A Night At The Fenwick Arms
Situated in the Lune Valley between Lancaster and the picturesque market town of Kirkby Lonsdale, the historic Fenwick Arms has recently been renovated and extended to include nine new guest rooms. Having visited three of the seven Seafood Pub Co venues -- the Oyster and Otter, The Assheton Arms and the Farmers Arms -- I was keen to see just how the Fenwick Arms had been transformed since the new rooms were added.
First Things First - Roaring Log Fires
OK, so we've had a particularly mild winter and I haven't exactly felt the need to pile on knitwear, bobble hat or mittens so far. But I think most would agree that there’s nothing like a well-stoked open fire to create a sense of wellbeing and relaxation, regardless of the temperature outside. We were in luck. The Fenwick Arms has two in the main restaurant area and I spotted plenty of comfy chairs to hunker down in. The low-beamed ceilings and oak paneling meant that once we sat down with a glass or two, I knew we would be in for the night.
Eager to relax and peruse the menu, my dining partner and I swiftly headed to check out our room. The Seafood Pub Co is renowned for an elegant country style and high-quality finish, so I knew we wouldn't be disappointed.
Toiletry obsession Yes I have to admit, that the first thing I check out wherever I stay (apart from friends’ houses. . .well, sometimes at friends’ houses) are the toiletries. I always try to guess the brand and most of the time I nail it. To my astonishment and delight I discovered little bottles of Orla Kiely presented in a beautiful mother of pearl-style dish. I hazard a guess that the helmswoman and brains behind the outfit Joycelyn Neve had something to do with that! Moving on to more important things - the bath is huge, the bed is huge and the sheets are crisp. The room was faultless and considering the building is on a main road, it was completely silent.
The Fenwick is a steak and seafood gastropub. The menu is compact and is peppered with interesting dishes to tempt you away from the fish pie. My partner and I were surprised by the selection of specials, really interesting offerings such as Lobster and Prosecco risotto and Smoked salmon with crispy oyster, potatoes and kale & cockle butter. We spent quite a while toing and froing while the staff spent more time than I feel they should have helping us decide.
Crispy Wild Bass & Monkfish: With Katsu curry sauce
Little Smoked Haddock & Lancashire Cheese Pie: With pickled onion salad
After some deliberation we decide that I'd take the unorthodox route while he went traditional. I plumped for wild bass and monkfish with katsu curry sauce while my dinner date chose smoked haddock and cheese pie. I love Katsu curry and to be honest, I wasn't entirely convinced that I would get an authentic sauce. Traditional Katsu is super crispy as it’s breaded and fried before the silky sauce is applied. I waited in anticipation by the warming log fire.
I actually thought our waiter had made a mix up when the second starter arrived. The specials menu did read little smoked haddock and Lancashire cheese pie. However, I would strongly contest the use of the word ‘little’ - it was a bountiful starter. But although it was deliciously fluffy and light, I sat smugly having chosen the more exotic offering. The Katsu is spot on, crispy, succulent and to my knowledge authentic. The portion was generous but I could easily have eaten more because it’s wickedly good. The sauce is silky and warming and each bite of the bass and monkfish combination pleasingly soft and succulent. Katsu it traditionally made with chicken but the use of firm fish like bass and monkfish really worked.
Cape Town Chicken & Prawn Curry: With lime and coriander rice, apricot and pear chutney & grilled flatbread
From the Robata Grill, Peppered Tuna Steak: With creamed spinach and parmesan fries
We both opted for mains from the Fenwick Favourites selection. The Cape Town Curry did strike me as a particularly curious dish on an otherwise conventional pick list. That’s until our lovely waiter mentioned that all of the chefs across the Seafood Pub Company work alongside Chris Neve, who sources the seafood for all the venues and has roots in the fishing industry going back generations. Every gastropub has a different vibe since Chris allows the chefs a certain amount of creative autonomy. I wondered if the chef had South African roots and should have enquired but by the time our mains arrived I was far too engrossed. So I guess I’ll never know.
