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FREEMASONS at Wiswell


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According to Catersearch this years Michelin Bib Gourmands have fallen to 117 establishments. A drop on last year, as 38 restaurants were omitted, whilst only 26 new places were added.

Freemasons is one of the new ones.

I'm glad that I looked closer at this years list as this place is within decent travelling time, indeed it is just three miles farther up the road from Northcote Manor which I recently reviewed on here.

As we are running out of Michelin starred places that we want to try, I am certain to give my attention to the Bib's from now on.

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Set over two floors there is not one area that we would not sit. Its a very inviting place with cosy little open plan areas with just enough sectioning between rooms to give an intimate yet not confined feel. The small bar is the first thing that draws your attention as you enter. You will notice three half pint glasses lined up on the counter. Bowlands, Tirril, and Three B's are local breweries whose ales we were eager to try. Of the three we preferred the Bowlands Hen Harrier

The carte consists of six, six and six choices, the dessert menu has cheese as one of the options.

There is an truly excellent value set lunch/Early supper menu with a two, two, two choice @ £12.95 for two courses or an extra three English pounds for the dessert.

We fancied the carte simply because the food on the website looked the dogs goolies, so we wanted to see if it cut the mustard so to speak.

Leek and Potato-soup, Smoked Haddock Fish Fingers (£5.95)

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This was very prettily presented and even though in essence the basic dish it is quite simple ,the reason why its such a classic is that it tastes so good. This was taken to the next level as the veloute contained an egg yolk, some smoked haddock, smoked haddock milk foam, and winter truffle

The adittional crunch of the fish finger added another dimension. Great start this.

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Bread is bought locally, white and brown, and nothing wrong in that as it compares with quite a few we have eaten recently. The butter is whipped with ten per cent buttermilk and flecked with sea salt, and have to say this would be my choice over some of the fridge cold (pet hate) ones we have had of late.

Roast Venison (£9.95)

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The suitably pink loin sat atop a mound of Bolognaise sauce, the little bobbles of meat giving an added textural element when eating it with the venison. Beetroot, smoked chocolate, blood orange segments and little teasing hits of crumbled blue cheese were in there also. Quite a busy plate of food, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Foie Gras- Poached and Roast, "Rhubarb and Custard" (£11.95)

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This was not my dish and as such only had one taste, much to my disappointment. The foie gras was totally divine, virtually evaporating in the mouth. The "rhubarb and custard" element was to say, at the very least, interesting, although as I say between one taste, eating my own plate of food and taking photos it can become a bit of a chore taking notes as well. So sadly I can not comment farther, as multi tasking is not really my forte.

What the dish shows is chef Stephen Smith's distinctive style, and my wife really enjoyed this offering. I will give it a whirl on our next visit.

Tandoori Roast Monkfish (£8.50)

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This was a joy to eat, a playfull log of curried Monkfish with two Pork? nuggets, Pork Scratchings, a small pool and slick of sweet potato, apple battons, the ubiquitous foam, and two blobs of, well I can't remember. We cleared the plate in true Northern fashion.

Roasted Cod Loin (£15.95)

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For the price, this is a cracking dish, and as enjoyable as many dishes costing quite a bit more money. The Cod is topped with tasty,olive oil poached squid. Some more deep fried squid adds a crunch to the dish. Some welcome al dente Jerusalem Artichoke is in there, plus some crunchy crushed hazelnuts and tiny dice of chorizo.

Goosnargh Duck (£16.95)

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Poached and Roasted Breast, Confit Leg Wantons, Turnips, Swede gratin, and tiny cubes of mead jelly.

Not my dish, I had a taste. it was up to standard, my wife declared it a hit.

We had a couple of sides, although with this amount of food you would struggle to eat it all.

Swede Gratin and Leeks and Hazelnuts (both £2.95 each)

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Blood Orange, Meringue Pie (£6.95)

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Well, when the dessert arrived tableside I was a bit gobsmacked. Its clear the pastry chef (who recently spent some time at Noma) has a fixation with Walnut Whips The three towers, although admittedly made from meringue, instead of chocolate, could not be mistaken for anything else.

I loved the presentation, it ate very well indeed, not oversweet. The blood orange bitterness cutting through, with that teasing distraction every so often that makes eating a dish of this calibre all the more enjoyable.

My other half declined dessert, happy to linger in savory mode. To me it seemed such a shame not to savour what was on the dessert menu and I'm really, really glad that I could find room for such a visually exciting and fulfilling end to the meal.

Lancashire now has at least two (Northcote) very good dining options for us to travel too. And on the way back home we passed one of Gordon Ramsay Best restaurants 2010. In fact voted his best Chinese Restaurant of the Year 2010, Yu and You looked pretty good on TV. So we must give that a try too.

We bumped (not literally, and thankfully, as he's a big lad) into Chef Steven Smith after the meal, and who I incidently rate as a real talent, He was keen to show us his new kitchen and was kind enough to have a chat with us about his passion, and pride, to have gained the Bib Gourmand, and some other awards in such a short space of time since they have been opened.

Hand on heart if the kitchen keeps putting dishes out to this standard, and indeed improving as Stephen is looking to do, a Michelin Star is a certainty. Fingers crossed for them.

