High points and low during one square meal

Heathcotes
Heathcotes

Much to enjoy at Heathcotes Brasserie on Winckley Square, reports EMMA PEARSON, but also much that requires attention

Although he has closed his iconic Longridge eaterie, the spirit of Paul Heathcote lingers in Preston with Heathcotes Brasserie, described as a “medley of best-selling Paul Heathcote specialties spanning the last 20 years, alongside an array of French inspired dishes”.

Keen to try the famed chef’s locally sourced and Lancashire inspired treats, I took the family along for dinner.

Unfortunately, despite some high points, the meal was not without problems.

After a long wait (an hour after we first sat down), three of five starters arrived, followed by the other two 10 minutes later. As one of the late arrivals was a salad, I’m not quite sure what the hold-up was.

My scallops were almost cold, and though well cooked the couple of bits of Parma ham and roasted sprouts it came with – with no sauce or dressing – felt unimaginative.

My mum liked her treacle-cured salmon with whitebait fritters, but the advertised whipped goat’s cheese it came with tasted more like a dollop of sour cream. My brother’s lamb hot pot terrine sounded like a winner of imaginative, locally-inspired cooking, but turned out to be dry and tasteless.

Things perked up considerably with the wine (so often the case, I find!) with a truly delicious bottle of Les Six from the Rhone region of France and a very nice Sancerre.

The mains arrived at the same time, although there was another long delay before the side dishes of vegetables joined them on the table.

I’d asked for my 8oz fillet steak to be cooked rare, but what came was so overcooked and dry I had no choice but to send it back, only the second time I have ever returned food a in restaurant (the other being in an Italian place in Middlesbrough in the late ‘90s when I found a large piece of molten plastic in my lasagne).

The second attempt at the steak was perfectly cooked, well seasoned and deliciously tender, served simply with mushrooms, tomatoes and hand-cut chips.

My dad enjoyed his Goosnargh duck with potato rosti and a cherry sauce, but said he thought it had been sitting a long time as the duck was only just warm and the sauce rather congealed.

Likewise, my brother said his tandoori sea bass was cold, and lacked spice. My partner fared better with his roasted venison loin served with red cabbage, watercress and what was advertised as a ‘smoked venison pie’.

This turned out to be a little pot of what was basically venison shepherd’s pie, lovely tender slow-cooked meat in gravy with a dollop of creamy mash on top.

For me it was the star of the show and I would have been happy with a big pot of that and some peas.

By way of an apology for the problems with the meal, the chef sent out a couple of chocolate pots for us to share which were truly delicious – soft, creamy, rich chocolate with a fabulous, properly salty, salted caramel ice cream.

There were some real high points to the meal, but it was hard to ignore the problems. too

The waiting staff were lovely, and apologetic, so maybe it was simply the kitchen having an off night.

If so, I hope they iron out the problems, as the highlights showed clearly how good it could have been.

One other suggestion is that they buy a second CD. Rufus Wainwright’s cover of Hallelujah is a good song, but I’m not such a fan I want to hear it three times in the course of one meal.

The bill for five came to £203, with a bottle of wine taken off by way of apology.