Social media can be blamed for lots of the problems in the world today. But last Saturday night, I was thankful for it, as I sat in a fantastic pub in the Trough of Bowland.
I’ve followed the Parkers Arms on social media for quite some time. Their witty and honest posts on Twitter coupled with some stunning food photography there and on Instagram ensured that it was there we headed when we had both a free Saturday evening and a babysitter.
As we arrived in the village of Newton-in-Bowland and pulled into the car park, we were worried we’d made a big mistake – the lights were off and it looked like no one was home. In reality, this was just one of the signs that the hospitality industry is changing beyond recognition. The pub now opens at 7pm, ready for it’s first diners.
Thankfully the doors were quickly opened, and we were greeted by a warm welcome and a roaring fire.
Covid really does make everything different, but thankfully my memories are of the stunning food, not the WhatsApp bar system and writing our own orders. Both of these innovations worked well, and clearly demonstrated that the pub is taking its responsibilities of preventing the spread of coronavirus seriously.
The menu is concise and gives an immediate indication of how seriously they take their food. It changes daily, so you’ll struggle to find a copy online. But some things are always available, including an interesting (and photogenic, if Instagram is to be believed) pie and some fresh fish (more of that later).
Our drinks, ordered as requested, via WhatsApp, arrived very quickly, and our food order was swiftly taken.
The starters arrived just as quickly and were a lovely introduction to what was to follow. I picked garden vegetable fritters and discovered a decidedly more local take on the Indian bhaji. Charlotte ordered the Middle Eastern lamb manouche (stuffed flatbread), which was rich and fragrant.
As nice as the starters were, it was the main courses which blew us away. A number of the items are cooked over charcoal, and we both took advantage of this.
Charlotte’s thick, charred chop was an example of why pork really is an underrated meat. The flavours from the charring and caramelisation of the fat, coupled with the moist, brined meat was a sensation. The meat was the star of the show, with the sides of garden mint ‘slaw and triple cooked chips served separately. All that accompanied the meat on the plate was a tangy apple ketchup, which complemented the meat perfectly.
While in awe at the plate of meat opposite me, I was just as impressed with the whole turbot which was served to me. This huge fish had also been cooked over coals and was served with a tangy lemon butter and wild seaweed. The flavour of the fish was front and centre, and it had been cooked perfectly. I also chose the triple cooked chips, and these were crispy, gnarly chunks of potato with perfectly fluffy innards.
We both chose the set menu, which meant we both had desserts, when we might not, strictly, have needed them. My Portuguese egg custard tart with tart damsons and cream was as good an example as I’ve found in this country. Charlotte’s frangipani flan was just as decadent a treat.
The dining room was socially distant, but as it was full, it was still filled with atmosphere. This is helped by AJ’s warm and somewhat eccentric style of hosting. He makes you feel incredibly welcome.
Times are tough for the hospitality industry. It was clear at the Parkers Arms that they’re having to work even harder to make things a success. Thankfully for them, the meal, service and drinks were all exceptional, and the price was brilliant. All the food was locally sourced, and you really could taste the quality.
Lancashire heads into local lockdown today, and we’re now digesting the announcement from the prime minister on new measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.
These will only make things harder for places like the Parkers Arms. So, my plea is if it’s somewhere you’ve considered visiting, and you are able, now would be a good time to do it. And if this review has whetted your appetite, get booking.
If the government want to see how they can stop the spread, they could do a lot worse than look in the direction of Newton-in-Bowland – if they can find it.