I'm rather in two minds about the Hinchliffe. Though I only live in Rochdale, I'd not visited this secluded, classy-looking place before. But after 8 miles of a 10 mile walk which passed the hotel, I was ready, on a hot day, for a pint of shandy and a bit of tea. Ate outside the hotel's frontage at a picnic table, though there was a roof garden I avoided, since it sounded noisier, Opted for a chicken and stuffing sandwich on a brown muffin with chips---the bread was rather dry but the number of chips was generous. On a Monday around 5.30pm it was quiet, the greenery lush and the birdsong rhapsodic. The main menu looked appealing too so, when I happened to be passing after another walk on the Tuesday, I called again to sample a full meal. The starter, a warm salad of asparagus, smoked haddock and Jersey Royals was lovely, the fish being gorgeously smoky. The main of breast of chicken in a tarragon sauce, with potato cake accompaniment almost matched it, though the skin was tough and plasticky instead of light and crispy. I echo previous reviewers' comments about the pannacotta with poached rhubarb---perfect consistency and delicate of flavour. The service was dilatory as there only seemed to be a manager and waitress to both serve meals and man the bar, but it was a sunny evening and I was happy enough reading my book---I was there about 2 hours. This evening, Wednesday, I was again passing the end of the road so I thought I'd indulge myself for a third visit---the location was as much a draw as the food. Paid up front---just short of £30 for three courses and a pint of shandy. The ham hock terrine starter (£6.50) was fine, though I prefer the toast to be a little more yielding. The two thin fillets of sea bass (£14) were sitting atop noodles in a sump of soy sauce---thought a dressing rather than a flood might have been more discreet and less salty. The "famous" Vimto Trifle (£6) didn't deserve to be---a tall glass of vaguely Vimto-flavoured jelly, topped with custard and cream, with the addition of a single unassimilated sponge finger stuck in the top. Not my notion of a trifle, I'm afraid. The service was, if anything, even worse, though I had my nose in my book again so wasn't much bothered.
What particularly pained me was, after I had finished and said farewell, I walked across to my car, only to have the waitress run after me, asking if I'd paid---moreover in front of two parties of diners. I insisted I had and she said that the manager hadn't a record of it. I was about to show her my receipt but she waved it away, still apologising. A shame really, as I'd, by & large, enjoyed this sun-lit haven with the sporadically very enjoyable but somewhat inconsistent food. I'm deducting a star for insufficient staff, variable eats and the embarrassing incident.
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