The Cartford Inn, Little Ecclestone

As we head further north on our road trip we have reached the point of our first overnight stay.  We are staying at The Cartford Inn in Little Ecclestone and this blog will cover both our dinner and our breakfast experiences.  The Cartford Inn, originally a 17th century coaching inn, is set in the heart of rural Lancashire.  The current owners, Patrick and Julie Beaumé, have extended and refurbished the place over the last 10 years to create a venue that has won several food, drink and pub awards.

Arriving on a bright sunny late afternoon we are immediately offered tea and cake and feel very welcomed.  After a walk on a still super hot day we soon need something to help cool us down.  Rock chooses a Sipsmith gin mixed with Fentiman’s rose lemonade – perfect. I have a Moorhouse’s Pride of Pendle, an amber ale  – which is very pleasant but not exciting.

P1060960a

I am more than ready for food but the heat has had a real effect on Rock’s appetite.  For her dinner she chooses a starter! Her hand-rolled bread crackers look spectacular and come with a harissa hummus and a green lentil & onion paté.  That is all she needs and she is happy.  I have the Goosnargh duck breast with pickled green strawberries, elderflower, nut granola and chicory.  The duck is beautifully pink.  The pickled strawberries are slightly tart but work fantastically well with the duck and the slightly sweetened nut granola.

The playlist here tonight is a little uninspiring – basically hits of the 1980s.  Now I love music from all eras but there are very few occasions when I feel ‘Rio’ by Duran Duran is what I want to listen to while I’m eating dinner. I move on to a pint of Giddy Kipper brewed especially for the Cartford Inn.  This is more exciting – a hoppy pale ale with notes of grapefruit. Rock’s appetite may have waned but I still have room for dessert and I’ve chosen the apricot clafouti with honey ice cream.  I love a good clafouti! This one is very pleasant but the batter has the consistency of a thick custard ….it probably needed a few more minutes in the oven.

P1060968a
Apricot clafouti with honey ice cream

After a decent night’s sleep we are ready for breakfast.  We have good Atkinson’s coffee and exceptional croissants. Rock has the vegetarian breakfast (see featured image) – fresh asparagus, poached egg, sautéed potatoes, cherry tomatoes & mushrooms.  I have the English breakfast – the asparagus and potatoes replaced by black pudding and Honeywell’s bacon & sausage.  The poached Ryan Bee’s free range eggs and the Honeywell’s sausage are both excellent.

P1060974a
English breakfast

We had great service in the evening from James, Danny and Ellen and at breakfast from the very chatty Craig.  We also loved the fact that Patrick & Julie take a real interest in their guests.

Great place to stay, great place to drink and a pretty good place to eat too!

Advertisements

Lunch@The Bear’s Paw, Warmingham

The start of another road trip and, with world cup interest at fever pitch, there may be some passing references to football in this blog.  The first stop for the tour bus is The Bear’s Paw in Warmingham. The Bear’s Paw is a 19th century Victorian Inn in the farming village of Warmingham that was completely refurbished about 10 years ago, following a major fire.

I always kick-off with a beer and I’m having a pint of Southern Cross from Cheshire brewers Weetwood Ales.  Described as a New World Pale Ale, it is zesty and carries some hints of lemon and pine from the New Zealand hops that are used to make it.  Rock is passing on alcohol but teams together an apple juice with a good measure of soda.

P1060955a

The pan-fried fillet of sea trout is my next goal.  It is served with a creative midfield of potato, herb & garlic gnocchi, green beans, broad beans, sundried tomato, parmesan and sauce vierge.  Everything tastes good though I find the gnocchi a bit heavy.  Rock shoots for the loin of rabbit wrapped in smoked bacon and playing alongside a crispy leg rillette, butter poached potato, carrot puree, summer vegetables and a red wine jus.  Rock thinks the sticky jus is a touch too strong for the delicate rabbit.

P1060957a

Great teamwork from Jack, Bria and Holly out front and Ben in the kitchen.  Now, I think there may be an England match on tonight. C’mon England!

Dinner@The Sheppey Inn, Lower Godney

The Sheppey is an extraordinary place.  Located in the wilds of the Somerset Levels, it looks, at least from the outside, like a run down traditional old country pub.  As we approach it, even though we have booked a table for dinner, we aren’t even sure it is  open.  However, once we pulled open the door – using the old bit of rope provided – it is buzzing inside.  James Brown funk is providing the musical backdrop and I can immediately spot an interesting range of beers on tap at the bar.

Rock has a Spun Gold, a smooth golden ale from the Twisted Oak Brewery based in North Somerset. I have a Fugglestone – a really good amber ale with notes of fruit and citrus from the Salisbury based Hop Back Brewery.  So far, so good…now to examine the menu.  We eat out a lot and its not often we find ingredients that are unfamiliar.  The Sheppey has all sorts…still, I can google salmarejo, aquafaba and the rest!

