Category Archives: Uncategorized

Budget

There are some great take aways in The Ribble Valley, and some that are not so great. I’m not going to judge them but delivery a bit of information about some and you can make your own mind up!

Click the thumbnails for information!

Romeros Wilpshire Menu

Romeros In Wilpshire Menu

The Calf’s Head In Worston

calfs-head-worston

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.

calfs-head-worston-garden

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.

calfs-head-worston-menu

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.

calfs-head-worston-vegetable-fondue

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.

calfs-head-worston-braised-steak

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.

calfs-head-worston-salmon-salad

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.

The Aspinall Arms in Mitton, Clitheroe

the-aspinall-arms-mitton-clitheroe

The Aspinall Arms – Was It Worth The Wait?

Dormant for over a year, the Aspinall Arms in Mitton, Clitheroe was in danger of becoming another pub closure, sold off to property developers.

However, Brunning & Price stepped in and after a 6 month refurbishment the Aspinall Arms finally reopened its doors on May 7th. Was it worth the wait? I suspect many of the customers from the previous incarnation of the Aspinall Arms would say no. The once dingy music and comedy venue is unrecognizable. In its place a smart, clean-cut country pub with fine heavy furniture, open fires and a promising menu.

The team behind the reinvention of the Aspinall Arms have really worked wonders. Set on the banks of the River Ribble the extensive garden has been landscaped with picnic table style seating for perhaps one hundred, and a ‘garden room’ constructed which overlooks the river. Masses of windows bathe the interior with rich Ribble Valley light, giving a lovely fresh country feeling to the whole of the pub. Large cast iron fires add to the atmosphere and a long curved bar cuts through the centre of the building. The walls are covered with pictures and photos, local scenes past and present. With so much going on the decor can feel a little busy or crowded.

Not all tables are bookable so it’s usually fine to drop in if you don’t mind a wait. We did just that and our wait was insubstantial. We were shown to one of several dining areas, with seating for about 25 or so, boasting two large well stoked cast iron fires. We were handed the menus and seated next to the fire on a lovely thick wooden table. The daily menu is pretty much the right size with about ten starters and twenty mains, as well as sandwiches, children’s meals and sides, there is something for everyone. The chef Martyn Barnes trained at the Ivy in London – famous for its celebrities rather than its food – has played the menu quite safe. Although it’s great to see some interesting spiced dishes on offer, but most of it is fayre standard to the Ribble Valley – there is a good variety and choice here, but there is a very similar menu on offer at the top of the hill.

spinall-arms-menu

By the time orders had been taken and drinks arrived it was becoming apparent that the army of staff were largely new to battle, although very pleasant and polite it felt like they needed directing and weren’t really up to the standards established by the venue itself.

The starters arrived. The presentation was not too fussy, but clean and elegant perfectly in keeping with the menu. There were three eating in our party and all the starters were enjoyed. The plum and ginger made for an exciting chutney that worked well with the pate. The seared scallops were good but outshone by their black pudding accompaniment, the dish was pleasantly elevated by the minted peas.

scallops

The real winner was the mushroom soup which exceeded all expectations; creamy, earthy, velvety luxury. Delicious.

aspinall arms-mushroom soup

Appetites buoyed by the standard of the first course, another round of drinks was ordered. The waiter didn’t seem too confident with our drinks order, but confirmed he had the right drinks written down and set off on his way. It’s hard to say where he was going, because 20 minutes later he had not returned with our drinks. However, several members of staff had been to attend the fire, which could now be more accurately described as a furnace. It seems mean to complain about keeping a fire well stoked but it was 15°C outside and the restaurant was packed with people. Soon we were increasingly uncomfortable, exacerbated by the lack of drinks, which by now had been reported to a more senior member of staff.

The mains arrived and the drinks turned up not long afterwards.  We had ordered three dishes: braised shoulder of lamb, tandoori hake fillet and finally thyme roast chicken breast.

The main courses all stood up well. Style, flavour and portion size were all good. It was especially pleasing that the Tandoori hake had authentic flavour and was cooked to perfection, as well as the crispy cauliflower bhaji. The current crop of ‘local-is-king’ pubs and restaurants in the Ribble Valley often seem scared to put anything adventurous or experimental on their menus.

aspinall-arms-tandoori-hake

The lamb felt like it had been slow cooked for days, it was so tender it fell apart on the fork, all the fat had rendered down leaving a beautiful hunk of meat that married well with the sweetness of the carrot balanced nicely by the broccoli. The dauphinoise was a little dry and seemingly lacking nutmeg, but the rosemary gravy was lovely and tied everything together well.

aspinall-arms-braised-shoulder-lamb

The chicken was moist and tender, with a good crispy skin and there was a lot of it. The salty bacon lifted the creamy cabbage and taken with the red wine jus, a very well rounded dish.

aspinall-arms-thyme-roast-chicken

On this occasion we were too full to take a dessert and there was an increasing risk of becoming part of the fire.

