Food profile - The Orangery, Ribby Hall, Wrea Green

The contemporary furnishings make the Orangery a vibrant venue

The contemporary furnishings make the Orangery a vibrant venue - Credit: Archant

Quality cooking, good service and contemporary surroundings mean Ribby Hall’s Orangery is blossoming, reports Roger Borrell.

The food has been rewarded with two AA rosettes

The food has been rewarded with two AA rosettes - Credit: Archant

Putting in a hard day’s graft at the spa can be a pretty enervating experience, what with all that pampering and holistic preening.

The first thing sure to kick-start the recovery process is a refreshing cocktail in the bar at Ribby Hall’s Spa Hotel. Once that begins to work its magic, the hunger pangs start to take over. Fortunately, help is also very close at hand in the form of The Orangery.

This is a relatively new part of the award-winning hotel at Wrea Green and is a light, bright space with an atrium and a spectacular coloured glass chandelier. It’s not a barn of a place but neither is it so snug you feel the need to join in conversation with your neighbours.

The furnishings are eye-catching – think of the limes and oranges from a packet of Spangles – and there are comfortable looking curved banquets at each end of the room.

The kitchen is the domain of head chef Michael Noonan, whose CV includes a spell working at the Sydney Opera House – presumably in the kitchen rather than on stage. Unlike many ‘here today-gone tomorrow’ chefs, Michael has been in charge of the kitchens at Ribby since 2010 and is responsible for what they call its style of ‘casual fine dining’.

This has earned the venue two AA rosettes and a gong at the Lancashire Life Food & Drink Awards. In other words, this isn’t a spa restaurant aimed at spa-buffed ladies in fluffy dressing gowns but serious eaters. Like us.

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After some pre-dinner treats of goat cheese tart, I had a starter of fried halloumi, roasted aubergine, harissa, red pepper and tahini. This was an explosion of Middle Eastern flavours presented on the plate like a piece of modern art. But this wasn’t Tracey Emin’s unmade bed – it really delivered on taste (unlike Tracey) as did another starter of treacle cured salmon with beetroot and burnt orange.

One quirky thing was the bread and butter. This was two slices of charcoal bread, which was disconcertingly black. Even more unusual was the fact it came with what we were told was beef butter. Sure enough, the bread had a charcoal taste and the butter had a meaty flavour. One that you will either love or hate, I suspect.

A main of Pendle lamb was as pink as a spa customer after a body scrub (and just as tender) while pork tenderloin was well cooked but probably played second fiddle to some tasty shoulder meat ragu.

Desserts seem to be going out of style for many diners but two clean plates meant a seal of approval for lemon drizzle cake with hot toddy jelly and a chocolate and hazelnut brownie, which was described as the star of the show.

Service was friendly and the pace of dishes arriving was pitch perfect. With a couple of glasses of wine, the bill for dinner came to a shade over £90.

They also do a seven course tasting menu and provide afternoon teas.

I always think that because you can whip past Ribby Hall’s entrance in the blink of an eye, it must be a hidden secret. But judging by the full tables in the Orangery, the word about Michael Noonan’s skills as a chef is well and truly out.

The Orangery, Ribby Hall Village, Ribby Road, Wrea Green, near Blackpool, Lancashire PR4 2PR

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