 

We decide to share The Sheppey fish stew – mussels, salmon, cod, smoked haddock, parmesan, rouille all in a stew and served with an olive bread.  The mussels are absolutely fantastic but there’s nothing extra special about the rest of the stew.

 

P1060791a

Rock is having the wild mushroom croquettes with pickled wild mushroom, baba ganoush and candied seeds for her main.  The croquettes are beautiful but she is unsure that the soft baba ganoush works alongside a croquette with a very soft filling.  She doesn’t like the taste or texture of the pickled wild mushroom and asks me to try it – it looks a bit like a slug and, although I’ve never tasted a slug that has been pickled, it is exactly how I imagine one might taste.

P1060793a

I’m having the sirloin steak with cherry vine tomatoes, pickled cucumber, watercress and chips.  The steak is tender and full of flavour, the chips are to die for but the tomatoes really need an extra five minutes in the oven or under the grill.  I’m not a fan of the pickled cucumber.

P1060797a

For dessert we are intrigued enough to try the lemon cream, preserved lemon, lemon sorbet, shortbread crumb, lemongrass foam and lemon butterscotch.  It is a work of culinary genius.  Two large slices of what appear to be frozen lemon ice cream turn out to be glazed shells that contain the lemon cream – the sweetness of the shortbread and the butterscotch combine perfectly with the tang of the lemon to create a fab dessert!

P1060798a

The Sheppey is very quirky – with shades of clubland, Somerset, hippy shack, trad pub and modern art.  The service, from people who clearly love what they are doing, was superb.  The food had some real highs but also some lows. But great music, excellent beer and inventive dishes make it a truly interesting  place for a food adventure.

Lunch@The Eastbury Plough

The Eastbury Plough has been on our extensive list of places to eat for far too long!  Rock and I are taking the opportunity to get over there for lunch and see if it is as good as some people seem to think it is.

It’s moderately busy when we arrive but nowhere near full.  Yet, with only two staff serving, we have quite a wait to be served drinks and menus.  I have a pint of Doombar and Rock has an apple juice & soda – nothing too exciting there.  The specials board has crisp confit duck with black pudding and an orange & balsamic jam – which appeals to me. The duck is well cooked though not really crispy and works well with the black pudding.  However, the bitterness of the orange in the jam is too harsh for me.

I move on to a pint of Deerstalker – a marked improvement on my previous pint.  It is a traditional amber bitter from the Ramsbury Brewery and well worth trying.

P1060671a

Rock has the peasant pie as her main course.  Her pie is filled with a mix of oxtail and venison and is rich with flavour.  I have the 18 hour ox cheek, a fillet of beef with a bacon & black pudding crust, dauphinoise potatoes and an ox jus.  The ox cheek and the fillet are both beautiful and a nice contrast in texture – the cheek is soft from slow cooking and the fillet both firm and tender.  The dauphinoise is really good too and there is a little shredded cabbage.  But, generally, there is a marked lack of fresh vegetables – there aren’t even any  vegetable side dishes on the menu!  The meal concept of meat and potatoes really belongs in the 1950s.

P1060673a

We finish by sharing the cheese board – pieces of Barkham blue, Witney cheddar and brie are served with crackers and a pickle.  Nothing out of the ordinary but well kept cheese served at the right temperature (not straight out of the fridge).

Overall, the food has been good, the service has been friendly but at times a bit stretched.  The lack of fresh vegetables is bizarre.  I would come here again but it isn’t going to be at the top of our list.

Lunch@the Bear & Ragged Staff, Cumnor

The Bear & Ragged Staff is a glorious old traditional pub in a building that dates back to Tudor times. The kitchen is run by head chef, James Durrant, who has worked with Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton in the past and has succeeded in getting his main course to the banquet of the Great British Menu. We are here today to meet our good friends Jasmine & Roland for lunch.

After studying the beer menu, I order a pint of the IPA, but it’s not available.  Instead, I ask for a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, but they don’t have that either.  They do have my third choice – Abbot Ale. Roland is having the set lunch and his starter is roast chicken broth with butterbeans, leeks and pancetta. Jasmine and I both start with twice baked cheese soufflé with soused apples & balsamic pearls. The soufflé is beautifully light and works well with the apple, the balsamic pearls and a simple velouté. Rock chooses not to have a starter.

P1060662a

For her main course Jasmine is having the poached and smoked salmon fishcake with hollandaise and a watercress salad. Roland has the second part of his set lunch – the Cornish lamb shepherd’s pie filled with slow-cooked shoulder, sprinkled with crispy breast and served with red cabbage.

P1060661a

Rock is having the sea bream with bacon, peas and baby gem lettuce.  The fish is perfectly cooked though the skin could be crispier.  Unfortunately, the dish as a whole is quite greasy – something that Rock really tries to avoid.  I have the 14 hour braised beef and ale pie with buttery mash and spring greens.  The pie is superb, fabulous pastry and a rich beef filling.

