Food review - The Waddington Arms
PUBLISHED: 00:00 20 May 2016
This pretty Ribble Valley village is a honeypot for visitors searching out good food and drink. Roger Borrell joined them
We are constantly nagged that ‘eating clean’ will mean we can enjoy many more years being a drain on the state and a burden to our children who will watch with a growing sense of false joy as we squander their inheritance on care homes, foot spas and false teeth.
But I can’t pretend the constant drip of propaganda hasn’t rubbed off on me. Lentils now form part of my diet, something I would once have only eaten if threatened with a Chinese wrist burn. And I’ve even been known to manage a mouthful of chickpeas – ingredients I always thought seemed more at home on the bird table than on my plate.
Then, there is salad. The Colman’s empire was said to have been founded on the mustard wasted on the sides of diners’ plates and the same can be said about what is now described as ‘leaves’. Or salad as we called it in the good old days.
Is there a refrigerator in the land that doesn’t possess a plastic bag of ‘Bistro Leaves’ slowing suppurating into a vile green soup? We buy it, pretend to enjoy a bit because it’s doing us good and then quietly forget about it until the smell becomes unbearable and we buy another.
As children, it was something we had to endure and was only made bearable by a substantial dollop of a strange unction called Salad Cream, so acidic it puckered your mouth and made your eyes water. I understand it was great for polishing metal.
Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant or dining pub with a menu that didn’t come with a legion of salads with all manner of weird and, sometimes, wonderful accompaniments. The Waddington Arms in the Ribble Valley village of that name is a prime example.
For such a small place, this picture postcard village seems to attract far more than its fair share of visitors. This is a bit of a mystery because while it’s lovely, there is not a lot there. It’s a place where cyclists and walkers take a breather. Scratch the surface and you’ll find a few landmarks such as the 16th century St Helen’s Church and quaint almshouses, which have been providing affordable accommodation ‘for independent elderly ladies’ since the 1700s, and Eaves Hall, a grand mansion now a popular wedding venue.
Architecture buffs will also spot some fine houses, such as Waddington Old Hall which gave shelter to Henry VI in 1464 after he was duffed up in the Battle of Hexham, and horticulture fans will enjoy Coronation Gardens running beside the main street.
But, I suspect the main reason for Waddington’s popularity is the fact it has an excellent café and three well-known pubs. The Waddington Arms is a quirky cross – not quite a gastropub because you’d feel perfectly comfortable there quaffing a pint of the very lovely Hen Harrier bitter from Bowland Brewery.
This is exactly what I was doing when my guest’s salad arrived. Dear reader, this was like no salad I’d ever seen before. In fact, I had to look at the menu to check I hadn’t ordered the wrong thing.
Starters were a pleasantly warming onion soup and a slice of some Garstang Blue tart, followed by what had been thought of as the healthy option from the salads section – a seafood platter. It made my substantial special of Goosnargh chicken and Bowland sausage cassoulet pale into a spicy insignificance.
The platter was the size of a small coffee table and it contained two slices of brown bread, a further hunk of said brown, a prawn cocktail mix, some large slices of smoked salmon, a dob of mackerel pate, a bowl of many moules marinière and, crowning glory, a not insubstantial portion of fish and chips. Oh yes, and in one corner there were some salad leaves. Manful strides were made to do justice to this feast but the white napkin of surrender was eventually waved.
The surroundings of this old inn are everything you’d want from a traditional village pub – open fires, stone flags, old prints on wonky walls, mix and match shabby chic furnishings, good ale, a large garden and hearty food. The staff are young, clean and friendly and they are well marshalled by a more mature chap with a warm welcome and a nice line in patter. (Customer: ‘You are never away from this place.’ Host: ‘The wheelie bins go out more often than I do’).
If you arrive at the Waddington Arms feeling hungry, I’m pretty sure you won’t leave in that condition.
From the menu
Black pudding and bacon, toasted crumpet, poached egg and Hollandaise sauce £6.45
Cajun salmon fishcakes, cherry tomato and red onion salsa, garlic mayonnaise £6.50
Lamb rump, smoked bacon, crushed potatoes, mint and almond pesto £15.95
Goosnargh duck breast, potato gratin, creamy Savoy cabbage and bacon £16.95
Sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce, Mrs Dowson’s banoffee ice cream £5.50
warm treacle tart, custard £5.50
The Waddington Arms, Waddington, near Clitheroe, BB7 3HP also has accommodation. 01200 423262