At the weekend (a long time ago now, but that’s the way it wiggles) we drove out to proper Cheshire – as opposed to our little fringe – to have lunch at Cabbage Hall. Robert Kisby has been at the posh pub since March and has eradicated most remaining traces of former owner Francis Carroll’s horribly flamboyant interior.
Lunch was fine rather than world-beating. Our winter warmer platter, a big plate with its indentations filled with Kisby’s takes on chicken kiev, Lancashire hotpot and the like, looked a bit like yesterday’s man, and if the cottage pie-stuffed jacket potatoes had been made that morning then I’m a pickled cabbage.
We did, however, make a worthwhile discovery, and all thanks to me being off the booze. The barman brought us each a bottle of crisp, tart-and-sweet Cox’s Orange Pippin apple juice from nearby Willington Fruit Farm, and as we sat mulling over its deliciousness offered directions to the farm shop near Kelsall. Obediently, we went.
Willington Fruit Farm has a farm shop in the old-fashioned sense, a world away from the sexy (if you like marmalade) sheen of nearby The Hollies and its caravan site and extra barn stuffed full of Christmas gifts. It’s basically a cold shed full - and I mean full – of apples. They grow, pick and sell or juice a huge range here, and I thought immediately of my friend Rosemary Moon. I had never really understood her obsession with our native apples until we saw, spread before us like Yeats’s dreams, Chiver’s Delight and Belle de Boskoop, Melrose, Holstein Cox and Egremont Russet.
Sod’s law, of course, meant that I was about to come away for a week working in that London and couldn’t, in good conscience, buy any. We did pick up six bottles of gorgeous juice, though (£2.15 for a big bottle, as opposed to £2.50 at Hollies). One of them is from a dessert apple called Katy, a cross between James Grieve and Worcester Pearmain which apparently has a slightly acid and refreshing flavour. That one is earmarked as a Christmas gift for our friends Helen and Adam and their daughter Katy. Luckily their tiddler, Jacob, is too young to be upset about his lack of fruity namesake.