As you may have gathered we really enjoyed our visit here and without doubt can thoroughly recommend it. Very well worth putting yourself out for. So give it a try.

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Happy Chefs,

Steven Smith to your right.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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Bloody hell David, yet again you've beaten me to visiting somewhere on my list. All looks very good, so must venture over there very soon. I am fairly sure that Steven Smith will be doing a demo at Thom's Restaurant show in March. I remember an article about the place which focused on the wine list which was supposed to offer exceptionally good value. How did you find it?

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Thanks, David. Added to my list of localish "to try" places - which now stands at 44.

Isnt there somewhere else at Wiswell that gets tipped?

Not sure John, its our first time. Its a sleepy little village which we did not explore.

We set the Sat Nav and went into auto pilot and "Audrey" directed us right to the door.

Will explore a bit more and let you know if I find anything.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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I remember an article about the place which focused on the wine list which was supposed to offer exceptionally good value. How did you find it?

To me the wine list looks very user friendly and I,m sure the mark ups are small.

However saying that we only tried the beer and a couple of glasses of wine.

I admit to having no real interest in the subject, my palate just does not get the subtle difference between an expensive and a very expensive wine and as this is the case if I was down to my last £30 a decent plate of food would win hands down over a bottle of wine.

From my point of view, over many many years dining out, the money not spent on expensive wines means that I can drive the kind of exoticars that small and not so small boys could only dream about :biggrin: I reckon to have saved that sort of money.

So for me that is a win, win situation.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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Bloody hell David, yet again you've beaten me to visiting somewhere on my list. All looks very good, so must venture over there very soon. I am fairly sure that Steven Smith will be doing a demo at Thom's Restaurant show in March. I remember an article about the place which focused on the wine list which was supposed to offer exceptionally good value. How did you find it?

The wine list of which you speak may have been when Ian Martin (ex Red Cat Crank) ran it, and it was exceptionally good value, and a longer list than present. The food then was good but not on the same level as it is at present, as good as many starred places I have been to this year.

The Ribble valley has long been one of if not the best food destinations in the UK, with Byrnes,Cheesie Tchaikovsky, Wellgate Fisheries, Exchange Coffee, etc.

The other recent Bib was La Locanda in near by Gisburn, which is a fantasic Italian

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 7 months later...

Finally got there for lunch.

This is a pub very definitely in full gastro territory. I’m sure you’d be welcomed if you just wanted a pint of one of the local speciality brews on offer – but you’d probably get a quizzical look as to why you weren’t eating. As far as I can see, they’re trying to push all the right buttons, even if not always necessarily in the right order

There’s an attractive looking, and attractively priced, set menu. Three courses for £15.95 with a couple of choices at each course. And that was certainly the route most tables seemed to be going down. But the more interesting stuff was on the main carte, so a different route for us.

I warmed to them even more as, within a minute or so of sitting down, a jug of water was provided, so no pressure to be buying bottles of overpriced Hildon. Bread was offered – an indifferent granary and an equally indifferent white. We scoffed that quickly and more was offered and accepted.

Our starter experience was a bit mixed. I’d gone with a lovely rich venison “sausage” – think Bambi fishfinger for the crisp breadcrumby coating over a soft and rich filling. Quince and apple cropped up in puree and a slice in a little tart. Both a pleasant sweet flavour and, I have to confess, the similarity in taste meant I wasn’t sure which was which. Yes, I know that says something about my palate but there you go. On the other hand, a pumpkin and Parmesan veloute, served in a tea cup, was less of success. No discernable taste of Parmesan and the soup topped with a thick layer of a bland creamy mousse. Perhaps the intent was to mimic serving a cup of cappuccino but this really didn’t work – we were not the only table to think so – next one scraped off the foam.

I am turning into a grumpy old man and one of my regular bugbears in recent times has been inordinate delays between one course’s crockery being removed and the next course arriving. It irritates. And so it did here. Nearly 30 minutes had passed and then one of the servers volunteered an unsolicited apology saying the mains were “on their way”. Another ten minutes passed. These were a mixed pair of dishes as well and, again, I got the better of it.

Partridge was pretty much autumn on a plate. There were poached breasts. And a “Kiev” of the leg – as with the venison starter, this was rich well seasoned meat encased in a crisp coat. A little disc of a full flavoured Morteau sausage – you’d really like to have some more of this; girolles and kale contributed to the five a day. And there was a good sauce. Missing the mark was a “cannelloni” of another bland mousse.

Grilled haddock had also seemed a good bet but came under-seasoned and with flabby skin but was, otherwise, nicely cooked. Some wilted pak choi and some very good chips were spot on for accompaniments.

As often, we passed on dessert but there was good coffee to finish. Service from front of house had been good – except for the almost inevitable delay in trying to pay the bill. My partner had drunk a half of the Wiswell bitter that had been on offer and had been pleased to see a good range of wines by the glass which had offered up a decent Chilean Sauvignon Blanc at well under a fiver.

John Hartley

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Well John, a bit of a mixed report there. Was the big man in the kitchen?

Its a big night in The Lakes tomorrow night for not only Stephen but a lot of other chefs. Perhaps he was not in charge on the day.

I was very tempted to go

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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