The tales of a half-Spanish, Southern guy with Yorkshire roots living in Bolton and looking for some half-decent grub

Thursday 23 April 2015

Freemasons at Wiswell

The Freemasons at Wiswell spent a long time right at the top of my 'places to eat' list before I was able to find the time to visit.

It ticks all the boxes of somewhere I would love - hidden away in a small village within the Ribble Valley, serving local produce and highly recommended.

The pub has been recognised as a great food destination and was named the 'Top Pub in the UK' by The Good Food Guide.

It is classically rustic inside but also has a modern feel.  This is a country pub with a contemporary twist and that is reflected in the food.

Complimentary Bread:
Everyone loves it when the waiter brings across some free bread to get you started.  However, not everywhere does bread like they do here.  

Warm rolls, soaked with beef fat and covered in salt and rosemary.

You don't get better bread than that.  

Organic Egg:
Crispy Hen's Egg, "Gammon and Pineapple". 

Hannah is a sucker for any sort of egg based starter after she fell in love with the Hearth of the Ram's Scotch Egg.  The runny yolk of the Freemason egg had her smiling.

Kofta, BBQ Lettuce, Miso Aubergine, Mint and Yoghurt.  

I will always go for anything with BBQ on the menu and I wasn't disappointed.  Subtle flavours that hit the spot but not too sweet to overpower the flavour of the meat.

Aged Beef:
Roast Sirloin, Yorkshire Pudding, Duck Fat Potatoes, Cauliflower Cheese, Roast Beef Juices.

I think the images speak for themselves. 


The cauliflower cheese was scrumptious.  

Quite a few restaurants and people up north seem to love it with a roast, but before I moved up here I had never heard of putting it with a traditional Sunday lunch.

Perhaps it is a northern thing but whoever came up with the idea was a bloody genius. 

Fish of the Day:
Cod, Southport Potted Shrimps, Chipped Potatoes.

I rarely order seafood but after my father-in-law decided to try the cod, it triggered some serious food envy.  

Next time, I may have to go for fish instead of meat!

Cheesecake and Vanilla Ice Cream.

Neatly presented and fresh enough to cleanse my palate.  A really good way to end a fantastic meal. 

Michel Cluizel:
Dark Chocolate Mousse and Passion Fruit.

The strange name for this dessert relates to the source of the chocolate.  Based in Normandy, Michel Cluizel have been in business since 1948 and their product was put to good use in the kitchen at Freemasons.

The Ribble Valley is full of wonderful places to eat, especially if you like local produce.

The Freemasons at Wiswell matches the quality I associate with the area and is the perfect place to go if you want a drive into the countryside followed by some high quality food.

You don't end up as the best pub in the UK for nothing! 

Check out my other Ribble Valley blogs here.

Freemasons at Wiswell on Urbanspoon

Monday 13 April 2015

Pitt Cue Co, Soho

They say that fate is a cruel mistress.

Well that certainly wasn't the case on our final day in London earlier this month.

The sunshine disappeared and was replaced with drizzle meaning we needed to get indoors. In our efforts to find Choccywoccydoodah and some new converse trainers, we ended up getting lost around Soho.

In a fortunate turn of events, we stumbled upon Pitt Cue Co purely by accident. A small, unassuming building which looked nothing like a meat lovers paradise.

This place has been on my radar ever since I got my hands on the Pitt Cue Co. Cookbook. With there being only 30 seats in the tiny restaurant, I didn't think we would ever get a chance to savour its delights.

Thankfully fate was on our side today. With no queue in sight on this Sunday lunchtime it was an obvious choice.

A cryptic menu was pinned to the net curtains in the window but I only had to read the words 'Pulled Pork' and I was already through the door.

When you first enter the restaurant it is striking just how small it is. Like an old saloon in the States there are bourbons on display and stools to sit at the bar. It didn't look big enough from the outside and where were the tables?

We were led downstairs to a dim and compact dining room which gives you the feeling of being in a genuine barbecue joint somewhere in deep Louisiana.


Our helpful waitress gave us a rundown of the menu and we ordered a couple of cocktails.

The drinks were different, mainly bourbon based cocktails, strong enough to put hairs on your chest but absolutely delicious.

Cider Sour
Bourbon, Cider, Lemon, Ginger Syrup

Bourbon, Cointreau, Lemon, Bitters

Pulled Pork
Served with sourdough, pickle and green chilli slaw.  The perfect specimen of pulled pork. 

I am getting flashbacks of this meal right now and damn, I want it again.  Immediately.

Beef and Stout Bun
A perfectly toasted brioche bun with a juicy beef patty that satisfies even the most demanding of burger eaters. The meat melted in your mouth.

Bone Marrow Mash
The best thing we ate all week.  Thick, rich and creamy with beef gravy and bone marrow it was the perfect accompaniment. By an absolute mile the best mash you can find.  Anywhere.  

Our meal at Pitt Cue Co. made my weekend in London complete. It was a unexpected surprise find on this miserable rainy Sunday.

One thing is for sure, it's one of the only places I'd be willing to queue for! 

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon

Sunday 12 April 2015

Restaurant Story, London

To celebrate a special occasion, it seemed only logical to book into a Michelin Star restaurant for a top of the range fine dining adventure.

Previous experiences at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester and Casamia in Bristol had been fantastic so on Hannah's birthday trip to London we booked in at Restaurant Story

Tom Sellers' opened Story in April 2013 and it didn't take long for them to gain their first Michelin Star. After whittling down our preferred list of eateries and doing a lot of research, there was still a buzz around this place and it seemed to be the restaurant of the moment. We had to get in here but getting a reservation can be tricky.

