Food review - The Cartford Inn At Home

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 September 2020

Perfect plate: the Sunday dinner from The Cartford Inn was a hit with our food editor

Perfect plate: the Sunday dinner from The Cartford Inn was a hit with our food editor

Emma Mayoh

We review The Cartford Inn’s At Home service

The Cartford Inn's TOTI deli, the view while you wait for your foodThe Cartford Inn's TOTI deli, the view while you wait for your food

When lockdown was first announced, and the shutters came down on restaurants across the country, it was hard to imagine a time when some of our treasured places would ever open again. But then something magic happened. Chefs, restaurateurs, and those in the hospitality trade started to think about how they might work around the problem.

For some it meant changing their menus and offering a cook-at-home experience and for many, it meant the launch of a food delivery service. Restaurants usually associated with Michelin stars, AA Rosettes and Top 50 Gastropub accolades began rustling up pizzas with soft, pillowy dough, making meals for NHS heroes and bringing joy to diners at home around the county.

The Cartford Inn at Little Eccleston was no different. This chic dining destination, run by Patrick and Julie Beaume, has long been associated with innovation and doing things a little differently.

First came the brownies – the lockdown treat of choice in many Lancashire homes. With sales held just a few times a week, it was fastest finger first, and if you didn’t make the order in the first five minutes, you’d be out of luck. So, when they announced they were launching their At Home service – the county’s dining scene lit up. And what a revelation it has been.

Giddy Kipper, The Cartford Inn's house sale produced by Cockerham's Farmyard AlesGiddy Kipper, The Cartford Inn's house sale produced by Cockerham's Farmyard Ales

It’s a service that kept them going in lockdown and, it has been such a success, they decided to continue it after they re-opened to diners in July.

Before lockdown eased, themed nights were on the menu but now it is their trademark, glorious Sunday lunches, that are attracting discerning diners.

Orders should be placed at least 24 hours in advance. Those lucky enough to live nearby get free delivery and you can collect in person if you’re a little further afield. I live a short drive away but I’d be willing to make a pilgrimage much further for the delights created by head chef Chris Bury and his team.

You collect from the main entrance of the inn – where you can also get a good peek at their fabulous greenhouse dining set-up – and if you have a short wait, you can enjoy the riverside views, a mooch around their onsite gallery or pop in to their soon-to-open revamped Toti deli; current plans are for a mid-September opening.

The box of goodies is well packed to keep the main meal warm and the ice-cream for the dessert, cold. Although you might miss the restaurant experience, in the current climate this is a way of sampling the best of both worlds – restaurant quality food in the comfort of your own home.

It’s no small accomplishment to produce food this good for the takeaway market but it’s something they have managed with aplomb. They have kept the menu simple with choices of roast chicken, ham, beef or veggie roast. We went for the honey roast ham with sweet carrots delicately glazed with honey and a subtle fennel flavour, broccoli and red cabbage and Yorkshire puddings that put my own lockdown efforts to shame. Our vegetarian pals loved the veggie roast, crammed with nuts and all kinds of loveliness and their ruby red, packed with flavour beetroot and lentil gravy was passed around our (socially-distanced) table.

Sticky toffee pudding – an easy contender for dessert of the year – came with creamy vanilla ice cream and a butterscotch sauce so divine you’ll be talking about it for a long time after.

Drinks are on the menu too – pre-mixed Negronis, martinis and daiquiris are on offer along with our choice of their own Giddy Kipper ale, which is brewed for them by the supremely talented beer afficionados at Farmyard Ales in Cockerham. Our meal, which included four adults and a child, came to £96.

I’m a big fan of The Cartford Inn, and I’m in good company. They have won accolades from some of the best dining organisations – they hold two AA Rosettes – and count the Observer’s food critic, Jay Rayner among their many discerning admirers. Their social media feeds are flooded with high praise, too.

There is now talk of their At Home service becoming a permanent feature for the 17th century coaching inn, yet another string to the talented team’s bow. Long may they flourish.

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