The Cartford Inn, Lancashire

The Cartford Inn is a rather charming restaurant and bar with rooms on the edge of the Ribble Valley in Lancashire. Our visit here for dinner is part of a week-long trip to Lancashire; a part of the country we quickly came to realise has lots to offer if you’re into food and drink – Northcote and Obsession 17 being two options.

We start with some salt and pepper squid (£5.95) and a particularly good Espresso Martini in the deli, named TOTI (Taste of the Inn), which is just next door. It’s a cute space filled with the sort of bits and bobs you’d like to cook with.

As it’s Friday, inside the restaurant there’s live, but unobtrusive, music. The servers are all handsome young men who confidently serve locals with a cheeky grin. There’s a jolly neighbourhood feel about the place. We’re seated by a roaring fire. Nice.

To start, I go for an off-menu special: langoustines in garlic butter. They’re certainly generous with the langos; the plate is piled high with the things. I spend ages prizing out the flesh from every little crevice – the cooking of the fish being spot on. Simple perfection.

Outside it’s raining, which makes the French onion soup (£6.95) all the more comforting. It’s a gorgeous thing; a bowl of medicine if one were ill. It comes with a gruyere crust which stretches for miles. It’s worth the five-hour drive to Lancashire just for this, trust me.

For main, the suet pudding (£14.95) scores highly on the comfort-factor richter scale. There’s oxtail, beef skirt and ale all encased in a soft, fatty suet crust – it’s my dream dish. A big ol’ dollop of mash and some roasted beets, which add texture, are perfect accompaniments.

The whole package at the Cartford Inn is a well polished one – the attention to detail, from the smart design of the dining room, to the slick service and solid cooking, go someway to explain why the place was packed. We didn’t stay but the bedrooms look lush too. Next time…

Would we go back? Yes
We dined as guests of the restaurant