It’s fair to say that up until recently the food scene in Manchester has been pretty poor. But in the last year couple of years I’ve noticed a vast improvement, with a sleuth of new, and actually pretty decent restaurants popping. Ramsbottom (technically in Bury which is Greater Manchester) home to the annual Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival is becoming a bit of a foodie destination. And the Hearth of the Ram Ramsbottom is one of the latest additions to its burgeoning restaurant culture.
The last time I was in Ramsbottom took my dad for dinner at the Hideaway restaurant, a Ramsbottom hidden gem. This time we decided to go for Sunday lunch in Ramsbottom. I’d wanted to check out the Eagle and Child, a gastropub in Ramsbottom that won the accolade of Observer Food Monthly Best Sunday Lunch 2013 but of course I’d left it to late to get a table.
My backup was the Hearth of the Ram Ramsbottom, a gastropub and winner of Food Pub of the Year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2013. Head chef Abdulla ‘Naz’ Nazeem, former head chef of Ramsons (run by the same people who operate the Hideaway restaurant Ramsbtoom) also secured the Hearth of the Ram a Michelin Bib Gourmand. So I was fairly confident we’d be on to a winner with Sunday lunch at the Hearth of the Ram Ramsbottom.
I did have a giggle as usual on route through Bury as we passed a sign for Bury Market – ‘Bury’s World Famous Market’ and a top UK tourist attraction. It always makes me laugh at the thought of tourists flocking to what is essentially a bog standard market (although it was voted best market in Britain). Located off one of Ramsbottom’s main roads (Ramsbottom was runner up in the Telegraph’s 2013 High Street of the Year Awards) the Hearth of the Ram Ramsbottom is pretty easy to find. After we sat down it took me about 10 seconds to decide what I was going to have. The menu is quite heavily on the meaty side so my choices were somewhat limited. It was the turn of my dad to procrastinate for ages, mainly over whether to go for a starter and a main or a main and a dessert, going in the end for the former after I suggested he could always have dessert as well if he wanted it.
Given my obsession with beetroot I had to have the double baked cheese soufflé with poached pear, beetroot, beetroot gel and pickled onion. It was sublime. I’m not a huge fan of souffles. Often I find they can be a bit boring. But the depth of the rich cheese flavour with various combinations of the sweetness of the pear and beetroot and the sharp tang of the onion ensured this most certainly wasn’t the case. Each mouthful was a different taste sensation. My dad had chosen a posh prawn cocktail, constructed of different types of prawns. I did think it looked a little uninspiring but my dad said the dish was refreshing and light and the mayonnaise wasn’t too oily.
For my main I went for fillet of seabass served with gnocci, carrots, cabbage and raisin purée. I think there was an element of shellfish in the dish but I’d asked them to leave it out as I can’t eat it. This didn’t impede the taste in any way, the fish was crisp and salty, perfectly complimenting creamy mash. And as for the gnocchi, which was fried in little squares, it took me a moment to register that they weren’t in fact little mini roast potatoes.
My dad was equally as impressed with his Sunday lunch at the Hearth of the Ram Ramsbottom. Huge slabs of tender lamb were served on a bed of mash and accompanied with al dente veg and a meaty gravy. Bearing in mind it is a pub the food at the Hearth of the Ram Ramsbottom isn’t cheap, two courses for £20.95 or three courses for £25.95. But I’ve paid considerably more for a lot worse. Given the quality of the food at the Hearth of the Ram Ramsbottom it’s definitely worth paying the extra. Plus portions are deceptively large and filling – we didn’t have room for dessert. I can’t vouch for the Sunday lunch at the Eagle and Child but even if the Hearth of the Ram Ramsbottom is second best this Manchester hidden gem is still a winner in my books.