Dining in a Castle on the Wirral

Dining in a Castle on the Wirral

I thoroughly enjoy writing in the Food & Drink section of Urbanista — sharing my dining experiences at different restaurants and celebrating the diversity of the North West as regards places to eat. I especially enjoy informing people of new places and making people aware of venues under new ownership and in this article I bring you exciting changes at Leasowe Castle. Since the change of ownership last year, Leasowe Castle has been subject to refurbishment and soon will have a new cocktail bar and a new brasserie on site, but here I focus on the dining aspect of the venue. Leasowe Castle has quietly become one of the best places in Wirral for fine dining and if you’re not convinced then check out the food in this article — pictures, as they say, speak louder than words.

Leasowe Castle is steeped in history and is well acclaimed as a hotel and a top venue for weddings and functions. It has a strong golfing affiliation and is also well known for being haunted (Most Haunted has been filmed there). One thing you may not be aware of, however, is the Masterchef material being produced in the kitchen of the Grade II listed building. Head Chef Joe Rossi was recruited in August 2015 and has headed a culinary revolution as part of the improvements at Wirral’s coastal venue. From an Italian family of restaurateurs, the 32-year-old has unrivalled passion and is a perfectionist with extremely high standards. With other dedicated kitchen and dining staff, such as Sous Chef Chris Embery who has worked for Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir, the bar has been raised significantly at Leasowe Castle.

I arrived on a sunny Friday evening with my Dad and his partner, Perri. We enjoyed drinks in the bar area (rustic style bar food available) with the doors open to the beautiful garden outside before being escorted to the grandiose dining room — The Star Chamber — by our waitress, Charlotte. With a knight guarding the dining room door, lots of dark wood, engraving in the walls and the huge mirror, this place oozed character and our seat by the window looking out to the courtyard was ideal. Our waitress was perfectly polite and softly spoken, asking the right questions at the right times, and the Monte Verde Chilean red wine and San Floriano pinot grigio helped us mull over the mouth watering, yet not too extensive menu.
To start, I had the Roasted Golden Beetroot Salad and it had a bit of everything going on, with deep red beetroot, melt in the mouth goats cheese, watercress, lentils, walnuts and balsamic dressing. My Dad’s Ham Hock Terrine was well prepared, rich and came with flavourful onion relish and crostini. Perri kindly allowed me to try some of her starter — the Cornish Crab was well presented and emanating freshness and I had never tried salmon roe before so this was a real treat! All dishes at Leasowe Castle are seasonal and prepared using top quality local produce — after the standard of the first course I couldn’t wait to see what the main course was like!

As with our first course, the main dishes were something you would expect to see on a cooking television programme. My Seared Salmon Fillet was spectacular — soft salmon that fell to pieces in my mouth with a crispy coating on top and a herb crushed potato cake underneath, served with kale, butternut squash puree and chive beurre blanc. My Dad’s Cod Fillet, served with a crushed herb potato cake, black pudding and beurre blanc, was described by him as ‘simply excellent’ and ‘a travesty to touch’ as regards the exquisite presentation. Once again, I was fortunate to try some of Perri’s dish and in my opinion it was the best of the three. Her Pork Belly, served with a celeriac mash, baby carrots, turnips and caramelised apple, was crispy and had a deep flavour of pork that became more powerful with each bite — it seemed like a real delicacy and the cider jus enhanced the flavour.

To finish our high class dining experience, I had the Mixed Ice Cream — three different flavours with hidden pieces of chocolate mixed in. My Dad’s Rich Chocolate Brownie, with ice cream and strawberries, was rich, hot and dripping with melted chocolate. Perri’s dessert was very interesting — the Assiette Of Apple was a unique trio of apple tart with apple sauce, an apple sorbet coated in apple skin and delicious apple ice cream.

I do indeed love going to different places for Urbanista and promoting a variety of restaurants in the North West, but in this case I cannot speak highly enough about the sheer quality of food on offer. Leasowe Castle’s restaurant really is something else and the fact that they are in the process of going for two Rosettes shows how far they have come. I caught up with Head Chef, Joe Rossi (centre of below photo), to find out a bit more about him and the changes at Leasowe Castle….

The Interview

Urbanista: How long have you been in the industry and how did you become a chef?

Joe: I have been in the industry for 15 years. My Mum has always been a brilliant cook and my Dad has always ran restaurants so it was natural for me to do this. I started as a trainee Commis Chef at Thornton Hall and have progressed from there really. I worked in different places and learnt as much as I could until I eventually developed my own style — you find your own way as a chef. One thing I have learnt and pride myself on is that you are as only as good as your last dish!

Urbanista: With so many different places to choose from, what makes Leasowe Castle different?

Joe: It’s a castle right on the coast with amazing grounds — you don’t find many places like this around! There are some really exciting changes going on here and we are bringing top quality and really high standards without ripping people off. The hotel, wedding and functions side of things is massive but with the cocktail bar and the brasserie opening soon we will have something for everyone. Food wise we use local fresh produce from as near as possible, so it’s from farm to plate, and we will hopefully soon be the only place for miles with two Rosettes.

Urbanista: Of all the dishes in the world, what is your favourite starter, main and dessert?

Joe: That’s too hard haha I’d say anything cooked by my Mum!

Urbanista: What is your favourite ingredient?

Joe: That’s really tough too haha! I love mushrooms because there is such a variety of them, so many different flavours and textures.

Urbanista: Who is your favourite celebrity chef?

Joe: I’d say Gordon Ramsay because he did it the proper way. He trained really hard in Europe and perfected his art and not everyone knows this but he was trained by Marco-Pierre White — another chef I really admire. I’ve got to mention Massimo Bottura too because he is Italian haha — another top class chef!

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