We like it here – so this was just the latest return visit. It’s a place where, when you sit down, you just feel everything is going to be OK. And, generally, that’s OK even when they are busy. And they were busy with two large parties in, but nothing slipped in the service to us. It did make it heckishly noisy though.
As always, there’s a shortish menu, that changes with the seasons and often uses local produce. It’s the sort of menu where I’d happily order any of the dishes. That can make choosing a tad difficult and, on more than one visit, I’ve mentally tossed a coin.
Broccoli & watercress soup was pleasantly thickish with a good, if muted, flavour. In the middle of the bowl was what had been described as a “Stilton fritter” but it was more dumpling in texture (not a bad thing) and it could have done with more cheese. Duck rillettes were really good. There’s almost no need to say that the duck comes from a farm at Goosnargh, near Preston, which supplies many local restaurants. The plate comes with thin slices of toast, watercress, pickled radish and rhubarb. And. it was the rhubarb that made the dish - batons, poached but still with a bite and a puree – they cut through the richness of the duck and gave texture.
We both went with fish for a main course. And both were excellent, in spite of the skin not being crispy and therefore unpleasant to eat. Cod came with grilled Little Gem, peas, brown shrimps and a wild garlic and spinach sauce. Sea bream was a little more substantial, including pink fir potatoes (or “fur” as the menu wrongly has them), thin shavings of fennel and asparagus, and a lemon butter sauce. You could not fault the seasonality of these plates nor could you fault the cooking (leaving aside the issue of the skins).
We often pass on desserts but there was a corner still to be filled. For one of us, that was filled by sticky toffee pudding – invented in Cumbria, it’s a northwest dessert if ever there was one. The pudding itself was light as a feather whilst the caramel sauce was rich and sweet and a little sprinkle of honeycomb gave a bit of texture. Definite winner! The other was a passionfruit panna cotta, perhaps a little overly set for perfection, but tasted good. Alongside, a coconut sorbet and a little mango puree. It also worked.