Tag Archives: jay rayner

The White Swan at Fence, Lancashire

“By pure coincidence I am reading Commandment 5 in his book The Ten Commandments of Food by Jay Rayner. It states “Thou Shalt Not Cut Off The Fat”. I had a glorious piece of beef with globs of golden fat at The White Swan at Fence. Its where all the flavour is!”

The White Swan has been on the list for sometime, indeed Jay Rayner himself has dined and proclaimed allegiance to this quaint little public house in the rural shadows of Pendle Hill. Its yet another glorious stab on the map for Lancashire.

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We began the hours run in glorious sunshine, but on arrival the clouds had descended. The poor light didn’t particularly help the aspect. The building appeared more brown cygnet than graceful white Swan. It is small, out of the way, and next door’s scaffolding grafted at one end added to the slightly disappointing initial impression. Venturing round the back there is some smart outdoor seating, which I’m sure would be most welcoming in better weather. That said once inside things soon picked up. Despite not many people being inside there was an immediate warmth as we were welcomed in with a beaming smile.

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A glorious, polished welcoming bar hits first. A larger, naturally lit room opens up to the right, a smaller, darker room is left through an arch. Having the pick of the tables we decided this would be the room to go for. It was tastefully festooned with local countryside accoutrements. A couple of full antlered deer had hit the walls hard from outside and candlelit pentagons ladened the cills. We settled with a pint of Timothy Taylor’s and ruminated over the bijou and well set menu. It’s a simple A5 card clipped to a board. Three starts, three mains, three afters. Simplicity itself.

As ever for me a blindfold and a pin would have sufficed. The Flame however, was struggling a bit with the limited choice. We got there though.

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Potato skins, girolles, egg & truffle, the cheese biscuits

For starters The Flame had the stuffed jacket skins with Lancashire cheese and chives (£5). I went for the Scottish girolles, runny egg and truffle sauce (£8). It came in a curvaceous bowl, the yolk was wonderfully sous vide and soon melded into the buttered girolles. I ate it with a spoon. It was absolutely sublime.

For mains The Flame went for the Lune wild salmon, girolles, lemon and lovage (£18). Beautifully cooked and presented she was a little disappointed with the portion size and lack of sides. We had an extra portion of the sunday trimmings to bolster the offer.

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Pink Dexter beef with all the trimmings

I went for the dexter beef and all the sunday trimmings (£18). Ive never had dexter beef before but it wont be the last time. Not sure Ive ever had beef as tasty as this. Cooked pink with a swathe of golden fat along one edge it was totally ‘historic’. The trimmings were just as good too. As the Masterchef greengrocer would say “smooth, hot buttery mash and beautifully seasoned”. Buttery barrelled carrots and cabbage, great yorkshires and cauliflower cheese though the ‘roastie’ was a bit over to be honest.   All in all a great sunday roast.

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The lune salmon with girolles lemon and lovage

As ever a dessert for me. Baked egg custard, bilberries and earl grey tea ice cream (£7). Never has the term ‘less is more’ been more apt to describe the genius of this delightful morsel of sweet heaven. As Mr Rayner himself quotes “no one needs dessert”, as we are always full from our savoury courses, but thankfully I persevered! It was simply stunning, I could have eaten bowls of it.

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The mammoth cheeseboard and the sublime egg custard

The Flame had two cheeses from the cheeseboard (£6), I say cheeseboard, more like a cheese table! I reckon the HSE should get involved it must have weighed a ton. Ive never seen so much cheese. But fair play, the jovial waitress described every one. We settled on a red Leicester and a sensational Killeen goats cheese Gouda. Thats going on the list as a buy!

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The bill came in at £75 with a tip. Hardly your two for a tenner gaff this! This is a real food lovers experience, Its probably fair to say if you are a bit fussy this might not be for you. As for me I’d happily eat here everyday for ever……..

white swan

300 wheatley lane road

fence

bb12 9qa

01282 611773
http://www.whiteswanatfence.co.uk

Open Farm Sunday 2014 – Red Bank Farm

The Cooktwit is blessed. No question, He is blessed. He lives near Red Bank Farm. Red Bank Farm is in Newton-le-Willows, a small industrial town, famous for locomotives, canals, arches, The Bulls Head and biscuit machinery! Sadly, all that has gone (including The Bulls Head!). It now has lots of houses, but, within a short scutch of its heart, rolling fields of grass and golf start to appear. Arguably the greatest use of this green bit of Newton-le-Willows is the provision of sheds and grazing pasture for an array of farm animals notably cattle, sheep and pigs. Red Bank Farm studiously manages the raising of these beasts and then rather thoughtfully, arranges to have them slaughtered and beautifully butchered for me to buy. I have tried many cuts over the years and never been less than stunned at the quality. So when a national initiative called ‘Open Farm Sunday’ breaks out it was the work of a moment to get down to Red Bank and see what happens.

A celebration of farming
A celebration of farming

Open Farm Sunday began in 2006. The idea quite simply is for participating farms to open up behind the scenes and allow visitors to wander round and see the animals and machinery that make it all happen. As you might expect the emphasis is on making all this appeal to families and in particular children. Whatever Red Bank Farm had laid on this year seemed to have worked. Newton was in gridlock as cars filled the makeshift carpark and lined the main A49 road into the town.

Crowds and machinery
Crowds and machinery

As myself and The Flame had walked it was a stress less entry to the hallowed grounds. I guess there was hundreds of people milling around the farm. Farm hands thoughtfully placed to explain to the children what the animals are and how they are managed. Shetland ponies gently sauntered, whilst all the remaining animals where caged but prominently displayed for the children to see and touch. Hefty, high tech machinery was strategically placed for child photo opportunities. I tried to get one myself but the flame wouldn’t let me! Birds of prey swooped in and out from up high, taking one child high up in the sky before letting him drop (no I made that up, just adding a bit of texture!!).

The stars of the show. The animals
The stars of the show. The animals

Highlight for me was the butchery demonstration. Scheduled for 1pm, big John, dressed in red in a red tent behind some red bunting stepped forward with a side of pig over his shoulder. The crowd went wild. Well the kids did anyway, I couldn’t get anywhere near. John started to hack, saw and slice his way through this wondrous pink carcass. The kids remained transfixed wondering why there wasn’t any blood! It was amazing to watch. The quality of the meat was clearly evident. John merely having to rest his knife on the flesh to create another saleable cut. After about twenty minutes the beast was left presented in trays. All yours for £100. A bargain.

Big Johns butchery demo
Big Johns butchery demo

The first Open Farm Sunday welcomed around 30,000 visitors. Since then, Open Farm Sunday has achieved visitor numbers of over 100,000 each year and on 9th June 2013 had a record 200,000 visitors! To date over one million people have attended Open Farm Sunday events since it began. I’m sure this year has been just as successful. The sun was shining and the cars kept coming even when we left.
Thankfully I can come back next week and keep on buying this amazing produce. I am immensely proud having been born in Newton that I can buy meat raised and butchered (by Nicola and Joanne) here in Newton as well. Having read Jay Rayner’s wonderful ‘Greedy man’ book, I accept that globally, communities cannot all sustain themselves and that I am extremely fortunate to be able to buy this produce locally and afford to buy it. At least I know by supporting local businesses I am helping in a small way for a local business to survive. Long may Red Bank Farm and all other farms continue. Use them or lose them, that’s what I say.

The produce
The produce

Red Bank Farm Shop,
Winwick Road,
Newton Le Willows,
WA12 8DU
Tel: 07824 369174
http://www.farmshopnorthwest.co.uk