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The Longridge Restaurant
The Longridge Restaurant
104-106 Higher Road
Sat 5th July 2003
The Longridge Restaurant is, I think, the flagship in Paul Heathcote's empire. Its setting in rural Lancashire affords some pleasant views over the Ribble valley. When I rang to book, they suggested we arrive between 7:30 and 7:45 to avoid clashing with the arrival of a large party.
When we arrived, it became apparent why they had suggested the staggered arrival - the lounge had seating for fewer than 10 people. The decor is maroon and cream, and the layout seems to have retained the separate rooms of the original house. This gave us sufficient privacy without excluding us from the rest of the throng.
We ordered drinks while we read through the menu. I queried why they hadn't given us the "Signature" menus published on their web-site: it is because they have been withdrawn (but not yet removed from the site). I expressed a little disappointment, as I had been considering going "all out" and sampling the full gamut of the menu. Similarly Phil may have been tempted.
My Campari & orange was made with fresh orange. Others ordered Stella, Peroni and Pernod. While we studied the menu, we weren't hurried in any way and the service was attentive. We were led to our table, from where we could see into the very busy kitchen (through wired glass). I thought the ambience was quite pleasant.
Although not completely full, the restaurant was busy.
Boiled Bacon salad, crispy shallots and sauce gribiche. Lovely, the bacon was tasty without being too salty.
Minestrone of summer vegetables, parmesan and black pepper (without the parmesan). Now this did not completely please: the flavour being vastly different to what one would expect of a "minestrone". When Marg had had enough, she passed it over to me to try, and I was rather more receptive. It was tangy, and flavoured of peppers. We can only say that it was obviously well made, but did not suit our taste.
Wild mushroom risotto. This was pronounced excellent by all who tried it - even Marg, who had previously thought that mushroom risotto was one of her least favourite dishes. The only downside was the small size of the portion, though to be honest it was a decent helping for a starter - it's just that it was so good, I didn't want it to run out!
Marg and I shared a bottle of Chianti Classico, Fattoria di Montecchio 1998 while Phil and Linda opted for Stella and Peroni.
Main courses: Steak and kidney Pudding. The kidney was presented on top of the pudding which was a little odd as we thought it might have been more of an integral part. Linda though this was an excellent pudding, extremely tasty.
Calves Liver was done to perfection, tinged with pink. The mashed potatoes were luscious, and the side order of spinach was "just so".
Baked Haddock. Fine but economical in size, the potato was sliced and fanned and seared, which was delicious
Braised Sole, Jersey royals, baby leeks and asparagus. Very satisfactory.
Desserts: Trio of Raspberries. Small, but perfectly formed. Phil actually joked about the trio of raspberries before they were ordered, saying he imagined it would probably mean three rasberries - and it did literally!!
Cheese Board. Nice selection of British cheeses - my favourites were (if I remember correctly) the Kirkham's and the Cropwell Bishop Stilton.
Bitter Chocolate Tart Bread & Butter Pudding. Fabulous, even though it was surprisingly light.
General comments: Although the staff were pleasant, the efficiency was slightly marred by a reluctance to determine whether drinks were required - we had to ask a couple of times. Some of the crockery was scuffed around the edges - which did detract somewhat from the presentation, and we asked for a chipped glass to be replaced.
There was an episode, late on, of shouting from the kitchen (which is visible both from the street and from the dining room). Perhaps some people regard such an outburst as part of the entertainment or find it excusable for the "artist" temperament. Personally, I feel this sort of behaviour is poor: One would not accept it from staff in a Bank branch, for example - why should cooks get away with it?
My verdict is generally favourable. Some might consider that the portions were small enough to bring down the "value for money" rating. However (and I confirmed this with the staff) if you were to ask for more, it would be forthcoming, and I fully accept that "heaping it on" would probably do little for the aesthetics.
The bill came to £178.81 which included the discretionary 10% service charge. Phil's view was that this did not represent outstanding value for money, although it was undoubtedly a fine experience: he thought Juniper would have been a better bet for a spend of this magnitude.
Finally: their blackboard had an offer of £25 per head, including a bottle of wine, early Friday (and Saturday?). An offer we will not be able to resist.