Tag Archives: ribble valley

Top Dishes of 2017

It’s that time of year again, a time to whip out the old phone pics and bag a quick blog post. Its my eating highlights of 2017. As ever there has been some great feeds. I have merely chipped a few down that seem worth mentioning. I’m sure I know I will have missed a few out, but here goes…..

First up, one of my fave new places, ‘Friends of Ham’ in Leeds. A simple slice of pigs cheek on sourdough with a potato salad and a pint of hazelnut mild. Simple but delicious. I urge everyone to try.


Had a super meal at the rejuvenated ‘Beastro’ (review here) in Spinningfields, Manchester. Steak is a speciality. They go from strength to strength. Well worth a visit anytime of day. The signature breakfast wrap sooths hangovers like a dream……


An unusual but rather splendid meal was had at a campsite in Conwy, North Wales. It was at ‘Signatures’. Despite catering for thirty odd people, a fine dining experience for just over thirty quid was enjoyed. Get your camping gear on chaps…..


One found oneself wholed up in Tenby, South Wales. A rather agreeable crab timbale and a fresh sea-trout at ‘The Plantagenet House’ by The Harbour worked wonders for the soul. recommended if you’re ever as far west in Wales as you can possibly get.


A surprisingly decent crab salad with herbs and asparagus was had at ‘The Rose and Crown’, which was sadly a rather garish and unassuming gastropub in Fishguard. That said they have a chef who knows what he is doing. Simple exquisite.


Ventured to old favourite ‘Baratxuri’ in Ramsbottom for a lunchtime snack, ended up sat in their new ‘comedor’ (dining room!) having a full chicken with all the trimmings! I’ve run out of superlatives for this place. You must go.


I love a reuben! Manchester’s street food heroes ‘Northern Soul’ do a superb New Yorker. Cheese toasties on steroids.


Seafood specialist and newcomer to Manchester ‘Randall and Aubin’ (reviewed here) provided a sumptuous array of oysters, crab and tuna for our wedding anniversary this year. Their twitter feed highlights many other delights. The fish and chips looks like a winner.


Talking of fish and chips, we stumbled on ‘The Ferry Tavern’ in Penketh near Warrington.  It’s all it does! It does it well though and a nice view of the Mersey gateway Bridge…..


Took a colleague for a corking lunch in Manchesters Nothern Quarter. They have a new authentic mexican restauraunt called ‘El Taquero’. We loved it.  Pork and pineapple taco anyone? Say yes when asked…..


I’ve mentioned many times that you can press a pin blindfold onto a map of The Ribble Valley and you will find somewhere decent to eat. Came by accident across ‘The Aspinall Arms’ in Mitton near Whalley. Corking pigeon starter amongst.


Trooped round Shoreditch on my own one Saturday. Fellow foodies pointed me to Smokestak. Unfortuantely I’d eaten but managed to squeeze these sticky pig tails in as a little snack. Will be back for a full feed one day.


The Boys hit Dublin in a rainy January. away from Temple Bar we stumbled on Darkey Kellys. Best Guiness and a blimnding Guiness stew for a hearty lunch. Recommended.


Finally and easily the best meal of the year for me. My birthday bash was spent at Simon Rogans’s Michelin starred L’Enclume. Stunning food in a fabulous setting with a glorious front of house. I need to go again and again. Review here.


So there it is for now. By no means exhaustive. I could have added many burger pics! but youve seen them before. Hope to add a bit more diversity in 2018, going to Cuba soon. What do they eat there?……


The White Hart – Sabden, Lancashire

“Looks like The Ribble Valley has another gem! This time in Sabden!”

The latest instalment of our tri-annual jaunt with Yorkshire folk led me to stick a pin between the grand metropolis of Leeds and the less grand, township of Newton-le-Willows. The pin fell in Sabden, a quaint village set in the bowels of a huge, natural bowl between the majestic tarmac strips of the A59 and the M65! The pin further picked out ‘The White Hart’, a hitherto unknown emporium of fine ales and home cooked fuel. The Flame and I set out to meet our Yorkshire counterparts.


The plan was to walk around the nearby reservoir and retreat to ‘The Hart’ for refreshments. What really happened was that we sat in, had a pint and called in our two thirty appointment an hour early. The delightful Lydia led us to our spartan table. Our initial comfort hindered by the brilliant winter sunshine pouring through the untreated windows. A large, well balanced menu card was hastily positioned to ward off the blinding light.


