Tag Archives: east lancs railway

Levanter – Ramsbottom

“A sumptuous crumb of the real Spain…….in Ramsbottom!”

The Flame and I (mainly I) love Ramsbottom. Whenever we are stuck for a ride out, its first on my list as a place to hit. I’ve already jotted a few words here and there about the Sunday market, Hearth Of The Ram and dining on The East Lancashire Railway. It’s a super spot, and now (well for several months actually) to top it all Levanter Fine Foods have opened a quaint, shops width of Spain. What an inspired enterprise this is.

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I’ve stumbled across Fiona and Joe (husband and wife team who own Levanter) several times over the last couple of years. I had the pleasure of devouring a plate of Joe’s paella at a Manchester food festival. I’ve bought their ‘sabrasada’ and fine iberico ham from the stall on Ramsbottom market. They’ve now ditched the outdoor stuff for a more ‘grown up’ existence running their tapas bar. It’s set left just off the Main Street as you walk up from The East Lancs Railway station.

Bar, boards and range
Bar, boards and range

As I say it’s no more than a shop, but somehow, using ‘tardis’ technology they’ve levered in a bar, some tables and chairs, a raised section, some menu boards and a range to cook on. The whole ensemble creates an enchanting Spanish space. And when combined with the wonderfully excitable Fiona marshalling front of house operations you are soon left with that wonderful feeling that you’ve landed in just the right place at the right time.

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After some deliberation The Flame decided a couple of stools at the bar would work for us as we were only ‘nipping’ in for a light lunch. I just about managed to stop myself ordering the Sunday special of 1kg of ‘Txulerton’ Galician steak. At £45 a pop it’s become something bordering on legend status in these parts and it’s easy to see why. We saw a couple come out while we sat at the bar. Read Bacon On The Beechs synopsis here for more details and fine images.

We settled for a more modest selection but nonetheless they all hit the spot. Being a Sunday (and following on from a hectic Saturday night) one has to consider the possibility of certain items being ‘sold out’. Despite the beautifully scribed chalk boards citing an array of fine foods we were encouraged to consult a printed sheet for Sunday lunch. Still plenty to go at.

Tortilla, mixed fish
Tortilla, mixed fish

We settled on a selection of artisan breads with salsa (£3.50), the flame chose slices of acorn fed Iberico Lomo (loin) with rocket and olives (£6) while I settled on the mixed fish of octopus, red mullet, king prawn, whitebait, baby octopus with aioli (£6). We finished with a San Sebastián tortilla (£4) which came out as a sort of warm, fresh, oozy, potato, eggy pie. Being the sweety that I am I had a slab of plum shortcake with cream to finish.

Iberico Lomo, plum shortcake
Iberico Lomo, plum shortcake

Even the flame (who is not a big fan of tapas) was moved to conclude that it had been an absolute delight. She wasn’t too keen on the tortilla and wouldn’t contemplate going anywhere near the baby octopus, but revelled in the quality and variety of the breads, the iberico ham was sublime and even had some of the octopus tentacle which was cooked to perfection. A very decent coffee finished a most pleasurable hour.

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As you can see we didn’t exactly go through the card, but I reckon it must be a revelation to land here on an evening with an empty stomach and a few hours to while away. There’s a good selection of Spanish beers to complement the food. With Joe cooking, Fiona on welcoming duty and a selection of pleasant and eager helpers it is a thoroughly splendid offer. If I thought I liked Ramsbottom before, the opening of Levanter has just moved it to stellar status. I might even have to move here…………

Levanter Fine Foods
10 SQUARE STREET,
RAMSBOTTOM,
LANCASHIRE, BL0 9BE
Tel: 01706 55 1530 (opening hours only)
Email: info@levanterfinefoods.co.uk

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The Red Rose Diner – East Lancashire Railway

“Our very own Orient Express……..in Bury”

We ventured as a foursome to the gritty, northern town of Bury. I say gritty, but an afternoon stroll revealed it to in fact be pretty heftily furnished with colourful blooms. Maybe it’s upping its game? We were loosely celebrating a special birthday. A quick tour of the market, a black pudding, a pint in the ‘The Two Tubs’ before an afternoon relax at ‘The Rostrevor’ hotel.

