Restaurant review - Angels, Ribchester and The Eagle and Child, Staveley

When a pub in a pretty corner of Lancashire was turned into a restaurant, the owners wanted it to be different. They certainly succeeded, writes Roger Borrell. Plus a look at The Eagle and Child, Staveley

The Sunday papers were full of Heston Blumenthal feeding fried worms to small children in Alder Hey Hospital. Some were injected with ketchup (the worms, not the children) before being deposited on pizza bases.

I spent most of my early parental years trying to stop toddlers eating worms so this latest dose of culinary madness left me confused and in need of some more conventional nourishment.

We’d heard positive things about Angels near Ribchester and had actually walked past it months ago while hopelessly lost on a Ribble Valley hike. No walking today as the rain was lashing down, so it was go out for lunch or stay at home and play knuckles. And I always lose.

This time we kept our bearings. Angels stands on a sharp bend in the B6245 between Ribchester and Longridge and there’s no mistaking the fact it used to be a big old boozer. (Takes one to know one, I hear you say)

Inside, it’s very different. I happened to remark that the d�cor in the bar was like a fetish club and that the only thing missing was a set of fluffy handcuffs.

You’d think an old hand at the husbandry lark would know better, wouldn’t you? The moue followed by the retort: ‘Just how would you know?’ left me to quietly ponder the considerable error of my ways.

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The reality is that someone with an eye for extravagant interior design has cooked this up, mixing expensive style with a fair degree of wackiness. There are seats covered in faux snakeskin, quirkily shaped settees in crushed velvet, swirly carpets, a white baby grand and a sparkly bar where you wouldn’t be surprised to see a passing lounge lizard. If they weren’t extinct.

I always go out for Sunday lunch with a heavy heart that probably comes from being spoiled at home as a son and as a husband. Gristle masquerading as meat, luke warm gravy thinner than an MP’s excuse and ‘roast’ potatoes slipped into a deep fat fryer by a lazy chef. You know what I mean.

Happily, Angels is several cuts above all of that and the menu largely steers clear of conventional meat and two veg.

In a relaxing dining room which dispenses with most of the wackiness but keeps the style, we started with scallops and crisp pancetta and a Portobello mushroom with goat cheese and red onion confit. Both were well made, prettily presented and generous without being belt-looseners.

Main courses were seared sea bass and a blade of beef, braised in red wine. The fish was moist on the inside and crisp outside and it came with spinach, pea veloute, potato and celeriac. A clean and fresh combination, created with skill.

The beef was as tender as a first kiss and had that depth of flavour that made you think of mother. Or, at least, her dinners. The roast potatoes looked and tasted good, if a shade dry inside, and savoy cabbage with ginger was a nice combination but possibly not with Sunday lunch.

Desserts were very good but each plate possibly had one ingredient too many. A ginger biscuit-based cheesecake came in a glass-lidded jar and was embellished with blackberries, fruit jelly and apple sorbet. Quite a mix of flavours and textures.

A date and chocolate sponge with a ginger sauce and oatmeal ice cream received an approving, almost wistful, nod from the young waiter who possibly had it earmarked for later. It was sensational but a little slick of fruit compote didn’t add a lot to the dish.

Coffee and petits fours completed a meal which at �22.90 a head (without drinks) seemed good value. A little unscientific research showed the price hadn’t changed for around three years. The service was crisp and friendly and there was a nice atmosphere in the dining room.

If you want to take your mother (or anyone else) out for a treat, the food at Angels wouldn’t disappoint. Just don’t mention the fluffy handcuffs.Angels, Fleet Street Lane, Ribchester. PR3 3ZA. 01254 820 212

Three of a kind

Lancashire and the Lake District is packed with great places for Sunday lunch. You might like to try:

The Sun Inn, Kirkby Lonsdale. This lovely old inn has a top notch restaurant - don’t miss the slow roast shoulder of lamb.

The Gibbon Bridge, Chipping. Award winning hotel with some of the crispiest duckling in Lancashire.

The Millstone Hotel, Mellor. Anson Bolton’s roast sirloin of Bowland beef is not to be missed.

Pub Review - A monthly look at locals

The Eagle and Child, Kendal Road, Staveley, LA8 9LP

There can’t be many pubs able to boast they once served Dorothy Wordsworth with a basin of milk. She and her brother visited Staveley back in 1802, describing it as ‘the first mountain village that I came to with William’.

After wiping the milk from her top lip, she went down some steps beside the inn and washed her feet in the River Gowan ‘and put on a pair of silk stockings by William’s advice’. It all sounds a bit racy, doesn’t it!

The pub has changed beyond recognition since then - it was rebuilt in the 1840s - but Dorothy’s Steps are still there. Today, I’m sure they’d serve you a basin of milk if you really wanted one, but why would you when there is Hawkshead Bitter and a delicious hot beef sandwich on offer?

The Eagle and Child is one of those locals you’d like to put on a low loader and transport to a site not far from your home. On a cold day, it provided the sort of glow that only comes from a log fire and a warm welcome.

Inside, the inn is quirky but not in a gimmicky sort of way. There are sets of skis, a loo seat for the annual gurning championships, native American headdresses and by the bar, there is a fine collection of police truncheons hanging from the ceiling. ‘We get a lot of trouble in here,’ jokes the barman.

Customers were too busy eating and drinking to kick up much of a fuss on the day we visited. There was a good selection of real ales and the multitude of CAMRA awards told you all you needed to know about how well they were kept.

The menu covered most things from sandwiches to stews and there was a specials board offering the attractive prospect of lunch for a fiver.

If you are visiting the busy village of Staveley or walking in the area, the Eagle and Child is unlikely to disappoint. Don’t forget to wash your feet.

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