“These RVI (Ribble Valley Inns) pubs are still doing it well, though others are cathcing up”
Been to a few of these, there are four in total. The Three Fishes in Mitton was our first. They all boast high standards of produce from local artisans. Images of Jeff and his bangers, Mavis and her sourdough and others adorn the wallsto emphasise the deal. The Clog and Billycock in sleepy Pleasington, a rural village on the outskirts of Blackburn, maintains the tradition.
Another feature of them all is the smart decor and impressive fit out materials. No nailed on OSB and cheap ply in the Ribble Valley Inn group. Veneered, light oaks and high end fabrics create a sumptuous feel.
The menus and food are great too. Its extensive Lancashire based fayre. Nigel Howarth’s hot pot, fish and chips, black puddings, scotch eggs, they’re all here. As it happens we chose from the rather inviting separately printed, spring menu.
The Flame had wonderfully spiced chicken livers on sourdough, my slightly disappointing start was a rather dry fish cake, with an equally dry egg, which was, however, just saved by the swamp of creamy leeks that it sat on.
Mains were a triumph. Super fish pie whilst I had the best moules frites since an alfresco lunch in Lille in 1990! I finished with the delightful white chocolate and lemon curd posset which came festooned with spring fruits.
Since we went a few weeks back the press later announced that the Northcote/Nigel Haworth alliance was selling the four RVI emporiums. I hope they go to a good home and maintain the standard. They are a rare treat.
The Clog & Billycock Billinge End Rd,
T 01254 201163
“Another quality addition to Nigel Haworth’s Ribble Valley Pub Chain”
I’ve always had a soft spot for the RVI pubs. Ever since The flame treated me to an overnight sesh at Northcote Manor we have kept a keen eye on developments of the Northcote offshoots. There are five now. From “The Three Fishes”, reviewed previously here to “The Bull at Broughton”. The original four are dotted up North in the bowels of Lancashire (although one strays close to Yorkshire!). The Nags Head at Haughton is the first excursion into deepest Cheshire. And blimey it is an excursion as well. It was labelled as Tarpoley, but it seems a fair few more miles before you hit Haughton. Mind you it’s a handsome sight as the sat nav informs you that you have finally made it.
This is what the term “quintessential rural country pub” was invented for. A soft timbered, red tiled dwelling surrounded by greenery and gravel. A vast outdoor seating area dominates to the right as you enter. The weather was a little mixed when The Flame and I rocked up. I could imagine on a barmy summers eve the garden could be a thriving village with its own name! It was a wet Sunday Lunch when we turned in. We had booked a table for two at two on the efficient website. It’s only been open a few months, I reckon the place was half full, but by the time we left it had swelled considerably. A good sign.
Spot The Dead parrot! Nice plumage.
It’s fairly clear some serious wedge has left the wallet of the RVI encumbents. A substantial, mock tudor hangar has been grafted on to the original modest dwelling. Some of the timbers looked real! The decor and fittings are all top notch. The colour scheme and material selection is exactly how you would never do it at home, but somehow it works. A complete mismatch of materials, colours and patterns, fused by the dominance of petrol blue and cream. I even think there was a dead parrot on one of the fabrics. It had nice plumage anyway. The tables and chairs are smart, contemporary, comfortable and well sized for the job in hand.
More Interior design
So what about the grub. Well as I say it was a Sunday lunch menu, printed neatly black on white. I’ve don’t recall a bad course at an RVI. The closest I’ve been was probably here for my starter. Pigeon, black pudding Kiev, with pickled carrot and a few other bits and pieces. The expectant ooze of buttery garlic failed to materialise. I was left with a rather dry fork of gamey flesh. It was marginally moistened and enhanced when matched with a morsel of soused carrot. It was fairly good but no where near as good as The Flames’ chargrilled sardines on sourdough toast and a rafagado sauce. Thankfully the flame quickly realised this was a significant portion and slapped a quarter of the feast on to my plate. Blimey this was good, real quality. Thoroughly enjoyed.
Sardines, the brew, drinks, pigeon kiev
For mains the flame again came up trumps. A staggering goosnargh chicken leg and ham pie with peas, beans and lettuce. Served with an element of drama it came with the leg bone protruding through the top. It looked superb and when opened up it looked even better. Plenty of salty ham, clung together with a hint of tarragon cream. It was delish. The flame complained of a soggy bottom but I told her to carry on with the exercises, I’m sure it will tighten up (she meant the pie! – Ed). Again such was the portion size that I managed a few fork fulls. A truly handsome plate of food.
Amazing chicken ham pie, a decent hake and chips
I played too safe. Battered Hake and real dripping cooked chips, homemade tartare sauce and crushed garden peas. Beautifully cooked and presented it tasted great as expected, but I must admit I had an envious glance at the next table who had the Sunday roast. Some corking slabs of aged Angus rump. That really did look well. They even took a photo of it. How sad is that? I’ll be back for some of that.
Handsome bar, fancy toilet tiles!
For research purposes I had a chocolate sundae, largely to try the ice cream from Ginger Comforts. It was rather splendid and finished off a fine meal.
Chocolate Sundae, menu, gun table
So there you have it. Nigel and the Ribble Valley Inn chain have moved south and into Cheshire. The Sunday lunch cost £21 for the three courses. A couple of quid over some I suppose but getting your ingredients from local artisans such as the Cheshire Smokehouse don’t come cheap. Let’s hope it’s the first of a few more. It’s a bit of a trek for some but I think it’s worth it. Recommended.