Worston is a green and peaceful village in the heart of the Ribble Valley. Home to two delightful sheep, a small number of houses and The Calf’s Head – a country house hotel with a 400 year history. By 1998 the Calf’s Head was run down and scheduled to be converted to a private residence. The Calf’s Head website says that “After a huge amount of hard work to rebuild, renovate and extend the building in a sensitive way it has become a very popular Ribble Valley location”.
It certainly is very popular. The large car park is frequently full at weekends with cars spilling out on to the narrow lanes of Worston. So it was time to find out what is the attraction to The Calf’s Head in Worston. With four dining companions I set out to enjoy a summer evening in the Ribble Valley and dinner at the Calf’s Head.
After a slightly hurried and indifferent greeting from the bar man we sat down with our drinks in the older part of the pub. After a relaxing sit down we were escorted to the ‘Glass House’ – cramped conservatory – to dine. It overlooks the large beer garden which itself is overlooked by the magnificent Pendle Hill.
We were given the menu and after a couple of visits from the waitress were ready to order. The menu is presented in an odd style. The large carte, which claims to have been designed in May 2014, looks like something that was drafted up pre-war. The design is dingy and really doesn’t sell the food at all. To some extent this mirrors the food on the menu, it’s a little bit dated and uninspired.
We ordered some nibbles – olives, bread and a raw vegetable fondue. They were fine but nothing to shout about. No one chose to have a starter as the portions in the main courses are generally huge.
Between us we dined on braised steak, salmon & prawn salad, two chicken specials and a chicken curry. It was all enjoyable, there was lots of it and none of us had any problems with our meals. My dish, the braised steak, was a huge slab of lovely tender steak with chips and a dollop of carrot and swede in a pepper sauce. Gastronomically it’s not at the top of the Ribble Valley list. The sauce was poor – tasting like it might even be from a powdered base – but the meat was lovely and I didn’t care.
The Calf’s Head is not going to top any gastronomy lists because it isn’t trying to. It doesn’t want to. The Calf’s Head is unpretentious and offers decent hearty food at a great price. Including drinks the five of us got away with a bill of under a hundred pounds. This is a perfect venue for families. The service was great. Attentive with no huge gaps or chasing waiters for forgotten drinks orders.
The plates are strange, the décor is a little dated and the menus look a mess, but the Calf’s Head in Worston is a popular Ribble Valley destination for good reasons. The location really sets the Calf’s Head apart from much of its competition. The gardens, the views and the setting make a trip to the Calf’s Head well worthwhile and a great experience for all. Children and babies are well looked after with clean and well stocked baby changing facilities and lovely gardens to roam around in. The service is good, the location is stunning and for value for money, few places in the valley can challenge the Calf’s Head.