Walking into the Parkers Arms is like being welcomed into the home of an old friend. Local folk are stood chatting at the bar, and dogs lay dozing by fires as their owners enjoy home cooked, hearty food. There's no loud music, just the gentle chitter chatter of people having a good time.
As we were about an hour from home, we decided to stay the night in one of their pretty little rooms overlooking the green outside. Just behind the tree lies a babbling brook and a walkers paradise. AJ showed us to our room, did a quick run through of how everything works and advised that our afternoon tea was ready whenever we were. He was back a few minutes later with a gift of beer for my husband, as it was also his birthday.
After settling in, we went downstairs to find a table set and ready, and the fire crackling away. Two other couples were enjoying the same relaxed dining room; a lady and gent from Chorley who had stumbled across the Parkers whilst walking, and Sally and Chris, whom we would meet later that evening.
Afternoon tea was no ordinary affair. Starting on the bottom we had ham and cheese, and crab finger sandwiches, warm glazed banana bread and savoury tomato scones. The middle layer consisted of soft fruit scones with butter, crème chantilly and homemade strawberry jam, then perched on top was an array of small cakes; eccles cakes, Christmas cake, small fudgy squares and mincemeat tartlets. This was accompanied by two large pots of tea. I cannot fault a single thing. It was the perfect antidote to the chilly weather outside!
This was the sort of treat I imagine Mrs Weasley would conjure up after Harry, Ron and Hermione had spent the morning cleaning 12 Grimmauld Place. Incidentally, there were no boggarts in our room, and the only heads on the walls were those of pheasants and foxes, not house elves.
Canapés - Goosnargh duck liver parfait, rice crackers with soused cucumber and fennel, Lancashire cheese straws and tomato ragout: Delicious. The highlight was that tangy tomato ragout which I scraped from the pot...
Bread - Parkers' Molasses bread and Caron Lodge salted butter:
These little rolls were really something to behold. Dark in colour and sprinkled with seeds, they encompassed winter in bread form. Still warm from the oven, the butter melted with ease and the molasses gave the dough an almost cake-like quality.
Starter - pheasant breast, sweet onion puree, soused celeriac, raw chestnuts: Stand out dish of the evening. In fact, one of my stand out dishes of 2013! Neither of us left a single scrap on our plates, and mopped up remaining juices with our bread.
Fish - Cod, queenie scallops, seaweed butter, sea lettuce: My husband waxed lyrical about this fish dish from start to finish.
Pasta - Parkers' baked potato gnocchi, bacon, Inglewhite goats' cheese: Knowing I'm not a fan of fish, Stosie made me a different dish! Now that's amazing service. My printed menu was even changed to include this course instead of the cod. This was comfort food of the highest order, salty bacon with crisp gnocchi. Amazing.
Main - Venison loin, sauce Bordelaise, wild girolles, bone marrow fritters, Anna potatoes, seasonal greens: Gee whizz. Although we were flagging by this point (see above pictures for reason why...), we both made one hell of an effort to polish this off. The potatoes were crisp on the outside with a slight chewiness where required, and soft underneath. That venison was world class. No doubt from the field opposite again too...
Dessert - Iced Valrhona chocolate orange parfait, orange curd, orange jelly, orange tuille: A jaffa cake for the discerning diner. A smooth chocolate parfait, lifted with the tang of the oranges.
Cheese plate - local cheese, homemade crackers, fruit and chutney: The perfect end to a perfect meal.
Petit fours - Spiced orange and apple marshmallows, Valrhona moelleux: A we sipped champagne at the stroke of midnight, we tucked into these delicate little cakes to round off the evening.
As well as the food, highlights of our evening included chatting to supper club fans Sally and Chris on the table next to us, the couple who were so drunk that they danced into the Christmas tree, and breathing life back into the taxidermy birds...
|Off their heads|
After a wonderful night's sleep we trotted down for a home cooked full English. AJ had shrewdly taken our breakfast order the night before... Homemade preserves, Parkers' country toast and orange juice awaited us, with tea and coffee following shortly after that.
The full English was truly spectacular; crisp bacon, a fat juicy sausage, runny eggs, black pudding, grilled tomato and breakfast potatoes with a small side of dressed watercress. Delightful.
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