Restaurant review - The Sun Inn, Kirkby Lonsdale
Kirkby Lonsdale is one of the region's culinary hotspots and the Sun shines as brightly as any. Roger Borrell reports
We don’t do chi-chi up north. Trendy, pretentious, twee - they are an alien concept to us down-to-earth, sensible souls, aren’t they darlings? We leave all that to those folk who inhabit strange, make-believe worlds like the Cotswolds.
Kirkby Lonsdale is none of the above but it’s probably as close as it gets. This pretty stone-built town, straddling Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria, seems to get smarter by the week.
After the foot and mouth debacle some places rolled over and played dead. Kirkby Lonsdale put on its best frock and flaunted itself. Shops selling expensive ladies’ lingerie (should that be ladies’ expensive lingerie?) sit cheek-by-jowl with chic interior stores, jewellers, delis and designer clothes. It’s a dangerous place for a man who cherishes his wallet.
But the well-shod backbone of Kirby Lonsdale is the outstanding number of places to eat - the Snooty Fox, Plato’s, Avanti, and the nearby Hipping Hall, has now been bolstered by the handsome-looking and recently restored Royal Hotel.
One of the best known is the Sun Inn, which has an AA rosette and occupies a place on Main Street not far from the magnificent parish church. From the outside this is obviously an ancient inn, once the sort of place where a grizzled Joe Grundy would discuss the latest outbreak of swine vesicular disease with the slightly dodgy Starkadder brothers.
But don’t be deceived. The Lancashire Life Food & Wine Award plaque by the front door gives the game away and, as you walk through the front door, you find yourself in a place that sums up the phrase ‘dining pub.’The flagged bar area is bright, comfortable and inviting with log fires and a choice of proper beers and a short but well considered wine list. If it’s the chauffeur’s day off, find a teetotal friend.
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As you walk through the bar, the Sun gets even smarter, eventually leading you to a dining room that would not seem out of place in any top-of-the-range restaurant. The d�cor is chic, the furniture looks expensive and the sparkling cutlery and white, starched tableclothes heighten the expectation.
It’s not surprising to discover that a lot of the furniture and fittings were made by former Waring & Gillow apprentice Tony Doubleday, father of Lucy Fuller who owns the business with husband Mark.
Four of us went there for Sunday lunch and managed to walk through town without entering a single shop - one small step for mankind. The welcome was warm from the young women running the restaurant and the menus were traditional Sunday roast with knobs on plus a vegetarian option and some salmon.
The sexes reverted to type with the men eating a salt beef starter and the women going for a salad. The little curls of beef came with delicious home made bread and a tart piccalilli and the salads were a refreshingly appetising way to start the meal.
The main courses took in most of the animal world - beef, pork and lamb. It was the chicken’s day off. It’s quite clear the Sun gets its meat from someone who knows what they are doing and the kitchen team does it justice. You didn’t need your best teeth in because they achieved that happy combination of tenderness and some texture. The vegetables were interesting and retained some crunch and putting mashed and roast potatoes on the same plate really is the way to a man’s heart. The only quibble was the pot of gravy in the middle - which animal would it go with? We never found out.
Our female guests did the pudding list justice while the men stared into their glasses. Three scoops of home made ice-cream were a joy and a chocolate mousse brought down the curtain on a very good performance which, for three courses, was a reasonable �20 minus drinks. Now there was no escaping the shops…
The Sun Inn, 6 Market Street, Kirkby Lonsdale, LA6 2AU. 01524 271 965
Three of a kind
There are several restaurants in Lancashire and the Lakes with one or more AA rosettes. They include:
The Red Cat, Whittle-Le-Woods, Chorley. Modern British award winners with two rosettes
Green’s Bistro, St Annes. Former Lancashire Life awards winner with one rosette.
Bennett’s Restaurant, Wrightington, near Wigan. One rosette with a kitchen specialising in fish and steaks.
Pub Review - A monthly look at locals
The Ribchester Arms
A successful pub visit to Ribchester seemed a shoo-in - after all, there are three to choose from, aren’t there?
After a brief dose of culture viewing the latest art adorning the walls of the Ascot Gallery, we strolled to the Black Bull. A faded chalk board outside warned: ‘Use it or lose it.’ The drawn curtains and the big sign appealing for a new tenant meant they’d lost it, at least for the time being.
Never mind, there’s always the ancient White Bull, the scene of several good dinners in years gone by. Sadly the sign outside stated that the pub was for rent. Although it was open, recommending a pub to readers when there is a ‘To Let’ sign outside didn’t seem sensible. We’ll try again another day.
We walked away bemoaning the sorry plight of our licensed victuallers and hoped for third time lucky at the Ribchester Arms. I’m pleased to say it is very much open for business.
It’s a huge building, clad in mock Tudor half timbering and the inside has an Edwardian look about it. As you walk through the double door entrance you are confronted by a large bar area leading to several eating areas including a more formal dining room.
This isn’t a chic gastro-pub. In fact, if it were any less trendy it would be wearing a kipper tie and loon pants. However the full car park indicated that this is one inn that gives its customers what they want.
A few locals sat at the bar but most were there to eat from the extensive menu and interesting-looking specials board.
The staff - and there were plenty of them - were busy and attentive. The beer was well kept Robinson’s Dizzy Blonde served by a decidedly level-headed blonde.
The Ribchester Arms has been run as a family concern for more than a decade and the licensee is also the chef. It’s a combination that works well. Ribchester can rest easy that at least one of its inns appears to be flourishing.