A Michelin Tour Of Lancashire (Febuary 2005)
This is an archived article from 2005.
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There may be more interest than ever before in eating out but the foodie 'bible' remains the esteemed Michelin Guide. Its anonymous inspectors tour establishments the length and breadth of the country all year in search of quality dining, publishing their eagerly anticipated results each January. Getting in the guide is quite an achievement in itself with only 120 'starred' restaurants across the whole of Britain and Ireland and another 118 Bib Gourmands (awarded for good food at moderate prices -- with the benchmark being menus priced at less than £25). At the very top of the food chain, only three establishments can boast the coveted three Michelin stars - restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea and the Waterside Inn and Fat Duck in Bray-on-Thames.
The big news for Blackpool and Fylde diners this year was the award of the area's only current Michelin accreditation to Twelve in Thornton in the shape of a Bib Gourmand. Paul Moss (kitchen) and Caroline Upton (front-of-house) opened Twelve in 2000 in a former dance studio, right next door to the tallest working windmill in Europe at Marsh Mill Village. The state-of-the-art dining space more than complements a Modern British menu which doesn't take itself too seriously. So you could start with the Haggis Burger and finish with their signature Banana Butty, having left room of course for mains that highlight Twelve's commitment to locally sourced produce (such as Bowland beef and lamb, Lakeland red deer).
The first of Lancashire's two Michelin-starred restaurants is Northcote Manor at Langho. Though situated right next to the huge roundabout on the A59 near Whalley, this 'restaurant with rooms' really is a haven of tranquillity. Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft have been at the helm for more than 20 years have built the Northcote reputation on a commitment to local produce and suppliers and a wonderful 400-bin wine list. The way to really enjoy the Northcote experience is to try one of the Gourmet Breaks -- Champagne on arrival, a gourmet menu, overnight stay, breakfast and the chance to get stuck into Craig's wine cellar without a drive home to worry about. Prices start from £95 a head. The Northcote team has also recently ventured into the gastropub market with the opening of The Three Fishes at Mitton.
Lancashire's other starred venue is Paul Heathcote's flagship Longridge Restaurant. First opened in 1990, it has won, lost and regained Michelin stars over the years, reflecting in part the transformation the restaurant has gone through. If you'd visited a decade ago, you'd have dined in a formal, chintzy dining room with whispering waiters delivering very pricey food on cloched plates. Nowadays, aiming at a younger generation, the décor is brighter and more contemporary, the staff more relaxed and friendly, and the food very affordable for Michelin-quality fare, particularly the set lunches. The Longridge Restaurant is not about fancy food and cutting edge technique; rather familiar recipes using quality produce cooked to a very high standard.
On to the Bib Gourmands and after Twelve your two closest restaurants are both in Preston. Inside Out (view a 360 movie) (pictured above) is actually in Walton-Le-Dale and as the name might suggest, it's the perfect spot for a bit of al fresco dining when the weather permits. A decked area looks out over extensive tree-lined grounds which make Inside Out a good bet if you have kids in tow. Chef-patron Mark Wilkinson cut his culinary teeth at the Wizard in Alderley Edge and offers a menu laced with international flavours. The other Preston Bib is for Simply Heathcotes, what you might call the city centre dining brand of the Heathcotes empire. The Winckley Square restaurant offers dishes like pastas and risottos which you won't find in Longridge and the menu as a whole is lower-priced. The décor is very contemporary, very city chic.
The second of two new Lancashire Bibs went to Sleigh Restaurant at the Holden Vale Hotel near Rossendale. The kitchen is run by two 23-year-olds - Daniel Sheridan and Kristopher Woods - who already have experience with Marco Pierre White and Paul Heathcote under their belts. The restaurant also won the Lancashire Life Best Newcomer award in 2003 and serves Modern British fare in a choice of menus - bar, set or a la carte. Between Chorley and Wigan, the Mulberry Tree at Wrightington showcases the cooking of Mark Prescot, who worked with the Roux Brothers at the Waterside Inn and Le Gavroche before heading back up north in 2000. And lastly, over in the far east of the county, the White Hart at Lydgate, near Oldham, boasts a stunning location high in the Pennines overlooking Saddleworth Moor. If you're a sausage fan, you must pay a visit as the Saddleworth Sausage Company, which supplies restaurants and delis across the north, is part of the White Hart operation.
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