managed by Parking Eye, which means that anyone failing to enter their registration at the hotel reception or in the restaurant will be fined. It would be helpful to customers if hotel and restaurant staff inform them as they enter that they must input their car registration into a machine. It would take seconds and could save their customers from receiving an unnecessary fine.
Mr White’s English Chop House is worth a visit, though I would only go for special occasions due to the prices and the location. For people staying at the hotel, however, it is an excellent option.
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