Its smart enough from the outside. Like many of the refurbished Thwaites outlets, its white with gold lettering and the red logo. Inside, It’s a large square room with the bar set in the centre. You can walk round it and set down in one of four separate spaces. Its very much brown and beige. Not too many soft furnishings. It’s a bit spartan to be honest, but cosy enough once we sat down.

Settled in, we marvelled at the sensational menu and specials board. A veritable phalanx of Lancashire classics swept across my vision. Could have placed a pin anywhere and I would have been in heaven, lamb confit hotpot, goosnargh chicken, Lancashire cheese and onion pie……superb stuff. IMG_1827

We ordered up and soon our starters of Risotto Verdi, asparagus and pea in a parmesan basket (£6), homemade mushroom soup (a mere £4), brisket corned beef hash cake, poached egg (£6) and a roasted sardine with caper dressing (£6), turned up, together, all piping hot. We were all suitably enthralled with our choice. My parmesan crisp a delight, the corned beef hash a major triumph.

For mains I went for the Pendle rack of lamb, tempura black pudding, black pepper mash (£19), a fellow cohort went roast goosnargh chicken breast with garlic dauphinoise potatoes, crispy bacon and sage (£16), The Flame a baked fish pie (£14) whilst our final guest went braised steak and blue cheese pot pie with crushed garden peas, puffed pastry top and fries (£15).


The lamb rack beautifully pink and soft, chicken moist and tasty, the fish pie as good as anywhere and the braised steak reported in as a revelation. As I think you’ll agree it all looked rather splendid.


Only a couple of us went sweet. Me the bruled lemon tart, whilst Julie went for the poached rhubarb cheesecake with a milkshake, both £6. My tart was presented wonderfully and rounded things off superbly. The cheesecake though, even better. Great portion too.


The chef today was Martin. The owners Dan and Becky have really got things going well here. They have also taken over The Griffin in nearby Huncoats and also The Station Inn in Clitheroe centre, which Dan was painting on the afternoon we were there! If this is what we can expect then theres another two fine additions to The Ribble Valley experience. The scene is really prospering up there. I think Ill be up there every week…….

The White Hart Inn
36 Padiham Road
01282 777862

The Assheton Arms – Downham, Clitheroe

“Yawn, yet another Lancashire pub chain serving local, quality food with wonderful hospitality!”

It’s early December, The Cooktwit has bagged a day off and decided to treat The Flame to a slap up lunch out in the sticks. The in car navigation system is set to The Assheton Arms, Downham Village, Clitheroe. Why here? I liked the sound of its parents! The Seafood Pub Company. Anyone with seafood in its title is going a long way in my eyes.

Great frontage, great view
Great frontage, great view

Downham Village is a pleasant, rural bolt hole a couple of miles outside foodie hub Clitheroe. Indeed it would seem you can stick a pin anywhere in the Lancashire/Ribble Valley and hit somewhere good to eat. I’ve already reported the fine virtues of The Parkers Arms and The Three Fishes, both close by.  Despite the wintry date, the weather was kind. Overcast but still and mild, great for walking but thwarted the wonderful views from the terrace as we walked in.

Once inside, two fine gentlemen greeted us warmly, almost as warmly as the roaring fire. Having ascertained our 1pm booking was all in order we biffed up a deck to a rather charming dining salon. Resplendent with muted tartan and country hues it felt like a big cuddle from a favourite, buxom aunt (obviously the one with curlers out and teeth in!). Splendid views across ‘them there hills’ were afforded from a picture window.

Table, muted tartan, picture window
Table, muted tartan, picture window

A restorative livener was sanctioned in the shape of a Thwaites Wainwrights golden Ale. An excellent start. The Flame and I settled on our naturally lit, circular table to survey the card.  And what a splendid card it was. The offerings headed by cooking method rather than courses. Smoked, Robata Grill, Clay Pot, Street Food, Boat, Snacks, Specials and Starters. It’s a lovely menu.

Bar, missed the log fire!
Bar, missed the log fire!

As expected seafood and fish gets a heady billing, but there’s plenty for everyone here on this highly eclectic menu. Flavours and influences seem to come from all over the world. Caribbean Cod Cakes, Piri piri swordfish, Chicken with lemongrass, Goan King Prawn Curry all mixed in with local favourites.

