I’m just back from a brilliant trip to the Wirral. I went with some colleagues from the Guild of Food Writers, which was brilliant fun, and also very useful in terms of discovering the very best local food recommendations to bring to you. Here are my top picks.
What to do
The Wirral is a lovely destination for a short break. Surrounded by water and with interesting villages, towns and countryside to explore, not to mention some excellent food, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
Aside from my foodie recommendations here, I suggest visiting the Lady Lever Art Gallery, The Port Sunlight Museum and Port Sunlight village, Birkenhead Priory and West Kirby beach.
Where to stay
We stayed at Thornton Hall Hotel in Thornton Hough. It’s a large privately owned hotel, originally a private home that has been significantly extended to accommodate a really wide range of facilities. The original building forms the heart of the hotel, and you walk in through the amazing original front door, to find carved wood paneled walls, huge, elegant rooms and gorgeous views over the extensive gardens. Newer parts of the hotel include most bedrooms and an enormous annexe where the gym, spa, swimming pool and Brasserie are found.
Rooms are huge, or they certainly were in the new annexe, where I stayed. A double room had huge beds and plenty of space to unpack. The bathroom was smaller, but good, with a bath and shower over the top and a TV built into the wall. The spa facilities were great and I had a truly excellent massage using ESPA products, which are very special indeed. I used the swimming pool each morning and the steam room, and did venture out to the outdoor hot tub to watch the sun rise after my swim. I could even have ordered an espresso to be delivered to me in the hot tub for the ultimate in decadence, however the ice cave seemed a step too far.
Over a two night stay, my lasting impression was just how delightful the staff are at Thornton Hall Hotel. Across the board, they were exceptionally friendly, welcoming and helpful and all genuinely seemed to be enjoying their work. A real testament to the management, led by Geoff Dale, who’s been at the hotel for 16 years. Thornton Hall Hotel.
Where to eat
The food at Thornton Hall Hotel is very good. Breakfast is taken in The Lawns dining room, and I recommend the cooked to order options. I had an omelette one day and boiled eggs and soldiers the next. Both were very good.
There are three restaurants in the hotel. The flagship restaurant is The Lawns, whose Head Chef is Ben Mounsey, a hugely talented and passionate local chef, who has returned to the Wirral after gaining experience working in restaurants around the world. We were treated to the Chef’s Table tasting menu in the private dining room, which was a very memorable experience. We enjoyed fifteen courses organised to showcase Ben’s style and some of the most popular dishes on the menu.
Ben’s dishes are based around single or a small grouping of ingredients or dishes, combining British ingredients with international flavours. Each course was creatively and elegantly presented, and generously portioned. Dishes on our menu included an interpretation of Beans on Toast, Consommé, Lobster with a squid ink taco and seaweed, Turbot with brown shrimp and dashi and venison fillet with hispi cabbage and black Périgord truffle.
The amount of work involved in each course was absolutely staggering, and it was really interesting hearing about what was involved in creating each dish from Ben as he introduced each dish. The talent in this kitchen is significant and Ben clearly runs a highly passionate and motivated team who work extremely well together and it was a joy to see them in action during our meal.
Each course was accompanied by a wonderful selection of wines from Tanners Wine Merchants – if you haven’t come across them before, do have a look at their superb catalogue – which was a very indulgent experience. Tanners actually supply Thornton Hall Hotel, and work closely with very capable and charming Sommelier Emily to curate the wine list.
At Thornton Hall, I’d also recommend The Lawns Lounge and Bar. The drinks are excellent, including a lovely selection of gin – including their own, Torrintone – which is distilled on the Wirral! The menu is good here too, ideal for a lunch or informal evening meal. I had an excellent steak from Callum Edge butcher. Well-cooked, nice quality food and served in generous portions.
A little further afield, I recommend the Sticky Walnut in Chester for some lovely, seasonal cooking an excellent prix fixe menu.
And for those wanting a sweet fix, I highly recommend Snugbury’s ice cream shop in Hurleston for a delicious homemade ice cream in a wide range of flavours. Run by a delightful trio of sisters, it is a charming spot and the ice cream is delicious.
Where to shop
One of the great revelations of my trip was discovering this exceptional quality of local produce, having spent time visiting some exceptional local farmers and food producers. There is a wealth of superb food on this small peninsula and I urge you to get out to the excellent local shops and farmers markets to sample
First on the list is Rowlands Rare Breed Red Poll at The Grange Farm. Huw and his father David are hugely passionate farmers and produce some exceptional beef. They hope to open a shop at their farm soon, so do look out for that, but they also sell, alongside other local producers at West Kirby Farmers Market.
Do look out for Windsor’s Fruit Liqueurs at the local farmers markets, too. Their range of handmade real fruit liqueurs is wide and delicious and I recommend you to stock up on a bottle of the strawberry vodka and damson gin.
Another excellent destination for any foodie is Claremont Farm, an absolutely wonderful farm shop and café, run by the delightful Pimbley family. There are a really wide range of activities on the site, such as cookery classes and yoga sessions to look out for, making it a real destination. On the day I visited, it was International Scouse Day (Scouse is a local lamb stew, not dissimilar to the Irish Stew), which I tried and loved. Claremont Farm is very family friendly, so do take young children for a fun trip.
Finally, I wholeheartedly recommend Edge Butchers in New Ferry, a truly outstanding butcher’s shop run by Callum Edge, 6th generation butcher, who won the Food and Farming Awards in 2014. They sell a wide range of natural, grass fed meats, slaughtered in house, plus their own excellent sausages, pies and more. A shining example of a true food hero at work.
How to get there
The Wirral is very easily reached by road and public transport. It is connected to Liverpool City Centre by road through a tunnel running under the Mersey. Rail connections will take you to Liverpool Lime Street or Runcorn. A car is very useful for getting around, and I’d recommend driving wherever possible whilst on the Wirral, as the towns and shops on the Wirral are not well served by public transport.. As Brand Ambassador for Mitsubishi, I’ll be sure to take my Outlander PHEV on my next trip.