On an extremely hot afternoon in March, James and I along with his Mum, Dad and Aunt Sarah wondered down through the very pretty village of Wiswell (locally pronounced as ‘wizel’) in The Ribble Valley to have a spot of lunch at The Freemasons. The small pub is tucked away down a cobbled side street and has a very inviting interior with beams, rustic wooden tables, flag-stone flooring and hunting trophies and painting adorning the walls . There is no doubt that you are in rural Lancashire. You could imagine coming in here from a long hike up Pendle Hill, slinking down into one of the leather chairs in front of the fire with a glass of red wine and menu in hand, greedily choosing what you would want to order off their menu. It is no surprise that the inn is the highest ranked pub to feature in The Good Food Guide 2017.
James, his parents and I had dined there once before for an evening meal about three years ago now and shouldn’t have left it so long to come back. Sarah had not been there before and we were keen to show it to her too whilst on her visit up north. Once we were all sat at our table, we all watched in awe as plates were carried out to tables with the most beautifully presented and wonderful smelling food. We couldn’t wait for our own to arrive. We were not disappointed and had the most gorgeous lunch; they were doing a ‘celebration of spring’ menu where they called upon their local spring produce to create their delicious dishes. And what was even better was how reasonably priced it was for how scrumptious it tasted. Starters and puds were only £5.00 and mains were priced at £13.95. Even the bread and homemade whipped butter was divine, particularly the brioche made with lamb fat that just melted in the mouth, combined with the rock salt parted the most incredible savoury flavour, I can still taste it in my mouth now.
I think between us we sampled the whole menu, here is what we tried:
- Soup – New Season English Asparagus, Lancashire Cheese Fondue
- Wild Garlic – Risotto of Spring Wood Wild Garlic and Peal Barley, Aged Parmesan
- Chicken Livers – Yakitori Style on Toast, Chargrilled Leek and Miso Puree
- Salmon Troisgros – Roast Loin, Whipped Jersey Royals, Sauce of Wild Sorrell
- Chicken – Sticky Leg and Crispy Thigh, Wholemeal Tagliatelle, New Season Morels
- Wild Rabbit – Pie baked in Brioche, Sauce of Lobster and Tellicherry Pepper, Mashed Potatoes
- Organic Egg – Custard Tart, Tasting of Yorkshire Rhubarb
- Rice Pudding – Baked with Vanilla and Orange, Yorkshire Rhubarb Jam
- Cheese – Selection of Artisan Cheeses
We were all in agreement that the risotto was one of the best dishes on the menu and full of wonderful wild garlic and nutty pearl barley flavour. I am now inspired to have a play with pearl barley in a risotto…recipe to come soon! My main course of wild rabbit was not gamey tasting in the slightest and was beautifully complemented by the encasing brioche ‘pie’ (which was similar to the brioche rolls we had with the bread) and deeply savoury and rich lobster sauce. All of our mains were served with plenty of seasonal vegetables and beautifully buttery mash for the table.
I loved the way they took some classic, traditional dishes and presented them in a contemporary way with some surprise ingredient twists. The custard tart for example was served with refreshing rhubarb ice cream, sauce and popping candy. The cheese board for sharing which Sarah and Clare had, looked really tempting and I loved the way the cheese was served in cubes on a wooden platter so you could have a taste of each. The selection consisted of Oxford Isis, Colston Basset, Blue Monday, Kick Ass Cheddar, Golden Cross, Lincolnshire Poacher and Tunworth and the platter came with a booklet of tasting notes which was a really nice touch.
We left with very satisfied bellies and a smile on our faces. We will most certainly be back and will not leave it another three years this time!