Review by Luxury Cheshire editor Helen Culwick When I decided on Thursday afternoon to book somewhere special for a celebration meal with my husband on the Saturday night, I was a little surprised to find that all top ten of my favourite restaurants in and around Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Knutsford were already fully booked. After that, anywhere I found with space, got me thinking, ‘If it isn’t full, what’s wrong with the place?’ – and paralysis ensued. After a ‘phone a friend’ panic call I managed to secure one of the last available tables for two at La Popote in Marton.
Marton is a small, quaint village on the A34, South of Capesthorne but you’d be forgiven for not knowing this. We live in the nearest town, and occasionally drive through Marton, but hadn’t heard of La Popote, so even with a recommendation, we were rather anxious whether it could live up to expectations.
The outside of the building is unassuming, and with quite an ordinary-looking entrance.
Once inside, we were greeted by the waiter, who asked whether we would like to place our drinks order and see the menus in the garden, or sit inside by the wood-burner. It was only just about warm enough to be outside and comfortable but this was absolutely the right choice to make.
Magical, twinkly outside space
The garden and patio behind the restaurant are a delight – whimsical and romantic, bedecked with twinkly candles and fairy lights. The garden beyond is subtly floodlit, and sitting out in the moonlight it was easy to unwind and relax into the rest of the evening.
The bar offers a choice of 41 different gins – we plumped for the local Macclesfield Forest Gin and sipped our drinks while pondering the menu. Lynne, who turned out to be the owner of La Popete, arrived to introduce the daily specials, which she recited most impressively in full detail.
Lynne and her husband Victor have been at the helm of La Popote for nine years. They began their restauranting days in South Africa before moving to Scotland and then to Marton. While Chef Victor was, we assume, busy cheffing in the kitchen, Lynne was attending to the full house of diners. She is a veritable tour de force, with energy levels and workload that would wither most 21 year olds.
The menu can be described as French with South African with Scottish influences in evidence. I chose a starter of Scallops and a Halibut main course, both from the daily specials, and Mr LC decided on a goats cheese tarte tatin and Venison from the main À La Carte menu.
The tender scallops were served on a buttery foam, topped with caviar and encircled by crunchy, heart-shaped fleurons (puff pastry shapes). Having a near phobia of chewy scallops, it was a great relief that they just melted away on my tongue.
When the halibut main course arrived, the eagerness to get started meant a nearly spoiled photograph – but at least it means you can glimpse the samphire and beans underneath.
The venison dish was rich in every way, and a rather a guilty pleasure, with the addition of the foie gras. The indulgence could only have been greater had Mr LC chosen the dauphinoise potatoes as an accompaniment, although on reflection his arteries are grateful.
For desert we ordered the Vahlrona fondant and the South African-influenced ‘Drunk Elephant Pudding.’
The chocolate fondant was served with a berry compote and orange ice cream, a complementary combination of textures, temperatures and flavours.
The Drunk Elephant is a tremendously light, boozy apricot sponge with an equally boozy sauce, and served with a small jug of more boozy sauce on the side. It seemed like the right thing to do, to then follow this with more booze, sitting in the cosy lounge enclave by the fire.
In the mood for romance
The ambience at La Popote is oldy-worldy and utterly romantic. In fact, if you are invited here by a beau you could forgiven for expecting a proposal might be imminent. Lynne relayed the charming story of a gentleman who proposed at Christmas in the restaurant, with a message hidden in the champagne flute leading the lady to a glass bauble on the Christmas tree containing a ring.
Truly a hidden gem
We have enjoyed few meals in recent years as much as last week at La Popote, which translated literally means a French army canteen or kitchen. The army marching on this standard of cuisine would be a truly formidable force.
This isn’t a fancy-pants restaurant and the absence of glitz or showiness compared to some on the Cheshire scene is refreshing. In true bistro style, you come as you please, relax into the surroundings and enjoy the hospitality and delightful menu from Lynne, Victor and the waiting staff.
Dining here one has the feeling of being privileged and ‘in the know’ – and in our case, wishing you’d known about it sooner. If a hidden gem can be defined as something which is extremely outstanding and not many people may know about, then this restaurant surely qualifies.
But as La Popote isn’t somewhere to shout about, we firmly yet quietly recommend it.
- Location: Manchester Road (A34), Marton, Cheshire. SK11 9HF
- Telephone: 01260 224785
- Website: http://la-popote.co.uk/
Luxury Cheshire dined ‘in congnito’ at La Popote. Our reviews are 100% impartial and we do not take payment.