After three months on the waiting list, I received a call to say a table was available so naturally we snapped it up. Centered on the concept of story books, we were invited to bring our own story book with a written message from us inside to share. From this, we inferred that the experience was going to be a novel and unusual one, centred around a book such as Alice in Wonderland.  We were very excited to try this place out.

Finally, the highly anticipated evening arrived and we hopped on to the tube headed south of the river.

A short stroll from London Bridge station and right at the south end of the famous Tower Bridge, you might be surprised as you arrive at Restaurant Story which is housed in a strange small building akin to a small public library. Not at all what we were expecting.

Once inside, the restaurant is minimalist and spacious with a row of colour co-ordinated books at the far side. The kitchen is visible from every table in an open plan format and you can watch the chefs diligently crafting their dishes. We were warmly greeted before being seated at our table where a Charles Dickens book was waiting for us.

As an extra touch, the team at Story had left a wax sealed envelope on the table in which we found a birthday message for Hannah from Tom Sellers himself. 

We chose the 'Full Story' so we could get the complete foodie experience on offer and ordered our drinks.

To be honest we were disappointed with the beverages. Hannah ordered a glass of sparkling rose as she didn't like any of the cocktails on offer. I went for a Jon Cannon - Cherry Cola cocktail. Small would be putting it mildly. I fully understand that high-end establishments charge more for alcohol but when you spend nine pounds on a cocktail you expect more than a couple of sips for your money. The picture below is how the drink arrived.

The same can be said for the £15 glass of pink fizz which was just less than half of a champagne flute.

Not a great start.

Things picked up as the food arrived.

Not listed on the menu, we were delivered an unexpected range of little nibbles and canapes to get us started. The rabbit sandwich was a particular highlight as was the squid ink Oreo filled with eel moose.

Not long after we had finished our pre-starters the menu began.

Ocean, Sea and Coast
This course is split into three separate dishes.  The first was a dry ice Ocean dish which really made a theatrical statement as magical smoke poured over the table to reveal a beautiful surprise.  

The Sea dish was served on a huge block of ice to keep it chilled.

The Coast dish served two oysters in a vinegar dressing.

Additional course - Pea and ham soup
The entire menu was pleasantly punctuated with other surprise dishes which were not advertised on the menu. This course was probably the best pea and ham soup I have ever had.  Nicely balanced and refreshing, garnished with crunchy croutons and pretty edible flowers.

Bread and dripping
This was my favourite course because it was the kind of novelty we were expecting. We were brought an innocent looking candle earlier in the evening which turned out to be made of beef dripping. It started to melt and collected in the dish below.

With warm bread to dip, we were also given beef extract to mix in and a little pot of meat, it was a triumph.

Onion, apple and old tom
Although I am not a fan of gin, the onion had a very pleasant and pungent taste. A delightfully pretty dish. 

Scallops, cucumber and dill ash
Beautiful, delicate and exquisite.  I really didn't think I would like raw scallops but they were delicious. A great way to eat fresh seafood.

Heritage potato, asparagus and coal
Potato was the star of this dish.  So often the forgotten accompaniment, Tom Sellers gives the humble potato some well deserved attention.

Squid and stem tartare
Not my favourite dish as the texture was a little on the slimy side. 

Additional course - Brioche and four layer butter
Plain, parsley, truffle and foie gras layers made this butter something very special to spread over a steamy brioche bun accompanied by pickled cucumber.  

Herdwick lamb, sheep's yogurt and ramson
Not as memorable as the lamb dish at Casamia and I wouldn't say the dish stood out from the rest of the menu. 

Foie gras, wild berries and sorrel
The foie gras was served creme brulee style with croutons and discs of beetroot and berries.  

Additional course - Lemon cleanser
Sharp and clean to move us from savoury to sweet.

Pumpkin, burnt clementine and cardamom
A little bit of savoury meets sweet, this was quite an unusual texture.

Almond and dill
This was a strange one. It took a moment to move past the unusual texture and combination of flavours. Neither of us particularly enjoyed this.

Tea cakes
Along with the bill came two small chocolate tea cakes very similar to Tunnocks that were outrageously tasty! The hint of rosemary in there was a nice touch.

We were attracted to visit here as the story theme seemed like a unique dining experience. Eating at Restaurant Story is certainly a foodie adventure.  It pushed us out of our comfort zone.  We tried new things that we would never normally order on an a la carte menu and tasted new and unusual combinations of ingredients.

However, we felt that the story concept was confusing. There is no story. No link as far as we could see as to how story books related to the food. On reflection, the concept seems completely unnecessary.

The food speaks for itself without the need for any gimmicks like bringing a book along. The surprise dishes and the candle were a nice touch but there wasn't really anything unique about this place.

With there being so many dishes, some of them were great and others were not to my taste.
One thing that bugged Hannah, which she would like to mention, was that she didn't like a few of the 20 dishes either. This is only natural with a set menu and whilst she tried each dish, the waiter kept mentioning the fact she hadn't finished everything on her plate. The first time we laughed it off but after the fourth and fifth time, the running commentary on what she had and hadn't eaten started to wear a bit thin.

Restaurant Story was an odd, mixed experience with a confused theme that doesn't translate to the food.  Sure it is fine dining but we were led to believe, from the intrigue beforehand, that there would be some sort of extra twist that never actually transpired.  
There were hints to this such as the book on the table, the request to bring a book along and the wax sealed letter but this was as far as it went.

We discussed our evening and enjoyed a stroll down the south bank and across Tower Bridge to walk off our many courses.  London at night really is an underrated highlight. 

Restaurant Story on Urbanspoon