Sheldrake’s restaurant

AFLIGHT of birds, silhouetted against the pink-blush dusk sky over the Dee estuary, resembled rising smoke.
It was like watching a slow moving picture show, the sound track provided by two dogs barking a duet in the distance.
A faint breeze tickled a nearby collection of flowers, encouraging the petals to dance a strange, silent salsa on their stalks.
The city had been left behind barely an hour before and the contrast to this bucolic scene was stark. The area is revered for its wildlife; birds such as pink foot geese, oystercatchers, spoonbills, redshanks and birds of prey abound.
After watching the flock we spotted drift off,it was time to head for nearby Sheldrake’s, the restaurant on the beach at Heswall.
It transpired that the timing could not have been worse. After a considerable period on the market it has now been sold and is due to receive a complete makeover, including interiors, furniture and food. Perhaps this will require a return visit,because at the time I was not aware of the change in circumstances.
On entering the premises,I was immediately thrown back in time by a conversation I heard at a table where three diners were in debate. I recall as a junior reporter being assigned the crucial task of answering the readers’ telephone hot line to the editor’s office.
The idea – not new then or now – was to encourage readers to ring up with their stories, the added bonus being a chat with the boss who almost invariably had something else better to do.
It had been sold to me as a vital piece of community work that could yield untold benefits and even scoops. Alas, there were no deep throats but plenty of crackpots. There were mind numbing appeals for lost dogs, a request for an umbrella repairer and most bizarrely a chap who nonchalantly enquired: “How do you make an eggnog?” These thoughts passed through my mind swiftly as I heard one of the diners utter this selfsame question.
We were then seated close to a window affording panoramic views of the river and Welsh hills and orders were taken. My starter of smoked salmon timbale (pounds 6.50) was like an orange big top, masking inside an acrobatic array of crunchy salad accompaniments.
A sideshow of bread and butter was also presented.
My dining companion was lured towards the nouveau-style black pudding (pounds 4.50) which appeared to contained a rich harvest of offal. This was ho overed up in no- time, a rapturous expression telling its own tale.
I chose the house speciality, chicken Sheldrake (pounds 10.95),for my main course; a mistake, in hindsight,as it clashed with the starter, containing, as it did, smoked salmon.
The chicken fillet was a colossus, stuffed with salmon and cream cheese and capped by a delicious diaphonous sauce. A selection of fresh vegetables cowered in deference.
My partner’s Cajun chicken(pounds 9.95) was wedded to a piquant sauce suffused with chilli and garlic. Chips and a Greek salad were bridesmaids to the tart and expressive fillets.
A half bottle of white burgundy (Maon Villages pounds 7.95) was an elegant companion for my meal, the Chardonnay grape providing understatement and balance without the depth or complexity of Maon’s illustrious neighbours, Mersault or Montrachet. Needless to say,it was clearly not a harmonious match for Cajun chicken – a fact blithely ignored by my escort who glugged it back like fizzyade anyway.
The two boys, aged four and five, attacked sausage and chips, wielding the knives and forks like weapons of mini destruction.
The restaurant is pretty laid-back offering the prized window tables along with others more intimate. Dining as the sun goes down is the optimum time to vist and,in warm weather, the terrace is a place to watch the world go by.
New owner Helen Demetrios,a former finance manager,promises big changes to give Sheldrake’s a more contemporary feel.
“I was really taken with the location, which is a fabulous spot,and my family who work in the restaurant business persuaded me to buy.
“We will be open seven days a week, with a bistro at lunchtime and up-market during the evening. We are also starting barbecues this week and carrying out a refurbishment. New furniture will enable people to sit out on the patio.
“A new head chef David Owen is on board and we are looking at creating a more exciting, Mediterranean-stylemenu.”
I gazed wistfully out of the window, watching the sun slipping away, much like my chances of retreating peacefully to the study at home with a bottle of Riesling to watch the golf.
Sheldrake’s,Banks Road, Lower Heswall Tel 0151-342 1556 Smoking: Yes,in the bistro, not in the restaurant.
Children: Welcome anytimeDisabled access: YesDecor: Dated but about to receive a makeoverService: Perfunctory Value for money: ReasonableMENUSmoked salmon timbale Black pudding Chicken Sheldrake Cajun chicken Sausage and chips (x2) Soft drinks (x2) Half bottle of Maon Villages Glass of house redTotal …………. pounds 53.15

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