It’s no secret that my favourite pub to eat at is, and probably always will be The Parkers Arms in Netwon in Bowland (who sadly I’ve not visited for over a year!) Unfortunately Newton in Bowland is quite off the beaten track for me, so I can’t be there as often as I like. Looking through my blog, I note that whilst I have been for plenty of pub meals in the last three years I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve only ever blogged about the pub meals at The Parkers Arms. Usually pub meals are simple, what you see is what you get, food. That’s fine, there’s a place for that. It’s very rare a pub takes you by surprise, but sometimes it does.
I’ve visited The Running Pump in Catforth, on the outskirts of Preston, a couple of times before. It’s a homely country pub, and a great place to hunker down on a grey, windy and drizzly August evening (because we had our summer last month, that 2 day heat wave? Yeah, that was it!) The last time I visited for food, it was all good wholesome, homemade pub food. The sort of thing you’d enjoy eating but wouldn’t nessecarily write home about it.
I was expecting to settle down with a classic paté starter, some sort of pork chop with root veg main and a sponge pudding for dessert. Comforting food you can enjoy whilst not being blown away.
In my continuing nostalgia for Berlin pity party, I enjoyed a pint of Berliner Pilsner, something that only now I’ve been away from it for a good few weeks do I realise what a distinct flavour it has.
Both my dad and I had the same starter of Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese Risotto, a creamy risotto with chunks of earthy beetroot through it, crumbled Dewlay goat’s cheese on top, a vibrant beetroot purée underneath and topped with peashoots and microherbs. The dots of reduced balsamic vinegar added sharpness. What I hadn’t noticed immediately, is that missing from the plate was candy beetroot crisps, however our barman/waiter brought these through in a ramekin shortly after. They could sell those on their own as bar snacks, they were that good! I used the crisps to scoop up risotto because I am very uncouth. It was at this point I realised that things had come on leaps and bounds since my last visit. I know in trendy restaurant circles the “swipe” of purée is a bit old hat, but I think it’s okay for a pub to be behind the curve when it comes to food trends. As long as it tastes good, that’s key.
My dad went for what I would consider a “safe” option for his main of Haddock and Chips. Haddock fillet fried in an ale batter, with chips, mushy peas and a homemade tartare sauce. A very generous sized portion of fish, with a batter so crisp I could hear it breaking into shards as he cut into it. I did steal one of my dad’s chips and I think they’ve possibly been triple cooking them, because the exterior of the chips shattered in your mouth giving way to the soft and fluffy interior.
I opted for the Oven Baked Hake, an 8oz herb crust fillet of hake, with mashed potatoes, pea puree and a lemon and caper butter sauce. Tender hake with a delicate flavour of the sea just flaked apart, with the herb crumb providing an interesting textural counterpoint. The mash was the only thing that could have been improved upon, whilst in the most part it was smooth, it could have done with a lot more butter and there were a couple of very small lumps. The pea purée, again with the swipe, was velvety smooth and the lemon and caper butter just lifted things.
I had a really hard time choosing when it came to desserts, I thought I knew what I wanted when I first looked at the menu, but on a second glance the Baileys Pannacotta was singing to me. I love Baileys, I love pannacottas and all the accoutrements that came along with it sounded delicious (crispy milk chocolate crust, white chocolate shortbread… I mean HELLO!) but I realised that I should go with my heart and it’s original choice of Pecan and Bourbon Tart. A sugary treat, with crisp pastry (no soggy bottoms here) and a syrupy filling topped with crunchy pecans. A maple and bourbon sauce and pecan brittle dust scattered the plate like an edible Jackson Pollock painting. A scoop of honeycomb ice cream complemented things well and was dredged through the pecan brittle dust.
The Running Pump is a pub that’s realised it needs to become a destination pub. It’s out in the sticks a bit, so can’t just rely on passing trade as a local boozer, although only 3 miles from my home along winding country roads it’s a little too far for me to be a regular, which is a shame as they have a cracking beer selection there! This is a gastropub finding it’s feet and doing a bloody good job of it, too!