Bury in bloom
Bury in bloom

 

Suitably spruced, we set out once again to take our place on ‘The Red Rose Diner’, a steam hauled dining train which is birthed at the rather excellent ‘East Lancashire Railway’. We are promised a step into a world of vintage glamour and sophistication with an ultimate foodie experience.

The Trackside Pub
The Trackside Pub
Real Ale
Real Ale

Well first things first. This little jaunt has a rather fortuitous starting post. It resides right next to ‘The Trackside’ pub. The pub itself is set in former railway buildings on the platform at Bury Bolton Street station. It’s mission appears to be to offer more real ales than any other pub I’ve ever been. I think it is succeeding. The place was packed with locals and Red Rose customers alike. A pint of ‘Piston Broke’ was ordered to oil the cook twit pipes. The platform remained a thriving sea of well stocked eggs, ready to take their place on the chocolate and cream diner.

 

Our steed and the merry throng
Our steed and the merry throng

Once ensconced into our romantic four berth booth we quickly got on with sorting out the next round of booze. My hawk eyed celebrant and partner had picked up on the sensational note that your own grape juice could be brought on board. A couple of ‘bots’ of Tuscany’s finest was acquired from the local M&S. The less hawk eyed had failed to pick up on the £7.50 corkage fee (or screw top removal fee!), thus rendering any monetary gain as negligible. Still it was good plonk.

With the vino sorted we were then presented with a goblet of bubbly to quaff with our first course of Galia melon complete with a couple of spoonfuls of forest fruits. If I was being picky, the melon was a tad ripe for me and was for all practical purposes impenetrable using the prescribed, humble teaspoon. However I persevered and at least achieved a cleansing of the palate. It looked good though, as with everything here it was presented with elegance and elan. By this time the train had chuffed nonchalantly from its sidings and hit the Irwell straight at a heady 25mph.

The melon and soup course
The melon and soup course

Next up the soup course. This was a much better effort for me. Mushroom and stilton soup. The flame was perturbed, her least favourite soup, not sure where the stilton was but there was plenty of earthy mushrooms on offer. It tasted wonderful and had a proper mushroom colour too. The loco had rested by now on the spectacular Sommerseat Viaduct, offering stunning but ever darkening views of the river beneath.

The more experienced waiting operatives shimmered in and out from service like an expectant Jeeves whilst the young helpers fluttered around. The service was all rather pleasant. Young and old alike providing the food and unscrewing the wine top. The mains were up next. The hot plate presented first with a piping hot, herb crusted cod. A decent wedge too. The young flutterers lined up to add the basic veg of carrots and green beans along with Lyonnais potatoes and roast potatoes. I think we managed to acquire a fairly exclusive romesco sauce to add piquancy and moisture. Considering the obvious kitchen constraints the food was presented very well and arrived piping hot. It was tasty too. A further rest on Ramsbottom station afforded the neat idea that we were truly living in the vintage past. Some old cases were piled up on the platform.

The herby cod and veg
The herby cod and veg

The train wended its way further up the line towards Rawtenstall where the fine crimson steed was allowed to rest and slink back from the front to restart the non stop rumble back. A dessert of creme brûlée and a shortbread biscuit sweetened the occasion washed up with a decent coffee and mints.

Creme brûlée, great vintage views
Creme brûlée, great vintage views

Some three hours later we found ourselves back at The Trackside for a nightcap. The whole shebang had notched up a fee of £44 each. A bit pricey? Perhaps, but presumably we were adding some coinage to keep this wonderful locomotive and it’s rolling stock in the gleaming condition it was in. It’s all kept together by the honest toil of enthusiastic volunteers. If I’m honest the actual food bit was nothing too special. Very Good? yes, exceptional? Not really. Compared to a decent, contemporary restaurant it was left a bit wanting. It was a basic menu with no choice, but it was served beautifully, and was nice and hot. The Red Rose dining experience is all about the setting and the drama of travelling by steam and recreating the heady decadence of a time gone by. It does that in spades.

Elegance and the menu
Elegance and the menu

Red Rose Diners are the ultimate dining experience, perfect for romantic meals and friendly get-togethers. Red Rose Diners run on selected Fridays and Saturdays between February and November.

