Food profile - Artisan Ribble Valley at the Foxfields Country Hotel
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:02 30 January 2018
The contemporary vibe of this new Ribble Valley restaurant will have surprised customers who recall the old hotel dining room. Roger Borrell reports.
If you arrived blindfolded at Artisan you could be forgiven for thinking this contemporary, architecturally striking restaurant was in a big European or US city. If so, the owners would be delighted because that’s exactly the look they wanted.
However, rather than a gritty urban setting, Artisan is in deepest Ribble Valley countryside just off the Whalley Road at Billington.
A lot of thought has gone into this latest addition to the area’s burgeoning dining scene, so much so that it was shortlisted for the 2017 Northern Design Awards.
Cool coloured furnishings in sharp yellows and soft blues and greys and wonderfully comfortable looking semi-circular banquettes provide a contrast to the marble floors, polished wood and shining metal and glass fittings. Together, they fill a large space that’s full of life but with a relaxing vibe.
A combination of strategically placed seating and clever use of mirrors allow diners to get a grand view from virtually any table. Owners Charles and Jean Haigh and their son, David, all three with extensive experience in the hospitality industry, were determined to create something different when they bought the Foxfields Country Hotel. There is no doubt that the stand-alone Artisan, with 175 covers, is the jewel in the Foxfields crown. No doubt it will have shocked guests used to the old Foxfields restaurant.
Head chef Adam Edwards and his team create food from the open kitchen that is smart but uncomplicated. Dishes such as seared scallops and black pudding and spiced rump of lamb with polenta chips have brought mainly positive reviews on social media and the Haighs’ mantra is that good service is paramount.
Inventive cocktails, from a gleaming, modern bar with adjacent high stools are a major part of the mix, and there’s a heated patio for warmer days. Upstairs, Artisan has its own private dining room with a roof terrace providing views across rural Lancashire. As well as lunches and dinners for residents and non-residents, afternoon teas are also on the menu.
The Foxfields started life as little more than a roadside café but it became one of the places to eat when a German chef took over the kitchen in the early 80s. As its reputation grew, so did the business with 28 suites and 16 club rooms.
Back in the late 1980s Charles Haigh came across it while working as operations director for a large hotel chain and recommended to his bosses that they buy it. Over subsequent years, it changed hands several times and Charles and Jean went off to run their own Lancashire business before retiring.
‘While I’d retired quite early, our son David went into the hotel business and was, among other things, deputy manager of The Pines in Chorley,’ he said. ‘When we saw Foxfields was for sale we got excited and somewhere along the line I was persuaded we should buy it.
‘David is the general manager but Jean and I are also hands-on. After all, there’s only so much travel and golf you can enjoy!’
So far, they have spent around £1.5million creating Artisan and upgrading bedrooms. There is a lot more to do so further investment will be needed.
They have had particular success in building up the weddings side of the business, and couples wanting a rustic flavour to their big day can use some of the four acres of grounds. There is also a small gym, a pool and a variety of conference rooms.
‘When we came to look at the hotel prior to the purchase it was in a sad, dilapidated state and the one thing I did remember from the 1980s was the carpet. It was the same one!’ said Charles.
‘Coming out of retirement was something we were happy to do and we are enjoying the challenge and excited by Artisan. It’s not like we are new to the hotel trade and, besides, you have to take the occasional risk in life, don’t you?’