The prawns, the best I have ever had in my entire life. Seriously that is the truth. Your standard prawn, I find, tends to be sort of deflated, with too much give on the bite - that’s assuming that they aren’t overcooked and then it’s like wrestling with a condom-sheathed tyre. My prawns were luscious and plump, the bite was perfect, firm and juicy with a subtle lingering sweetness that I could taste, even, through the curry sauce. I’m not sure what I was expecting from a South African curry. It was not like any curry I had previously eaten, it’s sweeter and lighter than a typical Indian and without the fragrancy of Thai. If I had to, I would liken it to a korma but with less creaminess and more of a savoury tang. It came with a big bowl of rice and a flatbread to mop the sauce up with. Unfortunately, the dish defeated me in the end but was speedily swept up by my dinner date.
Food envy – there I said it. If anything is going to conjure the old green-eyed monster, it’s a large slab of seared tuna accompanied by parmesan fries. In fact, our discussion throughout dinner was mainly focused on how good the tuna was. He stated point blankly that it could go toe-to-toe with a fillet steak any day of the week. It cut like a good piece of fillet, was velvety and came cooked exactly as requested. I had to eyeball his plate until he offered me a bite, and then it was just one measly morsel. (Usually we share, but not this time around.) Luckily for me, he didn’t finish the fries so I tucked in, to the detriment of my curry, I might add.
By the time we had devoured our dinner, we both declared we were fit to bursting. However, after a cheeky espresso and a bit of breather, we decided to go in for thirds and settled on a tried and tested favourite – the trifle. This was in fact the Fenwick’s very own sherry trifle. We amicably shared this time and it was pretty, creamy and fulfilling served in a glass topped with raspberries and marked a pleasant end to a very satisfying dinner.
Breakfast – The Meal Of Kings (Or Queens)
I half expected to awaken still full from last night’s feast but, thank goodness, the hunger pangs arrived right on cue. So off we went, after a restful night’s sleep, to sample the breakfast offerings. If the notion arises, you could gorge on rump steak and poached eggs for breakfast at the Fenwick, but I opted for wild mushrooms with poached eggs, served on a brioche toast. My partner went for the full Lancashire experience: sausages, bacon, black pudding, hash brown, beans, egg, tomato and mushroom. As I expected both dishes were bob on. Wild mushrooms on brioche toast are a stroke of genius for those suffering slightly from the night before. The combination of sweet crispy brioche and savoury mushrooms really did hit the spot. It inspired me to try and recreate this dish at home, now I just need to get myself out there foraging!
Recommend To A Friend?
We stayed in the junior suite with premium ensuite. It’s spacious and elegantly decorated with a generously proportioned bathroom, complete with a large bath and shower, good-quality towels and linen and lots of floor space. The bed is luxurious and the room is immaculately turned out. We felt completely looked after by everyone. What really stood out for us however, were the high-quality ingredients and generous portion sizes. The Fenwick is definitely the sort of dining venue I would recommend to a friend. With the pretty village of Hornby close by with its castle and the popular market town of Kirkby Lonsdale just a short drive away, it’s also the perfect base to explore the Lune Valley or visit historic Lancaster. The Fenwick is the perfect stopover for cyclists and walkers alike with the Crook O’ Lune just a stone’s throw away. So yes, I would most definitely recommend the Fenwick Arms to a friend, sound in the knowledge that they would be very well looked after.
The Seafood Pub Company
The Seafood Pub Company was founded by Joycelyn Neve in 2010 and is a multi-award winning group of gastropubs in the North West. A pub group with a difference, each location has its own personality and menu but with food and drink at its heart and soul which has been recognised by various awards and accolades including The Publican’s Best Food Offer, Restaurant Magazine’s Pub Company of the Year, Development Chef Awards’ Best Pub Group Menu and Best Group Chef, Lancashire Life’s Dining Pub of the Year, Lancashire Life’s Restaurant of the Year and Lancashire Tourism Award’s Tourism Pub of the Year.
All of the Seafood Pub Company Venues
Written by Tasha
Tweet her @SaucingAround