The happy throng. L-R The celebrant & partner, The Flame, The Cooktwit
The happy throng. L-R The celebrant & partner, The Flame, The Cooktwit

Bolton Street, Bury BL9 0EY
T: 0161 764 7790 (lines open daily 10am – 4pm)
http://www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk

 

Hearth of the Ram – Ramsbottom

Somehow The Flame had bagged herself a week with the girls in Tenerife. This left yours truly all alone, cast adrift like a ‘Pop Idol’ winner. What should I do? The Cook Twit is a resourceful soul, off I went, armed with an iPhone and a natty man bag! The weather and public transport was kind and within the hour I found myself teleported into the gritty market town of Bury, home of the black pudding and the original Katsouris delicatessen. I grabbed a brace of said puddings (after several tasters) from Chadwick’s. My only gripe was not being able to stock up on the cracking seafood and fish on offer in the rather splendid food hall.

Next up a steam train ride up the Irwell Valley to Ramsbottom. Not before a well earned restorative at the The Trackside Pub on Bury Station. A light, pint of ‘Piston Broke’ oiled the pipes. As luck would have it The East Lancashire Railway was having a Thomas the Tank Engine weekend! This meant my short weave up the line was shared by several thousand screaming little people all painted up as lions!

Still, my ultimate quest was in sight. A short skip right from the station in Ramsbottom found me worshipping at the altar, hitherto known as the ‘Hearth of the Ram’. First impressions leading up were somewhat tainted as the former pub is adjoined to a highly branded dental surgery, still I managed to get a decent shot showing that the Ram itself also sports a modern logo which traces through the menus and website. I thought it looked quite smart and gave the impression that this was a serious set up looking to trade with up to date techniques whilst revitalising and maintaining a building from the past.

A veritable, phalanx of friendly and attentive staff sat me down and presented the rather smart menus. Oh yes and a pint of Timothy Taylor! One menu was entitled ‘Simple Things Done Well’, the other was the ‘a la carte’. As this was a Saturday afternoon I thought I’d give the a la carte a side swipe until another time. It did look good though, how about ‘poached smoked haddock, truffle cream, soft poached duck egg and black truffle’ to start (£8.95), or as a main ‘seared Goosnargh duck breast, potato fondant, beet root gel, kale with a ginger and orange sauce’ for £18.95?

I surveyed the decor whilst I waited for the first course. It seemed a little sparse if I’m honest, perhaps Euan and Dena are waiting to for a few more nick knacks from the past to build it up? But hey minor quibble, the wooden tables, stone floor, red leather banquettes made for a charming space. The room is dominated from my eye by the steely stairway which spirals it’s way from down below to way up high. Maybe in its industrial past it housed some sort of winch to haul wrought iron from the Irwell?

Anyway to the food! From the ‘Simple’ menu I started with Quail, Scotch Egg (£1.95). Heathens might suggest this was presented in an egg carton with some straw on a plank, but I would beg to differ. It was delivered on a batten of driftwood, nestling in a pocket of the softest raffia. I thought it was a delight. The egg itself was encased in soft, moist, peppery goodness. I ate it with my hands, it was gorgeous.

Next I plumbed in from the sea, I went for the Hearty Fish Pie (£8.95). Piped in its own ceramic cauldron, armed with a separate cup of samphire, green beans and buttery carrots, it once again kept well up with expectation. I could have chosen from other pub favourites such as the 28 day aged beef burger, or the steak and ale pie.

I then thought I would test the chef out. I had an awful Apple Tarte Tatin a few weeks back, but the ‘Hearth of the Ram’ turned up trumps this time. Theirs was just as the doctor ordered, ‘caramelly’ (is that a word? Ed), buttery and sweet (£5.95). I’m even sure there was some coriander in the garnish which added a twist. I wolfed it with a sweet wine.

I ventured out somewhat woozy from the wine and missed the train back to Bury. I managed to thumb a bus and was soon back in Manchester before heading off into the sticks. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day (even Utd won!) and can honestly say the ‘Hearth of the Ram’ is definitely a place I will go back to. I might even take ‘the flame’!

Hearth of the Ram
13 Peel Brow
Ramsbottom
Lancashire
BL0 0AA
01706 828861
www.hearthoftheram.com