The Longridge Restaurant, Lancashire restaurant review

Paul Heathcote has recruited some familiar faces in a bid to bring the good times back to his Longridge Restaurant. Roger Borrell reports

The Longridge Restaurant,Higher Road, Longridge. PR3 3SY.Telephone: 01772 784969

Many years ago the food critic of a national newspaper pulled up outside a Ribble Valley restaurant looking for somewhere to eat. What arrived on his plate impressed him so much he wrote a euphoric review.

The restaurant, in Longridge, was run by a young chef called Paul Heathcote and the critic was Matthew Fort, the avuncular judge from the BBC's Great British Menu.

Heathcote and Fort wrote a well-regarded cookbook called Rhubarb and Black Pudding and this did much to kick off the love affair with Lancashire food. Before too long, the Longridge Restaurant was awarded a Michelin star and the Heathcote empire grew and grew.

Then, the wheel fell off. People muttered that the food at Longridge wasn't as good and the service was erratic. Suddenly, the Michelin star vanished and the place was up for sale.

Perhaps it was the emotional pull of his first love or the saleability of the restaurant without the Heathcote name, but he thought again. It was taken off the market and he decided to give it another go.

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In a bid to bring back the good times, husband and wife team Chris and Kath Bell, who made a big success of the White Bull at Ribchester, have returned. They were with Heathcote through the 'Michelin' years - Chris as head chef and Kath as manageress.

They say you should never go back but a recent visit revealed that Heathcote's move had been very astute. The service is exemplary and the food shows signs of recapturing its former glory.

It was a Saturday night with almost every table occupied in this hugely comfortable, well decorated restaurant but the waiting team didn't miss a beat, never rushing but maintaining a nice, relaxed rhythm to the meal.

The food started with an artistic display of canap�s, but asking anyone other than a squiffy student or a game show contestant to eat a halved, soft-boiled quail egg with a cocktail stick is probably a mistake. Soggy breadsticks didn't help.

This was followed by a tiny cup of intensely flavoured asparagus soup, delicious but containing an icily cold quail's egg - an egg too far.

Things really got into their stride with two well constructed starters, a twice-baked Lancashire cheese souffl� and a Cornish crab risotto with lobster butter. Next, a main course of roast cod with cabbage, salsify and new potatoes with brown shrimp and mace butter was beautifully cooked. The other main was a lovely beef fillet, pink as a Brit on a Costa beach, with braised onion, mashed potato and thyme. Both looked as good as they tasted.

Heathcote's keynote bread and butter pudding, with poached apricots, wobbled with delight and so did the recipient. A fondant produced a river of darkly seductive chocolate goo.

So are the good times back? With the odd tweak here and there, the patient is well on course to make a full recovery.

Expect to pay around �100 for dinner for two. There is a seven course gourmet menu at �60 a time and you can find some bargain set lunches.


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