Lancashire Life Reader Lunch - Penny Street Bridge Lunch, Lancaster

PUBLISHED: 19:33 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:41 28 February 2013

Andrew Farley with a top-up for Andrew Pollock and Monique Chadwick.

Andrew Farley with a top-up for Andrew Pollock and Monique Chadwick.

One of Lancaster's historic inns has been transformed into a smart dining destination<br/>with sumptuously furnished rooms

They dont make any secret of their approach to food at the Penny Bridge Street restaurant in Lancaster. Its there on the dining room blackboard for all to see - a map of Lancashire annotated to show customers where the food theyre eating has come from.

This gastronomic chart of the county reveals, among other things, that the fish is from Fleetwood, the ice cream from Wallings at Cockerham, the lamb from Sellet Mill Farm at Whittington, and even the coffee is blended and roasted just up the street at J. Atkinson & Co.

Some places proclaim their devotion to locally sourced produce, but Penny Street Bridge wears it like a badge of honour.

The Edwardian sandstone building housing this restaurant, bar and rooms stands sentinel at the entrance to Lancaster. It will be familiar to anyone who has driven to the city from the south on the A6 but few will have given it a second thought as they waited for lights to change.

Now, there is good reason to pass through its portals. For the slightly forbidding exterior masks a glorious bar, lounge and brasserie which is flooded by coloured light, refracted through beautiful Edwardian stained-glass windows.

It has the look and the feel of a bright, vibrant French bistro but with all the plus points of a traditional English pub. The food, apart from being local, is expertly cooked by a kitchen team led by Cumbrian chef Andrew Nixon, who creates good British dishes, both ancient and modern.

The site once contained the citys toll house but it was rebuilt in 1907 by local brewers Yates and Jackson. They sold it to the Carty family - they continued to visit the place until recently - and in 1937 it was bought by Daniel Thwaites. In those days, there were two businesses on the site - the Commercial Inn and the White Cross Hotel

The Blackburn brewers still own the building, but it is now run by their Shire Hotels division. Until 2007, its fair to say it had lost some of its lustre. But then, Thwaites spent 2.5m turning a run down old pub into a chic hotel with 28 rooms.

Its not hard see where the money was spent when you inspect the rooms - top of the range fixtures and fittings, luxurious bathrooms and tasteful decorations which are modern but dont spoilt the architecture. Much of it is listed - one bedroom even has a listed cupboard.

But it was the dining room that really attracted our attention at the latest Lancashire Life luncheon and there wasnt a better time to stage it as general manager Ian Graham and the team were celebrating the fact they had received the top Taste of Lancashire award.

We started off with canaps, which included little cups of a delicate pumpkin soup served with Lancashire cheese cracknels, and accompanied by glasses of Pol Roger White Foil champagne.

Our starter was a fish mousse with smoked salmon and a beetroot and cucumber salad. Thwaites wine development manager Cathy Swift had it served with a crisp, fruity Riesling - a very happy marriage.

A succulent roast and stuffed saddle of lamb came with a mini shepherds pie and a powerful Carmen Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Chiles Maipo Valley. Pudding was a special treat - caramelised apple tart with a beautiful blackberry ice cream made for the occasion by Wallings Farm. More fruit flavours came in a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc dessert wine.

Atkinsons specially blended Penny Street coffee completed a memorable meal and - like bad pennies - guests left promising to be back.

Penny Street Bridge Restaurant and Hotel, Penny Street, Lancaster LA1 1XT. Tel: 01524 599900 or see

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