“He goes not out of his way that goes to a good inn” Old Proverb
And these are right up there. Four refurbished Inns spanning the Ribble Valley, from Skipton in the East to Kirkby Lonsdale in the West. They are:
They are all character filled pubs owned and run by the Northcote Group, co-founded by Michelin Star Chef Nigel Haworth and leading wine expert Craig Bancroft.
I first discovered the Ribble Valley Inns after a pal of mine drove me up to The Three Fishes. After meandering through the wonderful Lancashire countryside we turned up in Mitton. A tiny little village but with two pubs and a large hotel, clearly somewhat of a draw. We had just missed the lunch service and so tucked in to the afternoon bites menu. After a portion of Morecambe Bay Shrimp with Blade Mace butter and toast and a selection of Three Lancashire Cheeses with bread and Fireside Chutney, we were convinced that we’d be back for a rather more substantial sample. After leaving the Three Fishes we drove through the country roads to take a look at the next site for a Ribble Valley Inn – that of the Clog & Billycock. Not much to see at the time surrounded by scaffolding, but clearly another fine old pub to be given a new lease of life.
In the meantime, after a camping trip in the lakes and deciding that we should return to civilisation as quickly as possible, I persuaded a group of friends to stop off at Kirkby Lonsdale and visit The Highwayman. As with The Three Fishes we found a beautifully refurbished old inn that incorporated all the elements of the traditional with the best of the contemporary. Although it is now sometime ago I can remember having the Rabbit Risotto and thoroughly enjoying it.
Next was a return to The Three Fishes with The Hungry Mrs. Now I should say that on this particular visit we had been out the evening before and may or may not have consumed a substantial amount of alcohol. This being the case we both opted for the kind of food that sorts this kind of terrible affliction right out. Burgers. Or as the menu at the time said “Chargrilled Minced Rump” although I believe this has now changed to include the word burger – perhaps as a result of watching two poor hungover wretches desperately searching for salvation!!
The burger itself was delicious, served medium rare with proper dripping-cooked chips (not fries), a pickled cucumber and mustard mayo. Needless to say it fixed us right up.
And so on to the next…..
We recently had the pleasure of being invited out for dinner on a Friday evening. And beggar me if the destination wasn’t The Clog & Billycock. A starter of a Game Terrine followed by a pork dish (the description of which escapes me, but I did take a picture…) which was delicious with creamy mash and lovely salty gravy. Now I happen to like salty food but I did wonder if the pork dish might not have been too salty for some. For dessert, well if you’ve read previous posts you’ll know my appetite for pancakes, so I decided to stick with these. Sugar and Lemon – keep it simple.
Finally I managed to take the trip over to the furthest of the collection. Just on the outskirts of Skipton sits The Bull at Broughton. As I expected an old-fashioned pub from the outside with lots of lovely oak as you step through the door. The Hungry Mrs, TKA and I were all very warmly greeted and shown to our table. In fact I’d have to say that the staff here at The Bull were probably the friendliest and most welcoming of the four. Now this being the first time that TKA had accompanied us it was great to see that the littluns are both welcomed and looked after just as well as the adults. He opted for the burger and chips and was not let down – I think I would’ve liked to have seen some peas or beans on the plate but what he had he ate up. Us bigguns opted for a Cheese & Onion Pie for The Mrs, the Slow Cooked Dry Aged Cap of Angus Beef for yours truly and some Cauliflower Cheese and Onion Rings to share. Once again the food was all delicious, the beef was slightly more cooked than I would have ideally liked but the sauce and accompanying tomatoes were fantastic.
So that is the set done. My overall impression is s really good one. A couple of tiny gripes about the cooking but all in all I have been very impressed. Now some will say that this is all just “pub grub” “nothing special” but for me that is the point. These Inns are all very friendly places where the food consists of traditional meals that you might expect to see on a pub menu anywhere but with great contemporary touches. Much like the buildings themselves. And as more and more pubs close it is fantastic to see proper old-fashioned examples re-invented and kept alive.
The final couple of things to say about these Inns is firstly and as I have mentioned, you might expect to see the items on the menu anywhere – and this is true in general terms – but the food served here is local, seasonal and some of the best produced in the Northwest and this for me makes it a winner. And secondly, these are pubs, that serve proper food. In my opinion, not restaurants that happen to be in an old pub building. I would be happy sitting in any of the four with a decent pint without feeling that I am obliged to eat. Although I wouldn’t need much convincing!!