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[Longridge, Lancashire] Longridge Restaurant

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It wasn’t the best of omens. I must have set the sat nav wrongly as, when Jane’s dulcet tones rang out announcing that we had reached our destination, we were in a part of Preston forsaken by every known deity. It took a few minutes more before we saw Longridge signposted and we felt on more familiar territory. It’s been a goodly while since we were last here and have been thinking about a return meal for some time. I have to say that we’ve now seen that, done that, paid the bill and are in no great rush to return. Perhaps it’s because we’ve had some really good meals lately. Perhaps we’re a bit jaded. Or, perhaps, Longridge just isn’t as good as we remember it.

That’s not to say all was bad. Far from it. There were nice canapés – two fritters, one saltcod, the other cheese. And good olives. There was a good short menu (although too short to include any vegetarian choice). There was excellent bread – a Blacksticks Blue stood out, as did a caramelised onion. And the amuse was bang on – pea and olive oil soup – fresh and light and tasting very much of itself. And, always a thing of interest to my partner, a good selection of wines by the glass

Twice baked Lancashire cheese soufflé was a bit dense and was underseasoned. It was, however, lifted by crispy onion rings and a little salad of pickled pear. The other starter was almost classic Heathcote. Black pudding with a little mustard mash, apple puree, watercress and a long cooked duck egg yolk. What’s not to like?

There was then an inordinate delay approaching 30 minutes between plates being cleared and the next dish arriving. It was not as though food was going to other tables. Perhaps chef was on a tea break?

Roast cod flaked into delicious pieces but would have been much better with a crispy skin. Accompaniments of new potatoes, samphire and asparagus were nicely seasonal and dressed with a tomato vinaigrette. My partner had asked for it to be served without the advertised poached egg so it had to go back. Of course, when the plate returned the food was not particularly hot any more. And, whilst there was an apology, there seemed to be a sense of incomplete teamwork with the restaurant manager making the point that he had written it on the slip and it was the kitchen’s fault.

I rarely order steak and my fillet was a reminder of why. Tender, perfectly cooked to my requested medium rare but bland, boring meat. If I find it very easy to buy good well aged beef at home then I’m sure restaurants can as well – but few seem to be bothered. It came with a little braised oxtail meat which was delicious and I’d have been happy to have a plate of just that. A little potato puree and some shreds of cabbage and carrot completed the plate. Inoffensive is probably a good description.

There was then more of a delay with no sign of dessert being offered, so we buttonholed one of the staff to get menus. Once we’d ordered there was, again, almost too long a delay. Pre-dessert was, frankly odd. A blob of vanilla of vanilla ice cream sat on a bigger blob of yoghurt. It’s the sort of dessert my nephew used to make when he was 6.

Desserts proper were just about worth the wait. Lemon curd & strawberry sorbet with little meringue peaks – a good balance of sweet and tangy. A rosemary pannacotta didn’t seem to have any detectable rosemary but was a good texture and the accompanying poached rhubarb and rhubarb sorbet gave it a zingy boost.

We finished with some good coffee and petit fours.

As I say, it was an OK evening. Not outstanding and definitely not outstandingly good value. Service had been patchy – for instance, we’d ordered a bottle of sparkling water then, when we ordered a second bottle, it came as still – but because they were constantly topping up glasses, we didn’t realise the change at first. Oh, and neither bottle was cold.

If I was Paul Heathcote, I’d be ordering up a couple of “mystery diner” visits and really paying attention to what they have to say. It really wouldn’t take much to sharpen up both food and service.

(Note: I originally posted this on egullet, hence the seemingly odd seasonality. The only update is that, since visiting in May, there is a new chef. Which perhaps suggests Heathcote was more on the ball than I

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