Anyone up for crispy squirrel with the Manchester Gourmet Club?

The Parsonage Didsbury, Manchester Gourmet Club
An evening at the Parsonage, Didsbury for the Manchester Gourmet Club’s inaugural event

Purely in the name of research for potential events at the all new Withy Baths, last night was spent enjoying the delights of the Parsonage, a beautiful building in Didsbury recently taken over by a community group, where the newly formed Manchester Gourmet Club was holding it’s inaugural event. Chef Rob Owen Brown, ex-Mark Addy & creator of spectacular & innovative food at previous events, and West Didsbury wine expert & BBC presenter Kate Goodman have joined forces to host foodie evenings and this was the first one, a six course special with seasonal, local produce & interesting drinks pairings. It was packed! About seventy people all eager to support new ventures, drink good wine & scoff Rob’s sometimes challenging dishes.

Manchester Gourmet Club
Manchester Gourmet Club’s 1st event menu
Chef Rob Owen Brown & Wine Expert Kate Goodman

A sparkling Muscadet aperitif welcomed us, lighter than champagne and more like prosecco, but without too much sweetness. Much nicer than the more often seen Cava in my opinion. We made our way through to the charming dining spaces, rooms currently used for everything from craft fairs to yoga to art displays. It’s brilliant that the Parsonage is back being enjoyed by so many people rather than a private building for office use, as it once was.

The first course was silky smooth and rich, a creamy Jerusalem Artichoke soup with a nutty, distinctive flavour. I’ve parboiled them before as a side dish with plenty of butter and seasoning, but never made them the star of the show. That’s about to change this week as I attempt my version of this elegant winter warmer. Kate had chosen a Manzanilla sherry, something we never drink but which was an unusual pairing. On these foodie evenings, it’s great to have your taste buds tested by things you’d never plump for by choice.

Jerusalem Artichoke soup
Jerusalem Artichoke soup

Game Terrine up next, a tile-served glass pot of wild rabbit sweetbread and pigeon with crisp bread and truffle chutney. Rob is known for being a passionate chef, opting for locally sourced, caught, shot and foraged food traditional to the region and the gamey terrine didn’t disappoint – juicy & moreish.  For me the Reisling (Selback Oster) was eminently drinkable but a touch too sweet for the game.

Game terrine with crispbread & truffle chutney
Game terrine with crispbread & truffle chutney

My favourite dish was the seafood trio of cockles, mussels and Morecambe Bay shrimps, topped with a light puff pastry and resting on a delicate but full of flavour chive cream. It was just lovely and paired to perfection with a Ribeiro (Coto de Gomariz Blanco), the best pairing of the evening for me. I remember Rob doing a sand eel dish at an event a couple of years back, he’s very good at simple but delicious seafood dishes.

Cockles, mussels and Morecambe Bay shrimps with chive cream
Cockles, mussels and Morecambe Bay shrimps with chive cream

I enjoyed the main, the smoked duck was beautifully tender and the beetroot earthily balancing, but the parsnips were a bit soggy and the potato a little bland. We all voted a big thumbs up for the mead jus, I’m sure Rob said this was local too, some will definitely need to be sourced for Moregeous Mansions. This was the only pairing with red wine, a 2013 Pinotage (Porter Mill Station, S.A.) which pleased the more hearty wine loving Mr M who’d given most of his glasses to me *hic*

Earl Grey Smoked Duck with parsnip, beetroot and mead
Earl Grey Smoked Duck with parsnip, beetroot and mead

My least fav dish was the roast rhubarb which I just do not like at all, ever. Have really tried but can’t get on with it. Looked amazing visually, I’m sure you’ll agree and the honeyed Chateau Cerons 1998 went down a treat. Mr M was really looking forward to the cheese which was tasty but too teeny a portion for two, our table agreed. Once again he drew the short straw, as a non-Port drinker. Shame 😉

Roast Rhubarb with Butterscotch Cream

Rob’s passion for his food, Kate’s friendly, approachable, expert guidance through the evening’s wines and organiser Claire’s unrivalled enthusiasm made for an excellent evening. No mean feat given the size of the mini-kitchen at the Parsonage, I really don’t know how they pulled it off!

We’re so lucky to have these sort of events on our doorstep. For £45 a head, we had superb food and wine, great company and though there was no Crispy Squirrel a la Rob’s latest cook book, our tastebuds were tested, with mead, rapeseed oil and Jerusalem artichokes on next month’s food radar. Get yourself on their mailing list for the next event : here.

Manchester Gourmet Club
BBC’s Food & Drink’s Kate Goodman shares her passion for wine with the guests

Note: Team Moregeous paid for their tickets just like everyone else, no payment took place for this review!

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