Northcote, Blackburn

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I don’t think I’d ever been so excited to go out for lunch, as I was on my 26th birthday, on my way to Northcote for my first ever Michelin starred meal. Other bloggers such as Bacon On The Beech and Mrs Petticoat warned me that this is an addictive habit, but I didn’t believe them, I don’t have an addictive personality, I’m not like that, you see. Anyway, we were on our way there, I was practically bouncing in my seat, and trying to remain calm when we got stuck in road works on the way there “we’regoingtomissourreservationwe’regoingtomissourreservationwe’regoingtomissourreservation”, and then when the TomTom took us to some gated community “ERMAGERDWE’REGOINGTOMISSOURRESERVATIONERMAGERDWE’REGOINGTOMISSOURRESERVATION,” I’m a calm and relaxed, chilled out person, yeah?

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We finally arrived, and I felt a bit worried when I saw a building site with JCB’s, but I needn’t have worried at all, as soon as you are parked at the front, you can’t see any of it, and are completely oblivious to the building being done at the back, the only thing that reminds you of this is the temporary kitchen. We were taken through to the lounge, ordered cocktails (or a Becks Alcohol Free, for my dad) and relaxed as we took a look through the menu. Sara and I were given a palate cleansing shot of Elderflower & Mint Lemonade whilst we waited for our cocktails, which was lovely.

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 I ordered a Tom Collins, because: gin.

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Whilst Sara opted for a Bourbon Sour, because: bourbon.

We were then given a canapé of Goats Cheese Mousse, with Olive Oil and Sea Salt, and Home Made Bread Wafers, which was delicious, all salty and cheesy, and I’m not ashamed to admit, that when there weren’t any staff looking, I used my fingers to get out the dregs of mousse when we’d ran out of wafers… you can’t take me anywhere.

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We ordered our food, and shortly after were taken through to the dining room, which was surprisingly quiet, and smaller than I expected (this being my first experience of Michelin star dining, I expected something bigger and busier, and I was pleasantly surprised), there was some music playing in the background, it was a bit elevator music, but I’ll forgive them for that, I don’t suppose ska punk music would be appropriate for an establishment like this.

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“Wow, this is fancy,” I thought, as the maître d’ placed my napkin over my leg for me, it’s quite an experience all this being fussed over, I like it. Another waiter came over with a basket of fresh baked bread, with the choice of Lancashire Cheese bread, Caramelised Onion bread, Granary bread and a plain white roll. We all went for Lancashire Cheese bread, because: cheese (I think because: ingredient is becoming something of a catchphrase), and oh my lordy lord, was it gorgeous, I would quite happily just pay £25 to sit there all day and eat this bread. The waiter brought over the most perfect cuboid of butter, too. I was pretty impressed by how perfect it was!

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Soon after I’d finished shovelling cheesy bread into my face (as I said before, you cannot take me anywhere), our starters arrived. We were dining off the £25 Seasonal Menu, it’s a brilliant and affordable way to enjoy a Michelin starred meal. Sara’s starter was the Frothy Sweetcorn Soup, Scorched Corn, Popcorn Chicken.

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I wish I’d managed to get a photo of this before the maître d’ poured in the soup, because it was pretty as a picture, but it still looks tasty as owt in this picture. It had a rich chicken flavour, and the sweetness of the corn really shone through. My dad had the Pithivier of Goosnargh Duck, Turnip, Shallot Dressing.

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My dad still isn’t used to me doing this food blogomatography nonsense, and I had to tell him to hold his horses whilst I took a picture (the watercress was originally perched on top of the pithivier.) How can I describe a duck pithivier? Er, it’s like a pie version of the roast duck pancake rolls you get in a Chinese restaurant, totally gorgeous, though. A side of me wished I had ordered that myself, but I’d ordered the equally gorgeous Bowland Beef Tartar, Parsley Cream, Marrowbone Butter, Toasted Loaf.

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The beef was lovely and soft, melting in the mouth and the parsley cream was a lovely touch, too. If I have to be completely honest, I wasn’t too keen on the toast. It was a bit thick, and also tasted a bit over toasted. I would have much preferred something thinner, like a Melba toast, the marrowbone butter however had a gorgeous taste to it. We had a nice bit of breathing time between our starters and our mains, and the waiter came back with the bread basket, Sara and my dad went for the granary bread, which had a lovely treacle flavour to it, and I had the caramelised onion bread, which was gorgeous and soft. One thing I like about Northcote, is that they have some local ales on offer, and I had a pint of Sky Dancer from Bowland Brewery, a lovely bitter and summery ale, which really complimented my main course of Oven Baked Mackerel, Puffed Skin, Garden Potatoes, Pickled Gooseberries, Fennel, which Sara also had.

