The above is wagyu steak on sourdough toast. Charred thick slices, smeared with mustard mayo, scattered with radish discs, IPA pickled gherkins and those tiny capers that explode on your tongue. The wagyu? Marinated in (making a welcome return to the limelight) coal oil. I was expecting an ashtray element from the coal oil marinade, but, no, the flavour was all subtle mesquite. It’s a kind of delicious homage to Simon Rogan’s signature dish at The French a decade ago. The one that has Times critic Giles Coren swooning: “I tell you what, I would walk to Manchester barefoot in the rain for one more mouthful of the chopped raw ribeye of ox in coal oil.”
Did the wagyu on toast make up for the absence of Squid Bolognese on my return to Fold in Marple Bridge near Stockport? Most definitely. That ‘deconstruction’ was touted as their signature dish back at their March launch, but it has obviously not stood the test of time as the menu has evolved. Maybe it had vague roots in the great Pierre Koffmann’s fishy riff on spag bol, but here ribbons of squid mimicking pasta in a rich ragu with garlic bread didn’t quite hit the mark. Still there’s langoustine scampi fries (in a scampi fry crumb) with lobster aioli and chip shop croquettes to champion Fold’s playful nostalgic takes on snacks and classic dishes.
All this and my vote wasn’t enough to leapfrog this smart addition to Marple Bridge into the Good Food Guide’s 100 Best Local Restaurants 2023 list.In that particular bunfight a place called Tallow in Kent was national number one. And I’ve no quibble with Manchester’s rather lovely The Spärrows scooping the top North West award with Fold just missing the 100 Best cut. Still I did feel that various city centre establishments that squeezed it out didn’t qualify as ‘local’.
Sean Finnegan’s self-styled Bistro and Bottle Shop on Town Street certainly does. It attracts the morning coffee crowd as much as the wine aficionado seeking a leftfield bottle.
Certainly you can snack on a roster of small plates or make a special evening occasion of it. Just five minutes (steep) walk to Marple Station and it’s a rapid 20 minutes to Piccadilly. Though if you make the trek, as I did for this second time, you’ll find yourself jostling with a seriously local clientele. That’s my definition of neighbourhood. Fold’s exec chef Ryan Stafford actually hails from Marple, but the culinary palette he works from is the opposite of parochial. This former Masterchef finalist is often back in London for his lucrative day job as a private chef (for world leaders, rock stars and folk with expansive yachts). That means that head chef Craig Sherrington (Great British Menu) has the dominant say in the upcoming autumn menu.
I hope he keeps those croquettes, in particular. On the outside they could be any old fried object on a corporate menu. Bite into them and they are a delicate thing of wonder, a chippie madeleine (sic) moment when shards of monkfish, a Champagne chip shop curry sauce, smashed peas and malt vinegar dust cohere.
There are so many joys among the cold plates and snacks, but don’t ignore the hot plates. Maybe £21 for Exmoor caviar on baked jersey royals with mashed potatoes brings a touch of Paris’s Kaspia Caviar to Marple Bridge but I’d recommend instead a generous helping of salt marsh lamb with a classic summer accompaniment of peas, beans, gem lettuce and tarragon (£22) or ‘China Town’, a sensational salt n’ pepper sea bass dish (£24).
All this and a terrific drinks selection from craft beer to natural wine and beyond. That wagyu on toast found its perfect match in Thistledown She’s Electric, an organic old bush vine Grenache from South Australia’s McLaren Vale. A Fold plus that sets it apart from many other casual small plate rivals is that bottle shop wine list.
For the record, this is my Best Local Restaurant (even though it’s trek away from my locality).
Fold Bistro and Bottle Shop, 14-16 Town St, Marple Bridge, Stockport SK6 5AA.