The Aspinall Arms has changed. It has changed beyond recognition and to the chagrin of a few, for the better. We encountered a couple of problems. As is nearly always the case in large Ribble Valley eateries, money is thrown at the building and décor, the kitchen is well staffed with people who know how to cook, but the service is let down by young, inexperienced staff. But was it worth our wait? Yes it was.

It’s early days and overall things are going well. The food and decor is spot on. With the luxury of a daily menu, hopefully Chef Martyn Barnes will be able to push the Ribble Valley food boundaries with adventurous and experimental new dishes. The Aspinall Arms is definitely challenging to be the standard bearer for Ribble Valley cuisine.

The Foodie

Amico Mio In Whalley – Take Away

pendle-hill-icy-rain

Just a quick addendum to the original review, which you can read here:

After tackling Pendle in the icy rain and thick cloud, I was too tired to cook or go out, so a take away from Amico Mio was ordered!

The food, as has been noted in the past is rarely an issue at Amico Mio, and today was no exception. But sadly there was an issue with the service.

I’m prepared to pay restaurant prices for take away food, if the food is restaurant quality, and I expect good service, why not? So I ordered at 6pm was told my food would be ready at 6.20pm or 6.25pm. Perfect!

I walked in to Amico Mio at 6.25pm hoping my food had not gone cold. It had not. I doubt if it had gone hot at that stage. I waited till 6.45pm without a single apology, or a thank-you on the way out.

amico-mio-whalley-take-away

Why compromise the brand in this way? A free drink after 15 minutes or even just an apology would have kept me happy. I didn’t complain as I shouldn’t have to, but I’ve had better service at Romero’s. If you offer a take away service, and charge restaurant prices then deliver on service.

The Foodie

The Swan With Two Necks In Pendleton

the-swan-with-two-necks-pendleton-exterior

On a beautiful autumn day, after building up an appetite walking over the hills and fields of the Ribble Valley, there can be few places that would look more appealing than the Swan With Two Necks in Pendleton.

Walking through this village is like stepping in to a post card. A lazy brook babbles its way through the heart of the village. A quaint bridge sits opposite The Swan With Two Necks, and behind it all, proudly watching from afar, bathed in low set autumn sun, stands Pendle Hill.

the-swan-with-two-necks-pendleton-road

It was lunch time and I was glad to catch The Swan With Two Necks open and serving food; often I pass by when the traditional opening hours ensure the front door is firmly shut. I walked in to a very warm and hospitable welcome from the landlady. Two real fires burned away at opposite ends of the pub, no further than a stones throw away from one another.

Hundreds of ‘Toby Jug’ style teapots hang from the ceiling, and the walls are crammed with accolades and awards from various Pub Guides and CAMRA, the real ale people. Sadly the ales were wasted on me at that time of day, but the accolades speak for themselves – a small chalk board proudly announces that the pub is somewhere in CAMRA’s top 4 pubs in Britain this year!

the-swan-with-two-necks-pendleton-bar

So I assume the beer is good, but for now, I was more interested in the food. I was lucky to find an empty table amongst all the diners and sat down. The Swan With Two Necks seems very popular with the senior foodies, which is a good endorsement.

Like the opening hours, the menu is traditional, it is not fancy and it doesn’t want to be. Unlike some larger establishments in the Ribble Valley, its honest, unpretentious and just right for the pub and the setting. As it was lunch time I set about ordering some lunch! Although there were more substantial dishes on offer, I ordered soup and a sandwich.

The Colcannon soup was just right for a cold autumn day, thick, warming and very tasty. My dining companion thought perhaps the soup was a little salty, mine was fine.

the-swan-with-two-necks-pendleton-soup

I am often reluctant to order sandwiches in a pub as the ‘homemade’ fillings tend to be more ‘factory-pressed’ than homemade. The warmth and authenticity, and the lack of pretension that I felt in the Swan With Two Necks, made me more than confident that any ‘homemade’ produce would be just that, and I wasn’t disappointed. My roast beef sandwich was delicious, the beef was free of any fat or gristle, and melted away deliciously.

the-swan-with-two-necks-pendleton-beef

I would happily recommend this pub, and hope to return for dinner in the near future.

The Foodie.