Instagrammable pick ‘n’ mix plates and cocktails at Bench, Nantwich

Instagrammable floral arches and garden swings, with pick and mix dishes served on adorable miniature picnic benches – Bench, Nantwich, is the most picture-perfect bistro bar for a girly day out.

We’d booked in for food and cocktails a couple of weeks in advance to celebrate my sister getting married next month, as a pre-wedding treat. We loved the style of the decor from their Instagram page, and their menu looked delicious – food and drinks alike.

When we arrived, we were greeted at the door and shown to our seats. Unfortunately, we weren’t 100% happy with the table as it was right by the open back door where a children’s party was going ahead, as well as being right next to the loos and the kitchen, where service was being called for. But staff quickly resolved our seating arrangement, and we were sat in a floral booth nearer the bar, which we were much happier with.

After much deliberation of the cocktail menu, we ordered our first round of drinks with the waiting staff, who had been really friendly and accommodating. Each cocktail from the pick ‘n’ mix menu cost £8, and came garnished with sweets, candyfloss or a selection of fruits. We ordered:

  • The Floss – Cherry gin, pomegranate syrup, cherry jam and cranberry juice garnished with candy floss
  • Cotton Candy Cosmo – Vanilla vodka, cointreau, cranberry juice, vanilla syrup and lemon juice served with cotton candy
  • Smokey Maple Old Fashioned – Woodford reserve bourbon, maple syrup, orange bitters in a jar with smoked Maplewood, garnished with orange peel.
  • Strawberry Banana, Pina Colada – Malibu, banana liqueur, strawberry liqueur, coconut syrup, pineapple juice, cream of coconut and strawberry syrup, garnished with strawberry and orange.

The menu offered a great mix of flavours and spirits, with unique blends to suit everyone’s tastes – from creamy coladas to harder, whisky-based shorts. Mum’s smokey maple old fashioned came served in a sealed jar topped with smoke, which oozed out as it was poured into the glass. Everything looked beautiful, and so, we were even more excited to order food.

Bench don’t serve mains, but instead, a vast selection of small plates designed to pick ‘n’ mix your own bench. The bistro recommend ordering three to four plates per person which you can share amongst the table, or save for yourself! Their sharing plate concept goes for ‘big flavours in small portions’, which are priced between £2 to £6.

As my sister is a vegetarian, we got her to pick a few dishes first, some which only she’d like, and others that could be shared. Those of us who do eat meat did the same and ordered some meaty dishes, and other dishes that everyone could enjoy. After purveying the menu a number of times, we finally settled on the following:

  • Dirty Mac n Cheese – £4.50
  • Pork Belly fingers with zesty apple sauce – £5.50
  • Coq’n’balls (chicken/cheesy) with harissa honey dip – £5.50
  • Curried Chicken Skewers wrapped in garlic naan – £5.75
  • Baked Camembert with caramelised onions, melba toast – £6.00 V
  • Green Beans with harissa and pistachio – £4.00 V
  • Spicy Cauliflower Buffalo Wings with mango yoghurt – £5.00 V
  • Onion Rings – £3.00 V
  • Bread Basket with aioli, olive oil, balsamic vinegar – £4.00 V
  • Thick Cut Chips – £3.20 V
  • Halloumi Fries – £3.95 V
  • Treacle Chips – £4.00 V
  • Curried Falafel Balls, tzatziki – £4.50 V

I’d highly recommend having an idea of what you’d like to order before your arrival to allow more time for chatting and drinking, rather than decision making, particularly if you have someone with specific dietary requirements in your party. You’ll get your food much quicker, too!

The food came delivered on a picnic bench, and we were given Staffordshire Churchill China plates to dish our meals onto. Our server took the time to let us know what each dish was on our bench, including the food that was wrapped up in pick ‘n’ mix bags to conserve heat. We passed each of the dishes round and served ourselves, going in for seconds once everyone had their fill.

The treacle chips were like deliciously sweet and stick tater tots, and the thick cut chips were a fab alternative if you prefer your chips more savoury. Both the halloumi fries and onion rings were crunchy, which was impressive when the kitchen is working to get all this food out in one go. The dirty mac and cheese was really creamy – frankly, I could have eaten one to myself – and the coq’n’balls (yes, pronounced how you think it is) were super tasty.

The baked camembert comes with melba toast, but we also ordered the bread basket to go with that, which was a fab idea – and a special mention must go to the green beans. The most surprising discovery of the day was that I do in fact like green beans, and the spicy sauce on them made them a real treat to eat. Don’t be fooled by the veggies, they’re well worth adding on to your order.

We’d practically ordered the perfect amount of food – so three to four plates  per person is a really good estimate. Left over was a few pieces of bread from the bread basket, a couple of green beans, and one or two cauliflower buffalo wings. It’s worth noting that you’re unable to box up food to take away, though, which is a bit of a shame – so plan your bench wisely!

One bench that was no trouble clearing was the one that Melissa secretly ordered after our food: the Daiquiri bench. Costing £55, it features eight daiquiri cocktails in four flavours, making them around £6.90 each. You can choose from watermelon, bubblegum, banana, peach, elderflower, strawberry, raspberry, passionfruit and pomegranate. Our bench consisted of two bubblegums, two strawberries, two raspberries and two passionfruits, each with a sugar or salted rim. On top of the bench was four little plant pots filled with sour cherries, gummy eggs, squishy mushrooms and bubblegum bottles. It made for a super sweet liquid dessert – however, I do wish I’d saved some room for churros!

Bench is a really pretty bistro with great cocktails and it’s ideal if you prefer to pick at different dishes rather than order one meal. Their afternoon tea also looks really cute, so I think I’ll have to book in for that soon, too!

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