Lancashire Life Luncheon - The Duke of York in Grindleton

The Lancashire Life Luncheon showed culinary skills to please the most demanding diner. Roger Borrell reports

The Lancashire Life Luncheon showed culinary skills to please the most demanding diner. Roger Borrell reports

It’s easy to say that The Duke of York at Grindleton sets a fine example to any rural landlord wondering how to survive while all around are going to the wall.

However, not every publican has the luxury of such a hugely talented chef-owner as Michael Heathcote. If the quality of his kitchen really is regarded as one of Lancashire’s best-kept culinary secrets, then we are happy to let the cat out of the bag.

We first heard about this cosy old inn via a readers’ letter from a Yorkshireman who extolled the virtues of the Duke’s cooking and urged us to sample it for ourselves. Our cousins from across the border are prone to be right about most things (in their dreams, anyway) but, after one visit, we were hooked, too.

Michael, aided by a very capable front of house team, has achieved that difficult balancing act of maintaining a community pub with roaring log fires, excellent beer and good cheer with a level of cooking that would please a Frenchman, let alone our Tyke friend.

All successful chefs need dedication and a slavish eye for detail, butMichael also knows all about teamwork. Rather than a ladle-wielding tyrant, this Lancashire lad is a nurturer of talent and enjoys nothing more than helping to bring on the successful chefs of the future.

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Like a well-drilled formation dance team, they didn’t put a foot wrong when we staged the latest Lancashire Life Luncheon there.

The quality of the canap�s, especially the battered little pockets of risotto, raised expectations among the guests, who included that gent whose letter first alerted Lancashire Life to the Duke’s kitchen.

From the start, the kitchen not only displayed great skill but a sense of humour, too. The delicate starter, served in a beautifully decorated dining room, contained a crab ravioli using shellfish from Muncaster, queenie scallops and a crabstick. Yes, a crabstick. However, any similarity between this and those nasty little fingers of monosodium glutamate fish goo is purely coincidental. For a start, the Duke’s crabsticks actually contained crab. This inventive, tasty starter was perfectly partnered by a Mosel Riesling Kabinett-Selbach, � introduced by Roger Barlow, of wine merchants Gerrard Seel.

The main course was a revelation. Veal, shunned by many for decades, would surely be more popular if it was always cooked this well. Michael and the team roasted it to melt-in-the-mouth point and served it with another neglected, under-rated dish, celeriac. This is possibly one of the ugliest roots you’ll find at your greengrocer but the team proved that beauty is only skin deep by serving it dauphinoise-style with a lovely spinach mousse. Woodland mushrooms and an Armagnac and thyme sauce completed a memorable main course. A pinot noir from Casablanca Valley in Chile brought out the best in the meat without dictating to it.

(We know how difficult Chilean dictators can be, don’t we?) Dessert was a deeply-flavoured dark chocolate tart counterpointed by an orange sherbet ice cream with a tangy Tokay pudding wine. Good coffee and handmade petit fours (they were fighting over them on one table which shall remain nameless) brought a memorable lunch to a very happy conclusion.

Grindleton might be a hike for some Lancashire Life readers but it is certainly worth the journey.

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