Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Parkers Arms, Lancashire.

Every bank holiday we go with a load of mates, camping somewhere in the countryside. Except recently they've all upgraded to camper vans and trailer tents. As all our spare money goes on fine food, we're usually in the local B&B. We get to visit quite a few rural country pubs on out trips. In general the food is pretty standard at best, more often than not, disappointing. Far from being a nation of 'foodies' as some people would have you believe, most people seem to be happy with the poor quality food you get in most places. We've got quite adept at knowing what to order and what most pubs will mess up, in fact few offer anything different outside of fish and chips, pie and chips etc. The general state of pub food may be better than it was twenty years ago but it's still nowhere near good enough. Proper good food pubs are more unusual. This is why we cherish and support places like the Parkers Arms.
In an ideal world all pub food should be like this but in my experience it's so unusual because chefs like Stosie are actually out of the ordinary, in a pub anyway.
On this occasion we have a taster menu made up for us on a long leisurely afternoon with our genial host A.J. I'll judge it against other taster menus rather than normal pub food of which the Parkers is much superior. Any of our comments are really down to our own personal tastes and palate and it's important to be honest and constructive on a website like this if you're going to do it properly. We find Stosie generally favours a more acidic flavour to us but that comes down to our personal taste which maybe different to yours.
Spring Taster Menu.
Taramasalata & flatbread. We both love this tangy fish roe dip and of course flat-bread made in house. 
Parkers Potato skins & salsa. These are the best I've had here, hot, crisp and salty. (Sam likes these as we can hear from his loud crunching under the table). The salsa is even better than I remember it.
Stosie's curd cheese Za'atar & scorched broccoli. The charred, crunchy broccoli and that smoky soft cheese is such a joy to eat. A simple and lovely dish.
Taboulé Lancashire Gem. A fresh zesty salad.  
Cured wild sea trout, Beetroot, creamed horseradish, sorrel. Stosie has made up this menu with us in mind and knowing our personal tastes (lighter fish dishes). So we love this one, especially the delicate fresh trout which is beautiful, although the horseradish can be a little overpowering. It doesn't need so much, as the fish is so beautiful on its own virtually unadorned.
Charcoal grilled Cornish mackerel Tarleton fir potatoes, Lancs rhubarb. I'm a big fan of both rhubarb and mackerel, so this will always be a winner with me. Lovely crispy skin too.
Oat crumbed Cods tongue. Wild Garlic Asparagus & lemon. Mrs B thinks the sauce to this is too acidic, perhaps a little too much lemon that is slightly overwhelming. The cod's tongue has a stronger texture but is so tasty in the crunchy breadcrumb.
Seared peppered Newton venison Damson dressing, Mrs Kirkam's Lancashire. The flavour and exquisite mouth feel of the venison is beautiful but again we find that there's too much pepper which is unbalancing the dish a little. It would be better to just let the wonderful product speak for itself and tone back the pepper as it's overpowering.
Lambs liver, crispy belly (*or more correctly breast according to our local butcher Frosts), Grilled Hesketh bank spring cabbage hearts, creamed mash, mint & onion dressing. Our favourite of the mains without doubt. The crispy belly especially, so good and full of rich fatty flavour. Again, we're loving the grilled charred veg.
Lemon Posset & Oat crunch Lancs garden rhubarb. Possibly my favourite dessert of the year so far. Stosie's desserts are always very strong and the combination of creamy sharp lemon and tart rhubarb works so well.

Valrhona 70% Chocolate Trifle Chocolate crisp, salted caramel. This is luxuriously gorgeous and rich, I'd probably have preferred this without the salted caramel as it was much too salty for us.
On a surprise taster menu like this one there will always be dishes you prefer over others but this was probably our favourite of the taster menus at The Parkers. We especially liked the char-grilled flavours coming through which I don't recall from previous trips. We caught Stosie on a stressful day but it didn't show in the food. They've had a lot to put up with lately with idiotic football 'supporters' protesting about a manager who lives nearby and the ridiculous Tripadvisor spiteful fake 'reviews' that followed. Even more of a reason to visit the Parkers. It's important we support rare gems like this or we'll be left with just those cheap two for one chain pubs.
Most things here are sourced locally and seasonally. Where there is flatbread for instance, it's a given that it will be made in house as the fish and meat is cured on site. It's hundreds of these 'small things' (which are not of course) that are often overlooked elsewhere and corners are cut. Never here. Like I said, pubs like the Parkers are uncommon. It's everything British pub food should be.
More pics here.
The taster Menu costs us £35 each at quiet times only but you can still get extras if you let Stosie know via twitter and her #tweettreats.
  Parkers Arms on Urbanspoon

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