[Langho, Blackburn] Northcote

An Easter lunch.

Northcote’s canapes are good. OK, everything to eat at Northcote is good. In several visits over the years, I can’t recall ever having a duff dish. It’s one of those places where the kitchen wants you to eat good food and front of house wants you to have a nice time. But back to those canapes. There’s their own sausage roll – and it’s, erm, really good. As is a Jerusalem artichoke dip, with lovely crisp crackers.

The lunch menu over the weekend has had a good format. Soup to start, then four choices at each course, finishing up with coffee and Simnel cake.

In the soup bowl were some shreds of leek and some larger slivers of crisp potato skin. The soup, which is creamy leek, is poured round. And it’s a proper portion, not an amuse bouche portion. There’s a good bread selection including one we’ve had before – an outstanding Lancashire cheese one. It goes particularly well with the soup.

For a starter, there’s cod cheeks. They sit on strips of ham hock and lardo, marrowfat peas and, another regular item from Northcote, black pea houmous. The cod is topped with a bacon crumb. It’s a knockout balance of flavours and looks pretty good – but not as pretty as the other starter. That features a small “cigar” of filo, encasing Leagrams sheep’s curd cheese which is nicely tangy. A spoonful of a wetter version of the curd is milder and acts as a sauce. But it’s the scorched and then pickled vegetables that make the plate look as lovely as it ate. Cauliflower, artichoke and baby beetroot had been given a charring and then a light pickle. A bit of micro greenery and nasturtium leaves gave a delicate edge to it.

Monkfish had been given a coating of tandoori spices and then oven blasted. It was spot on for texture and flavour. A fennel coleslaw worked so well. Lightly spiced bulgher wheat made a pleasant enough carb but it wouldn’t have gone amiss for there to have been more assertive spicing. There’s also a mini-naan which I thought overly thick and doughy – the sort of naan Mum might have got at Iceland.

The other plate was almost overflowing with a classic roast beef Sunday lunch. Generous slices of sirloin, cooked as requested to medium. There’s mashed and roast spuds. And mixed veg – broccoli, green beans, carrots. Perhaps the star of the show was a half an onion which had been fully cooked (sous vide? ) and then given a charring on its cut side. It’s lovely – sweet and yet bitter from the char. It’s all set off by a gravy that was absolutely bang on.

Desserts were both good and both very different from each other. In the bottom of the bowl of one, were slices of blood orange, topped with an orange fool. That was topped with a sprinkle of lemon granita which, in itself, was topped by meringue “biscuits” – the meringue pressed flat so as to be crispy. Really good. The other plate was a chocolate and caramel tart – perfectly crisp pastry, rich filling which managed to be not overly sweet. As a balance, there’s peanut ice cream and balls of poached pear.

We had coffee in the lounge. Instead of their usual petit fours, there was slice of rich, fruity Simnel cake. And, to take away, a present from the pastry chef – marzipan and chocolate Easter bunnies. Perfect.

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I am drooling all over my keyboard. That sounds like a perfect Easter lunch.

It was for the Easter lunch when we were last at our favourite high end place in the northwest. For this trip, it was an hour’s drive through the autumn drizzle. As always, it’s worth it. As soon as you walk in, you get the feeling that everyone wants to feed you well and make sure you have a nice evening in relaxed surroundings.

So, there’s aperitifs and canapes in the lounge while the menu is read. There’s a full “a la carte” with four choices at each course, a seven course tasting menu together with a five course no choice “Gourmet” menu (which is what we ordered).

The first course was my favourite of the evening. Salmon had been given a treacle glaze, reminiscent of a Japanese teriyaki affair. That eastern spin was picked up by a lime and ginger foam, together with pickled ginger. It all worked so well.

Next up was a dish that might owe its origins to Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge but given a local twist, as the Northcote kitchen often does. There’s the unctuous porridge but it’s Southport shrimps that are stirred through. There’s a spoon resting in the bowl, filled with an intense tomato sauce which, it’s suggested, needs to be stirred through. Fab food.

The next dish was the favourite on the other side of the table. Three small ravioli, filled with celeriac and chestnut. But the star of this plate was the celeriac “tea” that’s poured over. This is intensely flavoured – the essence of celeriac – with the overall flavour heightened by a scattering of trompettes.

Nigel Haworth may be most famous for the Lancashire hotpot he prepared for the Great British Menu programme some years back. We ate it there in 2009 and it was lovely. A “proper” hotpot – one my Mum would have recognised, even though this was a refined Michelin version. Well, that dish is long gone but our final savoury dish was on the menu as “Hot Pot” – actually a deconstructed version of the traditional. All the essential elements are there on the plate. There’s was a long cooked braise of lamb shoulder and a little slice of loin (cooked very pink – you really wouldn’t have wanted it any rarer). Carrot comes as a foam, onion comes as puree, potato is finely shredded and then deep fried as a sort of ball of shreds. And the pickled red cabbage isn’t forgotten. Oh yes , and there’s a battered deep fried oyster that’s excellent and light as a feather – and certainly isn’t traditional in hotpot.

Cheesecake used local apples. This was clever. The cheese mix had been formed into a ball, coated in white chocolate and then coloured to look like a real apple. There’s biscuit crumbs across the plate and a cider sorbet. What a lovely way to come to the end of five courses.

Coffee was good; the petit fours excellent – especially the single bite Eccles cake.

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Northcote is one of those places, we’ve always wanted to try. One of these days…

I see on the map that it’s near Burnley. My husband’s maternal grandfather and all 6 of his siblings lived there back in the Stone Age. Andrew’s talked about finding where they lived, so I’ll urge him on. I must say that I really enjoy hearing people pronounce that name.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold