Lancashire Life Reader Lunch - Angels of Ribchester
PUBLISHED: 19:31 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:31 20 February 2013
The Ribble Valley's reputation as a gastronomic centre has been given wings by a new venture, reports Ray King<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
CALL a restaurant Angels and it's got to be something of a hostage to fortune; not to say even a wing and a prayer. But Nick and Shaun Ford's daring new rendezvous in the Ribble Valley has truly taken flight since they opened what used to be the Cross Keys inn, then briefly an Italian restaurant, just outside Ribchester, last spring.
It took them a year to bring their detailed plans to fruition and, as spellbound guests at Lancashire Life's November Luncheon discovered, this was no ordinary transformation.
'Our vision was threefold,' says Nick. 'To offer great food, provide exceptional service and to create a stylish ambience. As for the name, we wanted something that said sophisticated, comfort and implied modern British.'
Angels is a first culinary venture for Nick, who pursues a successful career in the financial services industry, so it's to designer Shaun that the restaurant owes the stunning dcor and striking furnishings that would be startling in a slick city centre bar, let alone at a rural crossroads.
'We tried to be quite brave and create something that's different,' he says. 'There are lots of good places to eat in the Ribble Valley so we wanted a place that made a statement.'
And how. Metallic tones and eye-catching fabrics are much in evidence in the bar - where luncheon guests were greeted with dainty canaps and flutes of Vincent Testulat Ros Champagne - and ushered through into the spacious 60-cover dining room.
Like the dcor, the food at Angels is also cutting edge and contemporary. Head chef Simon Eastham had been at Solo in Goosnargh for more than a decade until it closed last year, so, since it was Nick and Shaun's favourite restaurant in the valley, they did the logical thing and hired him.
Simon's skills were soon in evidence. The first course brought a perfectly cooked fillet of seared wild sea bass, moist and deliciously flavoursome, accompanied by a fleshy scallop and a combination of expertly judged, colourful pured sweet corn and charred red pepper sauce. The accompanying wine, Chapel Hill Verdelho 2007 from South Australia's McLaren Vale, described by Andy Cornwall of Pagendam Pratt, proved the ideal partner for the fish, offering lovely complimentary tropical fruit nuances.
Our main course showed Simon to be a chef well acquainted with the value of what many might still regard as a 'Cinderella' cut. But in the right hands brisket of beef, like increasingly popular belly of pork, offers exceptional flavour and, after being absent from restaurant menus for decades, it's back.
Deservedly so, for our braised brisket of local beef was a meltingly tender and flavoursome treat, carved thickly over celeriac and potato pure with sweet
Chantenay carrots, leeks and thyme scented jus completing a terrific dish. It was wholly complimented by the choice of red wine, soft and subtly plum-fruited Delas 2007 from Coteaux de Tricastin in France's southern Rhone.
Puddings at lunchtime can be the height of indulgence and require lightness of touch. Angels delivered in style with creamy saffron yoghurt panna cotta accompanied by apple and blackberry compote and honey caramel for which the dessert wine, Chateau de Stony Muscat 2006 provided the perfect sweet but uncloying foil.
Good coffee and hand made petit fours rounded off. The verdict in a word: heavenly of course.
Angels Restaurant, Fleet Street Lane, Ribchester, Lancashire PR3 3ZA.
Tel: 01254 820212; www.angelsribchester.co.uk
Restaurant open for lunch Thu/Fri noon-2pm; Sun noon-3pm. Dinner Tue-Fri 6.30pm- 9.30pm; Sat 6.30pm-10pm; Sun 6pm-8pm.
Set lunch menu 14.90 for two courses; 17.90 for three. Three-course Sunday lunch 22.90. Set thee course dinner (Tue-Thu and Sun only) 22.90.
Set four course dinner Tue-Sun 34.90.
A la carte starters 5.90-10.40; mains 19-26; desserts 6.90-7.20.