Sunday, 22 May 2016

Lancaster House Hotel, Lancaster and The Foodworks Restaurant.

Despite Lancaster being the county city of Lancashire, its one of those places that I rarely visit. Its an impressive city with an ancient castle and also the home to an equally impressive university. So we were pleased to be invited to enjoy a stay at the Lancaster House Hotel and a experience a  meal in the award winning Food-works Restaurant, the perfect excuse to venture a little further north.

Lancaster House Hotel is a comfortable four star hotel, situated very close to the university, its a little out of town but for me that's a good thing, and its easy to find, just off the A6 and well sign posted. Handy for the Southern Lake district, The Trough of Bowland or Lune Valley its ideal for town, country or coastal pursuits.

Boasting 99 rooms and 19 suites, the hotel is decorated in a comfy welcoming country style and is proud to serve local seasonal produce throughout the hotel to guests.Part of the English Lakes Group, Lancaster House Hotel features a pool and spa area, Sandeman's Bar (the Port and sherry people with whom they have a long standing partnership) and Food-works Restaurant, plus various function suites and conference facilities.

The other hotels in the Group are Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel and Marina on the shores of Lake Windermere, Waterhead Boutique Hotel and Dining also on the edge of Windermere, The Wild Boar Inn, Grill and Smokehouse situated close to Windermere and The Midland Iconic Art Deco hotel in Morecambe. Each hotel having its own unique personality.

We enjoyed our stay at Lancaster House, the young team were very welcoming and everywhere was clean and tidy and ensured that our stay was comfortable and relaxing, our room was a beautiful suite over looking the front of the hotel, it even had a Juliet balcony. The suite was spacious, tastefully decorated and the bathroom area was huge with a big tub and a generous raindrop shower and an impressive array of nice smellies for your ablutions.

I also like the fact that there was carafe supplied so you could collect  refreshing drinking water from the cooler  for your room rather than nasty plastic bottles, there was also an ice machine on the landing area too. The room has two (yes 2) wide screen televisions, one in the bedroom and one in the lounge area, the room was quiet and despite being someone who never sleeps very well in hotel beds, I had a good nights sleep at Lancaster House. Our only extremely minor niggle was in this day and age why not swap out one of the standard sockets for a usb combined socket so you can charge your phone whilst you sleep, plus its a bonus for your business guests who can make use of the free wifi.

Before our dinner reservation we availed ourselves with the facilities in the pool and spa area, the pool area is well organised and had a special area just for the little ones, plus a lane for the more dedicated swimmer and  an indoor Jacuzzi. Just off the pool area was the steam room (out of order at the time of our visit but should be fixed now), the sauna (traditional Finnish wood style) and an outside a large spa pool. The hotel also has a well equipped fitness area, were Mr LF tried out a few of the machines to offset his forthcoming dinner in the Food-works restaurant.

The Food-works Restaurant decor is contemporary and we just loved the mural of traditional Lancashire Folk, this combined with teacup chandeliers and dark wood dining tables and modern stripped back tableware gives the restaurant a unique ambiance.

Before dinner we chatted with Damien Ng - Executive Chef at Lancaster House about his  foodie influences (Gordon Ramsay), his careful sourcing of local produce for the menu and his favourite dishes to eat and cook (Lancashire Hotpot and any fish by the way).

The menu is varied and has something for everyone, plus lots of traditional Lancashire favourites including hotpot, Morecambe shrimps, parched peas  and of course fish and chips.

I started with slow roasted courgette, stuffed with tomatoes and Lancashire cheese, with a tomato garlic sauce. This was tasty yet light and started my meal off very well.

Mr LF has to choose the Lancashire platter of Goosnargh chicken liver pate, Morecambe bay shrimps on a chive potato cake, Black pudding bon bons and parched peas. This was served with a good chunk of bread and butter and disappeared very quickly, Mr LF particularly liked the pate and the parched peas which reminded both of us of our childhood and eating parched peas dressed with malt vinegar at Bonfire parties.

My main of Sea Bass, samphire and balsamic reduction was delicious, Damian know how to cook fish perfectly, crunchy salty samphire with a sharp yet sweet balsamic drizzle to cut the meaty fish.

Our other main just had to be Lancashire Hotpot served with hot aromatic spiced red cabbage, tender lamb pieces in a tasty sauce, moist falling potatoes and tender carrots. 

We followed with Sandemans sherry trifle, much to Mr LF's delight this was a traditional trifle with jelly layer, custard and fresh cream topping, good Sherry kick but the custard layer was a little disappointing and could have done with more vanilla to balance with the sherry notes.

My choice was Peanut butter cheesecake, a crunchy base with creamy cheese cake topping, not very peanut buttery but very tasty all the same, served with chocolate sauce and crispy crunchy shards of sesame toffee.

All in all a very enjoyable meal and of a very high standard, the service was attentive and efficient and the ambiance relaxed but with a special edge, we dined on a Saturday evening and the restaurant was almost full, so if planning a visit I would book ahead. the soundtrack playing was also a perfect complement to the decor / ambiance, its difficult to get right but we thought it was great.

Breakfast the following morning was served in the at Restaurant , there was a good quality buffet array of breakfast items, a nice range of hot and cold items were available. Special mention as well to the very good cup of tea served (in a lot of hotels it can be very wishy washy but not here) and I always find a cooked breakfast much more enjoyable if you don't have to wash up afterwards !

The hotel also has excellent Green credentials and is installing a 250W solar panel array, it also has 2 electric vehicle charging points and even has a loo in Africa twinned to its loo in the reception area.