The Flame decided on the fishy side for starts and main. The aforementioned Caribbean cod cakes (£4.95) arrived to start simply placed on a slate with a fiery jerk sauce. Very nice though a little dry she thought. Brought to life by the hot, thick, smoky spread.

I ventured in the ‘The little smoke room’ for my starters. I had the potted smoked duck, Scotch quail egg, pickles, salad cream, toast (£7.95). It all arrived attached to its very own, specially honed log.  The log having slots and routered ledges to accommodate the pots and slices of feed. Could have done with a couple more of the quails eggs! The salad cream was runny but utterly ‘delish’. The potted duck and pickles nice enough. A great start, things were going well.

The well huned log, cod cakes
The well huned log, cod cakes

Mains next. The Flame was touched to try the piri piri swordfish (£15.50). An unusual choice for her. She was tricked into the spicy coating and intrigued by the crispy chick peas. It came with a herb and citrus  quinoa salad and  smoked peppers. A heady combination I think you’ll agree? It looked a picture and tasted super as well. I managed a morsel. The crispy chick peas adding a crunchy texture.

I was seduced by one of the days special. A steaming bowl of mixed fish stew (£16). Chomping swabs of sea bass, salmon, scallops lovingly squelched in a lobster bisque, topped with mussels and a crostini with aioli. Just hit the spot for me. As I say I love my seafood!

Fish Stew, Piri piri swordfish.
Fish Stew, Piri piri swordfish.

For research purposes I again was compelled to try a dessert. And boy what a dessert. Peaches and cream custard tart with toasted meringue and raspberry syrup (£5.95).  Served slightly warm it was heaven on  a plate. Needless to say I wolfed the lot.

Peach tart with meringue!
Peach tart with meringue!

The Seafood Pub Company is gradually adding country pubs to its portfolio. It has six in all so far. If they are all as good as this it means we’ve got plenty of places to go at for a nice drive out. Ill be giving them a go. So should you.



The Assheton Arms Downham, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 4BJ
Phone: 01200 441 227
Email: info@asshetonarms.com




The Three Fishes – Mitton Nr Whalley, Lancashire

After a splendid morn at a local food festival in the beautiful Lancashire fells, the flame and I were faced with a dilemma. Where to eat lunch on a sunny bank holiday Sunday? By chance we hit upon a sign for Mitton. A light flickered, “I’m sure that means The Three Fishes is near here” I beamed? Sure enough a few moments later the oasis homed into view. Bingo, lets hope we can get in!

A friendly chap suggested we get a brew while we wait the forty five minutes for a table. Despite an initial disappointment that the Thwaites Wainwrights was off, spirits were quickly raised once we were sat outside in the sun with a pint of Moorhouse White Witch and an iced spritzer. It wasn’t long before we were beckoned to our beautifully lit table in the long stone room inside.
To those who don’t know, ‘The Three Fishes’ is the first of four posh grub outlets schemed into view by Northern Uberchef Nigel Howarth. Branded as the ‘Ribble Valley Inns’ they champion fayre that is grown, butchered and caught in and around Lancashire and its coast. And a splendid job they do.

The Fishes has just had a makeover. I remember it in light oak panel work but it now seems to have more exposed stone and it looks like the ‘Farrow and Ball’ shop has done well. But hey it looks great, teamed up with bright red leatherwork it ticks the contemporary stable box for me! The food hero pics still adorn the walls.

The RVI’s all feature traditional British favourites done with a new look twist. We started with a shared dips and bread. We were presented with a mound of bread, crackers, pickled veg, dips and crudités. It was supposed to be a light starter as the flame wasn’t that hungry but by hokey it was good. The flame munched into a creamy fish pie whilst I plumbed in for ‘Nigel Howarth’s Lancashire Hot Pot’. I’ve always wanted to try this having seen him make it on telly a few times. It didn’t have the lamb chop poking out, but ye gods it was packed with hunks of lamb, peppered beautifully with onions topped with waffer thin spuds. Spicy cabbage and chips accompanied. It was all unctuous and filling.

I couldn’t resist and had to try the Black Forest cheesecake. It was sensational, pepped up nicely with kirsch saturated cherries. The flame even got a bite size Eccles cake with her coffee!

It looks like all is well at Howarths. The place was packed and we were served wonderfully by Lucy, who even suggested I keep some of the bread from the starter to dunk in my hot pot. You can’t beat that for service!

The Three Fishes, Mitton Road, Mitton, Nr Whalley, BB7 9PQ
01254 826888