Samlesbury Hall puts Lancashire escargot on the menu
- Credit: Archant
Meet the chef bringing new meaning to the term slow food – and that’s just the snails. Emma Mayoh reports
Mike Winder loves Lancashire. The head chef’s menu at Samlesbury Hall is brimming with top quality ingredients from the county. In fact, he is so dedicated to food provenance even the snails come from Lancashire.
The 25-year-old took the bold decision to serve up escargot. But rather then ship them from France; he didn’t need to look any further than a few miles down the road in the Forest of Bowland. The snails come from Waddington company, L’Escargotiere.
‘Well, why shouldn’t the snails come from Lancashire?’ said Mike, who has worked in hospitality in various Lancashire pubs and in Australia.
‘L’Escargotiere approached me and I thought it would be really exciting to try them at the hall. I think it’s a fantastic idea.’
The snails are hatched and reared in the beautiful Lancashire countryside before being sold to prestigious catering and hospitality venues including Samlesbury Hall. Customer responses have been mixed but Mike is determined to keep them on the specials board of the restaurant to encourage more diners to give them a try.
‘It was a no-brainer for me,’ said Mike. ‘I knew I would love to give it a go. They are fabulous quality and they definitely get people talking. They taste fabulous too.
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‘There is a real mix of reactions to them. We had some French people come here to dine and they prefer them served with the shell on. Whereas, in the main, British people prefer it without the shell.
‘Those who have tried them have enjoyed them. Now I just have to find a way to get people to be a little braver.’
It’s not just the snails that come from Lancashire, though as Mike had made it his ambition to fill his menus with food from the county.
Duck comes from Johnson & Swarbrick in Goosnargh, fruit and vegetables from Ribble Farm Fare in Longridge and meat from champion butcher Tom Wood in Blackburn, who is also the captain of the Team GB Butchery Team.
‘I don’t see the point in looking further afield,’ said Mike. ‘Why would you when you have everything you need, at the best quality, right here on our doorstep in Lancashire. When you can get the best, there is no need to look anywhere else.
‘People like Tom, who really know their work, are just fabulous to have as a supplier. We have all these passionate people working hard to create fantastic food and I want to showcase that.’
Mike’s culinary ambitions and determination to try new things has been one of the factors behind the success story of this beautiful historic hall.
Over the past few years the now popular tourist attraction has gone from offering simple menus with tea and cake and a few classic dishes to serving up a la carte, fine dining meals in the restaurant.
Mike and his talented kitchen team work hard to produce superb food designed to draw people in.
‘It’s something that was important to me. Five, six years ago people didn’t want the same things from their food. Now, when they come to a place like us, they want more than tea and cake.
‘There was one time when someone here was on the verge of tears because there had been two people in and they had spent £3. That was all we had all day. But that has really changed. Opening the restaurant definitely helped that.
‘People come here just for the food now. It is really encouraging and I’m really lucky to have such a good team. We decide things together and that’s a really good way to drive things forward. Everyone feel a part of it.
‘Things are very different now. It’s a busy, bustling place and I absolutely love that. Customers want more from their food and I hope, through providing that, we’ve helped to make a real difference.’