You can find Lancaster House at

Green Lane

Bookings via the website 

                               Luxury Bedroom

We stayed and dined on a complementary basis, we were not compelled to write a positive review and all thoughts and views expressed are our own.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Middle Holly Cottage Tea Room and Cake Parlour - Afternoon tea

In Lancashire we pride ourselves on a warm and friendly welcome and there is no finer way to spend an afternoon then enjoying the delights of afternoon tea. On a cold blustery spring day we ventured forth to Middle Holly Cottage in Forton for such an afternoon.

On our journey up to Forton where Middle Holly is situated, we saw the cars temperature gauge plumet by 3 degrees and experienced hail, rain and thunder. Fortunately for us Middle Holly is really easy to find being situated just of the A6 and on arrival we were warmly welcomed into the cosy tea room and cake parlour by Gill who runs Middle Holly with her husband Andy. 

Originally from Cheshire but now firmly settled in Lancashire, Gill and I enjoyed a lovely chat about all things food, the WI (she's a member just like me), the Clandestine Cake club, catering for free from diets and Lancashire in general.

Gill is really passionate about her beautiful B and B and tea room being the best they possibly can and she carefully features the best  quality local and seasonal produce on her menu's. She wants all her customers to experience a warm, genuine and memorable experience when staying or eating at Middle Holly.

Gill makes all her own bread, cakes, jams, chutneys and her eggs come from her own  garden hens and sources all her other ingredients as locally as she can. For example she proudly serves Dewlay's Lancashire Cheese, which is little a few minutes walk down the road.

We were invited to experience the Deluxe Afternoon tea which was served in the pretty Garden Room area, thoughtfully decorated in country pastels and the tea, cakes and sandwiches all served on eclectic vintage china, complete with home knitted and crocheted tea cosies by Gill's Mum !

We started our tea with a shot glass of homemade seasonal vegetable soup, very tasty and flavourful which was very welcome given the weather outside, Gill makes sure that when she blends her soup you still have little chunks of vegetables so you can really taste the fresh vegetables in the soup.

Next came our tottering tower (cake stand), strewned with viola flowers, salad and herb leaves, and bedecked with finger sandwiches of home cooked ham, egg mayonnaise and Lancashire cheese and homemade chutney, all served on homemade organic bread. Gill likes to ring the changes and try different flours in the bread baking (most of the bread is made by Andy), so our selection was farmhouse white and  a seeded bread. The sandwiches were delicious, generously filled  and the homemade bread makes such a difference to the taste experience. Alongside our sandwiches we also had a little bowl of Lancashire Crisps, we love those too and again show careful thoughtful sourcing.

Our next  cake stand layer was a fruity raspberry fool served in a pretty vintage teacup and homemade crisp and light chocolate eclairs. The fool was perfectly balanced in terms of sweetness and tartness so as not to be cloying, the eclairs light and airy and filled with fluffy whipped cream.

The top layer of the stand has two huge pieces of cake, which we split in half so both myself and Mr LF could experience the floral rose and almond cake and slated caramel layer cake. Again all homemade, We particularly loved the salted caramel layer cake with its salty yet sweet topping. By this stage we were getting very full so we agreed with Gill to take away our scones (choice of fruit or plain), if you can squeeze them in they come accompanied with cream and  a choice of Gills Homemade jams. The scones are huge, and unlike a lot of other scones I have tried, not in the least bit disappointingly dry and tasteless, these were light and tasty, they were our treat later in the day when we returned home with the last of our homemade rhubarb and strawberry jam.

Last but not least a handmade homemade truffle each, just to round things off !! 

Outside Middle Holly has views over to the Bowland Hills, a little misty and obscured whilst we were there due to the inclement downpour but stunning non the less. 

We loved our visit to Middle Holly and meeting and chatting with Gill, despite it being an awful day the tea room was still fairly busy, so if you are planning a visit I would book just to be on the safe side as given the high standard of afternoon tea and cake on offer, Middle Holly is sure to be very popular. The tea room is currently open Thursday, Friday and Saturday and in the summer on Sundays too.

Check out the website for further details of the tea room and B and B

Our meal was provided free of charge for review purposes, we were not compelled to write a positive review and all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

John Caffery - Manager of Chorley Dukpond

This months featured foodie is John Caffery, Manager / Maitre D of Duk Pond in Chorley towncentre, John is passionate about local seasonal food and is happy to head up this newly opened deli / cantina / tapas bar. Pop in for a warm and friendly welcome and some great food, you can find them on Cleveland Street, close to the market. So we can understand what make our foodie tick he ansewered our usual selection of questions.

What is your favourite cookery or food book or publication ?
2 cooks and a suitcase, by Dougie Bell

What sentence sums up Lancashire Food to you ?
The most Diverse, quality food in the country

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you like to be ?
A cheese maker

Which piece of kit could you not do without ?
My global Knife set

Who would join you at your ultimate dinner party and why?
  • Heston Blumenthal (To Cook),
  • Johnny Depp (would make my wife happy),
  • Luc Besson and Guillermo Del Torro (favourite film directors)
  • Peter Kay.
  • Stan Lee,
  • Steven Fry.

What advice would you give to your younger self ?
It will all work out in the end.

Describe your style in three words
Eclectic, rock n roll,

What was your latest foodie gadget purchase ?
A pressure cooker

What is your greatest achievement to date ?
Running my own business

What is the worst mistake you have made ?
Trusting the wrong people

Tell us a secret about yourself ? may be something we wouldn’t expect !
I used to be the lead singer in a punk rock band

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