Fosters is another restaurant I’ve visited twice in the past two weeks, thanks to the necessity of visiting my poorly mum in hospital in Macclesfield and staying in her house in Wilmslow; Alderley Edge, nowadays replete with fancy eating houses, sits squarely between the two. In these few weeks I’ve done reviews of Gusto and Tomfoolery at 34, so it seems only fair that Fosters should get a look-in too.
The site has long been a chippie, and an awkward site it is too. Being opposite the de Trafford Arms makes for one convenient parking location, though I’m quite sure the hotel would not be best pleased to be used for their car park to be used by fish and chip traffic – unless they gain clientele in the process. Actually, I saw a couple eating fish and chips out of the box while seated at an outside table by the pub entrance, so they may well have dashed indoors for a refreshing pint afterwards.
Since being taken over by the micro-chain of Fosters it has been refitted and equipped by owners Gaz and Kath. It looks spick and span, in-keeping with the current image of Alderley, and comes with fresh intent. The mission statement clearly sets out the stall:
We are committed to making great, traditional fish and chips. We’ve been recognised as one of the top 10 fish & chip restaurants in the UK and one of the best takeaways in the North West. We have both fully licensed take away and restaurant in Alderley Edge and Didsbury plus a takeaway in Bramhall and we can’t wait to see you at the chippy!
And for Brits, what can be better than well-made traditional fish and chips? Shame that quality is so variable, but Fosters clearly aspires to the very highest standards of food, even allowing for a penchant for awful puns on their website. One word of warning though: the Didsbury branch is no longer part of the Fosters chain, though this is not clear from the website.
As mentioned, I’ve eaten there twice, and found the menu and presentation to be excellent on each occasion. Meal one comprised haddock, chips, mushy peas and a bottle of Peroni (why not a local ale rather than Italian lager? That would seem a more appropriate combination); meal two included a large cod, chips, mushy peas and a coffee, of which more shortly. As yet I haven’t had the courage to go for the special, essentially a full fish with all accompaniments. Polish it off within 45 minutes and you get a t-shirt, certificate and, for all I know, a telegram from Harry Ramsden.
There’s no doubt that the owners (I presume Gaz and Kath are the Fosters) have gone back to the knitting and focused on the core essentials of the meal with a strong eye for detail. On both occasions the quality and flavour of the fish has been sparkling. It has been cooked to perfection and the batter has been crispy throughout, served with a slice of lemon, tartare sauce and proper vinegar, Fosters evidently excels at delivering a first rate product – and the same applies to their mushy peas.
If you look at their statement on chips (picture above), this offers a clear desire to cook the best too. Read my blogs on chips and you’ll know that I go with the triple cooked recipe to get the best results, but twice fried is better than the soggy once fried tradition. However… sorry to say that for all the good intentions, the chips at Fosters are not truly crispy on the outside as they should be. This I put down to the fact that they do the final fry at 180c rather than the 190c I use. Trust me, the extra ten degrees make all the difference!
Where Fosters fell down was in some rather iffy service from young waitresses perhaps not trained effectively for the job. There were times when they were not in evidence, despite this being a small restaurant, but my biggest problem came on visit two.
The coffee I ordered was frankly awful – stale and virtually undrinkable. This I mentioned to my waitress, who neither took the coffee off the bill, nor apparently took any action to make fresh coffee. This I put down to her inexperience, but I do hope Fosters learns from that experience since attention to even the minutest detail can make all the difference between a perfect dining experience and frustrated diners carrying away their indignation. Seems I’m not alone in having had issues with service, either.
Shame, since otherwise this is a really excellent restaurant, worthy of praise and support. If you’re passing, do give it a try.
PS. One more request too: the website for Fosters includes no email address or contact sheet. It does include phone numbers for each of the shops, though there is no voicemail and on at least one occasion my call was not answered. Must do better!