‘Are you sure it’s up there?’ I said, ‘it looks like an abandoned warehouse, I don’t think we should go up all those stairs’. The first special thing about Where The Light Gets In is its location. Situated in Stockport Old Town in an old coffee warehouse, once you realise that you are in the right place and not a random alleyway and indeed, you must go up all those stairs, you enter the restaurant that looks like someones swanky industrial-themed apartment rather than an actual restaurant. We were greeted by a cool looking chap with a goatee and earrings who led us into the lounge area. We sat down nervously, being the first to arrive of only 30 guests, and were immediately blinded by the slowly setting sun streaming in through all of the windows. The clue was in the name really. But once I adjusted my position on the very comfortable brown leather couch, I saw the roofs and steeples of Stockport and beyond, different angles peeping through each window and with the sky just starting to tinge pink. This was going to be a good night.
A chef approached us and shook our hands and told us his name was Sam. He gave us a drinks menu and recommended that we have the wine flight with our tasting menu and our arms didn’t need much twisting. He then came back and gave us ‘flowers from the garden’ accompanied by a small tipple of cucumber cooler. At this point no one had still joined us in the restaurant, had James really rented out the whole place just for us? A family then entered and settled into some chairs near us and were promptly followed by a handsome couple. Maybe one day, Lydia.
Whilst we sipped our aperitif we were entertained by a laminated book the restaurant had put together that contained restaurant reviews written by children who we presumed had come on a school trip. One particular favourite critic of mine was from a boy who listed his favourite dishes he had to eat but which was of equal length to the ones he didn’t, claiming that one of them tasted like Shrek snot.
Lights, camera. action. The kitchen stage was set . We were shown to our table and we took our seat on the second row.
The whole mystery of the evening is that you have no idea what you are going to be eating – there is no menu, no, you have your own personal team of chefs who come to talk to you at every course to explain what you are about to eat. That’s 18 courses with 18 stories that each member of head chef Sam’s team can recite with passion to every customer. You get used to it by course three. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought that when you go to the loo, someone is there to explain that ‘this is a toilet, it is made from porcelain which is hand painted to give the ultimate finish ‘. The toilets are definitely worth a visit though just for the interesting books to read in there and the cool wooden washbasin, complete with rock salt soap for you to spoon onto your hands.
After your amuse bouche, you are presented very excitingly with a roll of navy linen with a leather clasp. ‘This is your cutlery for the evening’ they explain, ‘chose your weapon carefully’. The only rules are that you are not to put it back in the case, they will bring you fresh ones ready for the next course. I loved this concept and James and I took much deliberation and explanation to one another as to why we had chosen a particular fork. You can see why we were there from 6:30 until 10pm.
The menu changes four times a year with slight tweaks depending on what is in season, for example the plum flavoured things we ate that night were another stone fruit the week before. A few of our favourite dishes we had were warm peas in their pods which had been charred and barbecued – perfect to suck straight out of their skins and release their sweet flavour. The peas were served with the creamiest pea veloute I have ever had. The poppadoms we had were worlds away from the usual offering you get at an Indian restaurant. Homemade, they were accompanied by roasted rhubarb chutney, a mild goats cheese cream and tomato pickles. So different and delicious and really got the taste buds going for the evening. Sourdough with cultured butter – the best bread we have ever tasted. When it came to the pudding courses, the ice cream was out of this world; made from sheep’s milk and super creamy, rippled with plum to give a hint of sharpness. This was finished off with ‘the whole of a plum’ which looked on the outside like a cocoa dusted truffle but tasted tart yet sweet with a soft chew. It sounded like a science experiment when Sam explained how he made it, but the taste was unbelievable. Poppy seed fudge petite fours was our favourite out of their ‘snack box’ (definitely one to try and make at home, once I actually master making fudge!)
The wine flight is an absolute no brainer too, the pairing is completely on point and very well explained by our friend with the goatee who we later learned was the Sommelier. You won’t of heard or seen any of the wines you have to drink and they are all made by small producers across the continent. To my surprise, as a mainly red drinker, I shone to a white wine called Bergecrac Blanc which was like no other white wine I have ever tasted, it was so smooth and clean with no acidity at all. So much so, I ordered a second glass with our optional cheese course that we had to share. A close second favourite was an tangy orange sparkling wine called ‘Kiss Kiss Maddie’s Lips’ – apparently the wine maker is a Nirvana fan.
This was a very special evening for James and I as we were celebrating our first wedding anniversary (albeit a little early) so I apologise that there are no food photos for this one. As it was a celebration for us, I thought I would give James a night off from my usual, ‘wait! don’t eat that yet, I need to photograph it’ and also, I do think it would take some of the magic away from your evening if you were ever lucky enough to go as you just don’t know where the dishes will take you. Whether it was the wine flight halo effect, the magic setting or the food stories of old, I can safely say that it was one of the best evenings I have ever had in a restaurant. I would come every year if I could.
– Our Menu –
FLOWERS FROM THE GARDEN
FELLSIDE POPPADUMS (circa 1916)
KHOLRABI & SOURED CURDS
CARLINGFORD OYSTER & WHEY
WARM PEAS IN THEIR PODS
DAILY BREAD & CULTURED BUTTER
HORSE MACKEREL & KUMATO
VARIOUS TOMATOES & ROASTED CRAB
LIZ’S SADDLEBACK & TOM THUMB
BROWN CRAB & PIGS BLOOD
THE HEART OF TOM THUMB
GOOSEBERRY & NASTURTIUM
THE WHOLE OF A PLUM (in II parts)
RIPPLED AND CHURNED