Restaurant review - The Parkers Arms, Newton-in-Bowland
- Credit: The Parkers Arms
A visit to this Bowland favourite is always a treat.
Summer has arrived in the Forest of Bowland and with it an embarrassment of riches with big blue skies and landscapes so lovely, you can understand why it would be the Queen’s retirement location of choice. The fields, hills and streams are bathed in that summer haze late in June as the temperature soars.
Just making your way to The Parkers Arms is a delicious experience. You could call it a pilgrimage – a road well worn by the legions of Parkers fans who already know the food delights that await them.
The Parkers is almost at the end of the road, so to speak, almost on the way to nowhere. Even from Clitheroe, just seven miles away, there's a feast of views around every bend. And all with the Parkers pot of gold at the end of it. What a treat.
Big smiles welcome you – clearly noticeable even when they come from behind a mask – the chat is friendly and you feel instantly at home. We sat indoors but those dining outside are rewarded with more of those views. Although it was a mid-week lunchtime, the dining room is full of eager diners.
Flutes of fresh-as-it-comes elderflower presse arrive at our table, delivering a much-needed cool down from the summer heat. The elderflowers were foraged from the fields we can see from our table, a hint at the complete embracing of the seasons in the Parkers menus. It’s the kind of thing you could drink all day – and for the non-drivers the addition of gin into an elderflower gin fizz is a tempting thing.
And then the feasting begins. First up is crispy potato skins, scattered with flakes of sea salt, and so delightfully crunchy you can hear the snap as diners tuck in on nearby tables. Starters of zingy elderflower vinegar-infused Tarleton summer tomatoes and courgette crudo served with a decent slice of super sourdough are divine. It’s summer on a plate; I challenge anyone to disagree. My dining pal’s confit Lancaster mushrooms with lemon parfait are devoured. I tried to get a taste but was just too slow.
Next, tasters of Whitby langoustines – ones we’d been ogling at the table next to us – were brought as extras not ordered but we were willed to try. Charcoal-grilled and cooked with garden herb butter, the soft white langoustine flesh was heaven on a plate.
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My friend’s charcoaled cod loin with triple cooked chips, wild garlic capers and spring greens was a triumph. And for me the main event, and the reason so many flock to this countryside inn, the Parkers pie. Filled with Bowland beef and red wine and cooked in a hot-water pastry shell, this was a thing of beauty. Rich, meaty, solid. A dish you’ll remember for years to come.
For desserts, another celebration of the seasons with roasted peach and almond frangipani tart with bay leaf ice cream and set Gisburn lemon cream with macerated new season strawberries and lime meringue. They are the kind of puddings you think you’d never have room for, only to find your plate suddenly empty, so tasty are its contents.
This food heaven is all brought together by chef patron Stosie Madi, a South African born chef who settled in the Ribble Valley hell bent on bringing attention to this remote corner of the Ribble Valley. She does it with business partner Kathy Smith and front of house supremo AJ Nolan, the one responsible for that warm welcome. She’s done it with quiet determination and a dogged devotion to creating perfect plates of divine food. Her efforts have won her praise from Guardian critic Jay Rayner and a string of awards including a Lancashire Life Food & Drink Award and fourth place on the prestigious Top 50 gastropubs, with just one northern venue ranked higher.
Everything about the Parkers Arms is an absolute masterclass: in service, in location and in the food it serves. The views through the Forest of Bowland are just the appetiser to the feast of delights on offer. Try it, I insist.
We ate the lunch menu of three courses for £35 each. To book, visit parkersarms.co.uk.