Friday, 26 November 2010

Restaurant Review: The Highwayman, Kirkby Lonsdale

Name: The Highwayman, 
Location: Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire

This is an establishment owned by Michelin Star Chef Nigel Haworth, but it has a feel that is more akin to that of a very refined gastro pub. The decor is fresh and clean and it is contemporary without feeling sterile. The Highwaymen manages to capture the essence of what makes a good British boozer, without framing a picture of Queen Victoria, forty times across the same wall.

The menu is really a celebration of British produce and the people who produce it. On the place-mats and in the menu, the producers are given their own blurb. It is always nice to know where the food comes from so this was good to see, I just hoped that the food lived up to the suppliers self belief.

I ordered the Rib-Eye Steak for my main. I was told by the waitress that this was not available. Disappointed, I asked why? I was told that it was taken off as the chef rejected the quality of the meat when it was delivered. This was a good sign. The cut that he had chosen to replace it was sirloin so I went for that. It was around £21 which is in the upper bracket that you can charge for these cuts. I know that many restaurants nowadays use these prices as a passport to charge way higher than they should be, for lesser quality meat. This thankfully was not the case. It was a case of pay a little extra, gain a lot more.

If you have ever seen Nigel Haworth on television, you will definitely feel his input on this menu. It is hearty, traditionally British fare with a northern soul. Good examples are dishes such as Fleetwood caught battered scampi, squid, real chips cooked in dripping with a lemon & black pepper mayonnaise and Lake District farmers Herdwick mutton pudding, forager’s mash potato and black peas.

When the steak arrived, the portion size was spot on. Chips were done the Yorkshire way in beef dripping, moist onions in a crisp batter and a devilled pepper sauce on the side. Without beating around the bush, this steak was the best I have ever eaten. I had to sit back and reflect on the fact that every steak I had eaten prior to this one, now became worthless, almost pitiful. The quality of the meat was second to none and the flavour was exquisite. I was clearly eating meat from a farmer who cared about what he was rearing.
My partner’s main of Goosnargh Corn Fed Chicken was equally well portioned and perfectly cooked with that amber colour and sweeter flavour you associate with corn fed birds.

The service was friendly and efficient and it was nice to see a young set of staff, who were trained to be attentive and professional. The selection of ales went perfectly with the food and was in keeping with the 'local' and 'artisan' way of the menu. Mine was a Lancaster Bomber from Thwaites.

It was also nice to see Cartmel's sticky toffee pudding on the menu (although not made on the premises, it doesn't matter because this sticky toffee beats any restaurant version that I have tasted).

Overall this pub/restaurant has every base covered. It would be great for business, breakfast, lunch, meeting, lazy Sundays, the list goes on. It also had a nice open looking beer garden for those rare summer days we used to have!

As more and more drab British boozers close because they refuse to buy new carpets and sell in-date crisps, it is nice to see that this is the new wave. You hear a lot of negative words slung in the direction of this new breed of pub. I, at first had my doubts. But if every ‘pub with food’ gets it this right, then bring on the new wave.

2 courses for two without drinks; £40-45

Rating: (4.5 - All ratings are made considering price point. E.g. A pub with five stars isn't as worth a visit as a three Michelin star restaurant with 5 stars, it is just the best in it's field and/or price bracket)

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