By Jo Cooksey
Recently I went on a mini break to one of the family-run, Seafood Pub Company’s venues, The Fenwick at Claughton, nestled in the Lune Valley.
The Lune Valley, near the historic city of Lancaster, is a hidden gem of rolling countryside and pretty villages. Through the middle meanders the River Lune, with it’s sweeping bend known as the Crook O’Lune, that provides a picturesque backdrop for walking, cycling and exploring. The painter, JMW Turner immortalised the view on canvas in the early part of the 19th Century.
Also if the delights of the Lune Valley aren’t enough for you then the area is ideally placed to be able to make trips to the Forest of Bowland and the Fylde Coast, as well the southern part of The Lake District.
The Fenwick is a 250-year-old black and white inn, which has been expanded to include nine rather delightful boutique bedrooms. All tastefully decorated and furnished with all mod cons including free in-room Wi-Fi and flat screens TV’s.
My friend and I drove up recently, on a sunny Friday afternoon for a one-night stay, with dinner, bed and breakfast and a glass of fizz each. We found it easily and parked and went in to the pub, straight into the bar. The place is lovely and cosy, all low beams, open fireplaces and wooden floors. The colour palate was Georgian in feel and all around were huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’ artefacts and pictures. The upholstery and soft furnishings are a mixture of muted tweeds and tartans. I wanted to move in and never leave. Or at least get the number of their interior designer.
We were welcomed by the very cheerful manager and shown up to our room. We were in room 7 and it was huge compared to my bedroom at home. Beautifully decorated and furnished in grey and neutral hues, this room had a really calming feel to it.
The en-suite bathroom too was extremely capacious and equipped with high-end fixtures and fittings, including a waterfall shower. There were big, fluffy white towels, a Lloyd Loom chair and Orla Kiely bath products. We were booked in to dine at 8.30 so we had a good hour to relax and take advantage of the room’s facilities before going down to eat.
Now I have heard and seen excellent feedback with regard the Seafood Pub Company’s food and this was the main motivation for accepting their invitation. Well-known Fleetwood based fishmonger, Chris Neve, supplies the group with all the fresh fish and seafood and with over thirty years in the trade his experience is invaluable in providing the pubs with the freshest, high quality products.
As we entered the bar the first think I noticed was the specials board. I had already had a peek at the menu on The Fenwick’s website and thought it looked good but the specials on offer were on another level. I wanted to order one of everything. We were asked if we wanted a drink before dinner but we opted to go straight through to our table, as we were ravenous. The menus and our glasses of fizz were brought to the table and we were left to choose. It’s not often I or my companion are stuck for choice, we’re normally very decisive but not on this occasion.
Chris Neve’s smoked salmon and crab tart with watercress and orange salad off the specials board - £8.95 Crisp, rich pastry with a smoked salmon and crab filling. The watercress and orange salad added a divine citrus dimension to the richness of the tart.
Devilled crab, salmon and brown shrimp with sea salt croute, radish and cress off the main menu - £7.25 Creamy seafood soft pate served with generous pieces of toasted artisan bread.
Whole lemon sole with crab, scallop and wild garlic butter and crispy violette potatoes off the specials board - £24.50 I love fish and lemon sole has always been a favourite. Lightly cooked in butter, so as not to loose any moisture and served with purple potatoes and dressed in a crab, scallop and wild garlic butter. Absolutely superb.
28 day, dry-aged Lancashire 12oz Sirloin steak cooked on the Robata grill with garnish, onion rings and proper chips off the main menu. My friend loved her steak. It was cooked just how she’d asked for it to be and just melted in the mouth. It was offered with a sauce so she chose Peppercorn Sauce, which she said was really good and the proper chips were proper chips. I don’t know if the were twice, thrice or how ever many times cooked but they were chunky, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and piping hot.
We didn’t have any sides but they were all priced at £2.95
Lemon curd and ginger nut cheesecake with raspberries off the main menu - £5.50 My favourite three flavours combined in one gorgeous creamy dessert. Much to my chagrin though I couldn’t finish it because I was so full from the two previous courses.
Apple, hazelnut and brandy tart with salted butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream off the main menu - £6.50 I definitely had food envy with this, wishing I had chosen it myself. Think Tarte Tatin but with a lid on. A crisp, buttery flaky pastry encasing sweet apples, laid on a hazelnut frangipane. The butterscotch sauce could have made this dish too sickly but the salt in it cut through the sweetness beautifully and the vanilla ice cream added a creamy and cold counterpoint to the tart. This is something I will definitely try to recreate at home.
Chris Neve’s smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toasted English muffins - £7.50 I absolutely love smoked salmon and scrambled eggs but for such a simple dish it is very easy to get wrong. However, I was not disappointed; the muffins were lightly toasted and came with a generous helping of smoked salmon and the eggs were just the way I like them and just the way they should be, silky and slightly runny.
My pal had the Lancashire breakfast with smoked back bacon, free-range pork sausage, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, hash brown, black pudding and baked beans - £8.95 My friend asked for hers without hash browns and baked beans but extra mushrooms and an egg. Not a problem. She was asked how she wanted her egg cooked and chose to have it poached. Again, not a problem. The sausages were plump and tasty, the bacon was of a high quality and the egg was cooked to perfection.
We could have lingered over breakfast all morning but we had to get back home for Mum duties so we went back to the room, packed up and checked out.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at The Fenwick and really couldn’t fault anything. The staff were friendly and professional, the room was clean, airy and beautifully furnished and decorated. As for the food, the trip was worth it for that alone. Local produce and seasonal ingredients cooked with love and passion and eye-catchingly served. Would we go back? Yes, definitely and if The Fenwick is anything to go by we would be happy try one the Seafood Pub Company’s other venues too.
We stayed as guests of the Seafood Pub Company but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.