Lancashire Life Luncheon - Gibbon Bridge Hotel
PUBLISHED: 13:33 27 June 2011 | UPDATED: 22:01 21 October 2015
Lancashire Life's latest luncheon was at the Gibbon Bridge Hotel, a venue that just keeps getting better. Roger Borrell reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson
Any business relies on the ability of the boss to surround themselves with a great team and Janet Simpson has certainly done that at the Gibbon Bridge Hotel on the outskirts of Chipping.
However, no one could deny that Janet is a self-made woman. At the age of 14 she was told she would never amount to much and that was the spur she needed, starting out working in the kitchen of a local pub, the Dog and Partridge, and working her way up to be the chef.
She and her parents recognised the potential of an old farmhouse, a barn and a bit of land in glorious Bowland. They bought it and started selling their produce.
Janet and her mother developed it as farmhouse accommodation and then Janet took it many, many steps further, creating a luxury destination hotel.
However, while the hotel is now well-established with a loyal band of returning guests it has never lost that attractive, country house charm.
Its gardens are stunning with Longridge Fell as their backdrop and the public rooms are stylish and smart without ever being vulgar. In the last decade, Janet has acquired the sort of trophy cabinet rarely seen outside Old Trafford and the Gibbon Bridge is the current Lancashire Life hotel of the year. It’s quite a record.
However, Janet has never been one to rest on her laurels. The success of the venture has been down to her ability to adapt and develop the hotel to keep pace with modern tastes. It was appropriate, then, that the Lancashire Life Luncheon was held in the new Orangery, a development which has provided a cutting edge venue for weddings and family celebrations.
The white grand piano and handmade, dramatic glasswear bought by Janet in South Africa are a clever contrast to the beautifully painted old cast iron pillars that hold up the roof.
These sentinels were the columns that once supported the old Public Hall in Preston. Janet’s parents went to farmers’ dances there and when it was demolished she rescued them and, for sentimental reasons, she always intended to make use of them. Today, they are quite a talking point.
However, our visit was all about food and great service - another part of the Gibbon Bridge DNA.
The kitchen is presided over by the accomplished Gary Buxton with Janet, an ex-chef, still taking a keen interest in the hotels’ cuisine. It relies heavily on locally-produced food and, no wonder, when Bowland is full of farms and cheese-makers. The hotel’s immaculate gardens are packed with vegetables and fruit, which is used in most of the dishes. The bread is baked on the premises.
Delicious canapés set the bar high for this lunch and they were accompanied Tanners Brut Extra Reserve introduced by Adrian Patterson, of Tanners Wines. Our starter was a nicely poached duck egg on smoked haddock with asparagus and hollandaise - a classic combination. A top quality Chardonnay proved this wine doesn’t have to be the perfect accompaniment for 20 Benson & Hedges.
Pink lamb on a pea puree was a great example of how to cook this most flavoursome of meats and it came with an equally juicy Tanners Claret. Three different desserts - sticky toffee pudding, coffee and honeycomb parfait and a fruit jelly - would have brought the house down if it hadn’t been for those wonderful old pillars.
The Gibbon Bridge Hotel, Green Lane, Chipping, Forest of Bowland. PR3 2TQ. 01995 61456.
The print version of this article appeared in the July 2011 issue of Lancashire Life
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