P1060658aP1060660a

The final part of Roland’s set menu should be ice cream profiteroles but, as the kitchen has none available, he has the opportunity to choose something else.  He picks the banoffee Eton mess, served with banana, lime and caramelised pecans.  This turns out to be a good choice – lots of cream, lots of banana, the crunch of pecans and the sweetness of toffee.

P1060663a

Some of the food here was very good but overall the place felt a bit out of sorts.  It was strange to find several beers, and even one course off the set menu, were not available.  Rock’s sea bream dish was far too greasy and none of the dishes would come close to making it to our Great British Menu.  I’d like to think we were unlucky to visit when they weren’t at their best.

Lunch@The Hardwick, Abergavenny

The Hardwick is either a pub with restaurant quality food or a restaurant with the feel,  atmosphere and furnishings of a pub.  Either way, it is the place to sample the food of  one of Wales’ leading chefs – Stephen Terry.  We are here for lunch and it shouldn’t come as any surprise  to learn that our expectations are very high.

We are welcomed at the bar in the first room of The Hardwick – a room with deep leather sofas and wood panelling on the walls.  Rock chooses an elderflower pressé from Belvoir while I decide to try the Sundown golden ale from the Untapped Brewing Company – a Welsh brewery based in Raglan.  The Sundown is a refreshing golden ale with hints of sweetness and spice – very good indeed!

P1060634a

The sourdough bread here is made by award winning baker Alex Gooch and it is wonderfully light and has a fantastic flavour. I want to be adventurous and so I choose the panzanella (Italian style bread & tomato salad) & puntarelle (a variant of chicory) salad with grilled halloumi.  The dish is a blockbuster of strong flavours that work wonderfully together – by the time I finish it I doubt that my tastebuds will ever be the same again.

P1060638a

Rock has the roast beetroot and heritage carrots with Neal’s Yard goat’s cheese, pine nuts, grilled castelfranco (aka edible rose) and tardivo ( a variety of radicchio).  It is a beautiful dish, with texture from the pine nuts and the rich creaminess of the goat’s cheese.  If anything, there is too much goat’s cheese and it slightly overpowers everything else.

P1060640a

Rock moves on to a starter size of the braised rabbit with deep fried polenta, soffrito (a braising liquor of finely chopped vegetables and olive oil) & parmesan.  The rabbit is tender and the soffrito brings everything together.  I have the pan fried mackerel with deep fried crushed new potatoes, watercress & anchovy mayonnaise, purple sprouting, chard & a lentil salsa.  My tastebuds are brought back to life by the stunning mayonnaise and the salsa which both complement the perfectly cooked mackerel. Wow!

P1060644a

We’ve been overwhelmed by a myriad of flavour combinations and interesting quality ingredients.  It looks like a pub, it feels like a pub ….but it tastes far better than most restaurants!

 

Lunch@The Bell, Ramsbury

The Bell at Ramsbury is another favourite haunt that we haven’t visited for a while.  It has been a good quality gastropub for some time now so, we are heading there for lunch with high expectations of great food and decent beer.

The bar area is very busy when we arrive and, as we are not wanting the more formal atmosphere of the restaurant, we squeeze round a small table until something bigger becomes available.  This gives us an opportunity to examine the menu and order some drinks.

Rock has an apple juice with soda while I have the Ramsbury Bitter.  The Bell is part of the Ramsbury Estate which has its own brewery, distillery and smokehouse.  The Ramsbury Brewery produces a range of real ales and I’m starting with the bitter.  It is an amber ale made with barley and Golding hops and carries a decent amount of flavour.

P1060487a

 

Even though we were planning to have a relatively light lunch – I’m sufficiently excited about the starter menu to order the pan seared scallops with peas, parsley root purée, black pudding & ham crisp.  Three beautifully cooked scallops duly arrive with a small peak of crushed peas, the interesting pale purée, scattered crumbs of black pudding and two crispy pieces of ham.  Delightful.

P1060486a

I order a second beer – this time Ramsbury Gold – which I enjoy a lot more than the bitter. We then wait for quite a while, watching as other tables that ordered after us are served and wondering if our order has somehow fallen between the cracks.  Eventually, Rock’s desire for some food has become unnerving and I go to the bar to find out what has happened.  We receive apologies and, not too long after, our main courses.

P1060489a

Rock has chosen the small size Ramsbury Gold battered haddock with triple cooked chips, crushed peas and tartare sauce.  The batter is fantastically light and flavoursome and the chunky chips are top quality. I’m having the Ramsbury smokehouse venison sausages with creamed mash, kale and a red wine gravy.  The sausages are rich and meaty, the venison much more highly flavoured than pork or beef.  It’s a glorious version of sausage and mash.

P1060490a

We order coffee and homemade salted caramel truffles which, because of the wait for our main courses, are taken off the bill.  The truffles are excellent. Great food, lovely atmosphere and, as far as we are concerned, they rescued the tiny glitch in service.

P1060493a