Lancashire Life Lunch - Plato's, Kirkby Lonsdale
PUBLISHED: 16:07 04 September 2010 | UPDATED: 22:22 21 October 2015
It has been keeping people in high spirits for more than 150 years and Plato's in Kirkby Lonsdale is still going strong. Emma Mayoh reports<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
You don’t need to be a philosopher to appreciate Plato’s. The restaurant in Mill Brow, just off the main street that winds through Kirkby Lonsdale, is a honeypot for tourists and locals.
For more than a century and a half, since Isaac Hindson first opened its doors as a wine merchant, occupants of the building have kept the locals in high spirits. From 1900 it was in the Harrison family - including the wonderfully-named Plato Harrison who also began a mineral water plant
at the site.
But it was a quarter of a century ago that Barry Robinson, a former owner of a fruit machine business, took on the building. He also owns The Longlands Hotel in Tewitfield. Over the past five years his daughter, Fiona, has been pursuing a dream to run her own restaurant. One year ago, following an extensive refurbishment, she realised it.
‘It was something I always wanted to do and it feels great,’ she said. ‘I feel like we offer something very different. It’s warm and comfortable here and there is no snooty feel which is something we really didn’t want.
‘I’m really lucky because I have a brilliant staff and things seem to be working well. We still know the Harrison family too and they still come in to see us which is lovely. They are very dear to us.’
The alcohol may no longer be delivered by horse and carriage, but wine is still a big part of the business.
There is also a bar, hotel and soon to be opened traiteur, The Pop Shop, which will stock food and drink made in the restaurant as well as house the hotel’s reception.
The kitchen is headed by accomplished executive chef Sharon Elders. The 38-year-old award-winner from Morecambe, who has worked at several restaurants including The Pines Hotel in Chorley and Lucy’s in Ambleside, was once Lisa Allen’s boss when the Great British Menu winner was just starting out. She passed on words of wisdom to her and encouraged her to go for what she wanted.
Today, she is doing the same with her team in the kitchen at Plato’s. Much of her menu celebrates local produce from across Lancashire and the Lake District. She changes the menu regularly and is never happier than when she is in the kitchen.
‘I love the freedom of doing what I want here,’ said Sharon, whose enthusiasm for cooking came from her mum, Margaret. ‘I get bored
easily so I love being able to mix things up a lot. We’re really lucky to have lots of local producers on our doorstep too so we try and use them
as much as we can.’
Over the past year the team at Plato’s has established a dedicated
and loyal following. Several of them were among the guests at our Lancashire Life luncheon, which started with a fresh Prosecco and canapés as well as music from
pianist Joe Muir. It seemed fitting that the event also doubled as a first birthday party to mark Fiona’s first year in business. For the meal, purposely devised for this special event, Sharon got things off to a flying start with a Thornby Moor Dairy goats cheese stumpie. It came wrapped in air dried ham, which had been delicately roasted with thyme and olive oil, as well as a sweet onion relish and micro leaves.
With it came the perfect companion, a glass of a dry, unoaked 3 Stones Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s South Island. This was one of four wine choices served with a meal, unsurprising given the building’s history as a wine merchant. This was followed by an intermediate course of Scottish hand-dived seared scallop served with frizzled chorizo, truffle shavings and sweet basil pesto - more a course than a taster.
The main showed Sharon and her team’s slick culinary skills in the kitchen. Goosnargh corn fed chicken breast from farmer Reg Johnson prompted satisfied murmurs around the table as did the mini fondant potato roasted in goose fat. This came served with a roasted shallot puree, asparagus spears from Wye Valley, poached plum tomatoes and a light Madeira jus accompanied with an Argentinian Michel Torino Pinot Noir.
Next was one of two sweet courses served up to guests. The first a blackberry ripple parfait, summer berry compote and lemon biscotti. But the finale came with coffee and more than ample cupcakes - what’s a birthday without cake? They came topped with a swirl of icing Mr Whippy would struggle to beat.
Fiona and her team sent us happily on our way, with extra cupcakes to take home to enjoy later, leaving us with plenty to think about.