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Pretty as a picture, isn’t it? I’d never eaten gooseberries before, but I thought to myself “if I’m ever going to find I like them, it’s here”, so I gave it a go, being a lifelong shirker of fruits, I was astounded by how lovely they are. I’d avoided them for so long, and they were just being tasty all along, and the sharpness went so well with the rich oily mackerel. Also, purple potatoes, at long last I’ve eaten purple potatoes. They taste just like floury potatoes, but with the added bonus of being a cool colour. Heck yeah! The warm potato salad under the mackerel was also lovely, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t usually like potato salad. My dad’s main was Rare Breed Pork Loin, Crushed Organic Apple, Blackpudding, Quaver.

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“Quaver”, it’s just a cheffy way of saying “pork crunch” (the aerated version of pork scratchings that you get down the pub), to me a Quaver is a cheesy potato snack in a yellow bag, and always will be. The dish was pretty as a picture, but I didn’t get to taste it, as
I don’t like black pudding, or cooked apples, so I let my dad enjoy it all to himself.

After mains, the dessert menu was brought over, I was unsure about desserts as everything was fruit based, even the cheese platter had a fruit loaf on it, but buoyed by my recent success over gooseberries, I figured “what’s the worst that can happen?” and I ordered something for puds. Sara and my dad both went for the cheese board, 2 Aged Lancashire Cheeses from Beacon Fell, Creamy, Blue or Smoked., Served with Northcote Homemade Bread Wafers, And Walnut and Fruit Loaf. They both opted for the blue and the smoked cheeses.

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(Sara is a lefty when eating, hence the knife and fork being on the wrong side)

As I write this blog, Sara is sat at the other side of the room, I asked what she thought of the cheeses and her eyes went all misty, as she remembered how delicious the cheeses were. So, I would take that as a seal of approval, however, Sara wasn’t too keen on the bread wafers at the bottom of the pile, as they tasted over baked and a bit bitter. For me, I went for something I wouldn’t have even considered ordering at the beginning of the afternoon, but after being won over by gooseberries, and seeing somebody else order it, I decided to bite the bullet and order Organic Plums, Chilled Soup, Basil Ice Cream, Honeycomb.

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Throughout the meal, my dad had been tutting and looking embarrassed every time I took a photo of the food or the surroundings, but when my dessert arrived, on seeing how beautiful, he got really excited about me taking a photo. I don’t think this photo does the dessert justice, it really was stunning. Onto how It tastes, remember how I’d never eaten gooseberries until this day? Well, the same can be said of plums, I’ve just avoided them, thinking I don’t like any cooked fruit, and once again, it turns out they were tasty all along. The basil ice cream was gorgeous and smooth, and I can’t get over how well it went with the fruit, I’m used to basil being in Italian tomato based sauces, not in a chilled fruity dessert. The flowers also included chive flowers, I was dubious as to how that onion flavour would work, but it really did work! The tuille, was sweet and crunchy and the honeycomb, well, it’s honeycomb, I love honeycomb.

So that was my first ever Michelin starred meal over and done with, coffee orders were taken, I don’t drink coffee, it makes me feel like death warmed up (which is a shame, because I love the smell of it) and we went back through to the lounge.

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What a lovely little touch this was, I’d not mentioned it being my birthday, aside from a brief mention when I booked the table (much earlier in the year) and my dad saying happy birthday to me earlier in the lounge, and especially sending an extra Eccles Cake (they come with the coffee, but as I mentioned, I didn’t order one), I tried a bite, but I still can’t stand dried fruit, but at least I gave it a go!

So, other food bloggers warned me that Michelin dining is addictive, and I was sure I wouldn’t get hooked, but they were right, I can’t wait until my next Michelin starred meal, I’m hoping to go back to Northcote in December to see what the seasonal lunch menu is like then. The seasonal lunch menu is really affordable, and Michelin starred dining, and I would recommend it to anybody. Northcote also have offers on the website, offering £5 – £10 off lunch per person, depending on which menu you dine from, making it even more affordable. If you can afford to treat yourself, you should definitely go, especially if you have never had Michelin starred food before, it’s such an experience, and I can’t stop enthusing about it, but I am going to, starting now…

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