Ribble Valley Sundays: The Aspinall Arms

Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Aspinall Arms at Mitton for Sunday Lunch. We had spotted this pub a few times, and from the outside, it looked lovely: a proper country pub, in a lovely rural setting, and chalkboards outside advertising food. It was one of the first to go on our list for Ribble Valley Sundays.

Although it was a cold, grey, January day, the pub was doing a good trade and the car park was busy – I was glad we had made reservations. The bar area was suitably traditional, with log fires burning, wingback chairs and dogs lying in front of the fire. Plus a few quirky little touches, like the dog biscuits and reading glasses on offer.

Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

The dining room is at the back of the pub, with huge windows that look out onto the River Ribble. There’s plenty of space, including a really large round table in the middle where a family was celebrating a birthday. I thought it would be a lovely place to have a multi-generational family celebration.

It being a Sunday, we skipped the starters, and went straight for the mains. I had the Roast Pork, which was excellent.

Roast Pork Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.comGenerous slices of pork, lots of vegetables and potatoes, and, of course, fabulous crackling. I know it’s really high in calories, but it was a treat!

Tim, being unconventional, had a burger.

Burger Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.comThere was also a good children’s menu, and Ben, to no-one’s surprise, confidently ordered his own pasta, which he wolfed down in about 3 minutes flat.

We stayed for both dessert and coffee, where Tim had sticky toffee pudding, and I had creme brulee. I really love creme brulee, and often order it if we’re out, as it’s something I wouldn’t ever really make at home. I can, and have in the past, but I haven’t done it for years.

Anyway, the Aspinall Arms creme brulee was lovely. It was definitely on the generous side though, and Ben may have benefitted from my shortbread.

Creme brulee Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.comTim’s sticky toffee pudding was delicious, but not quite so photogenic. In fact, with a lot of editing, it wasn’t very photogenic at all, so I’ve left the photo out. Instead, here’s a very Instagram-worthy photo of our coffee.

Coffee Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

I expect this place is teeming in Summer, with its views across the river, the picturesque bridge and it’s green tractor outside for children to climb over. Despite it being freezing, Ben (and Tim) were still keen to have a go before we left.

Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

I really enjoyed this visit. The Aspinall Arms is a proper gastropub, just what you want for a Sunday lunch. Yes, it was a bit pricier – £55.00 for the three of us – but it was really lovely. I may have my eye on that big table for a birthday later in the year.

Scores:

Food 9/10

Atmosphere 9/10

Service 9/10

Child friendliness 8/10

I’ll be honest – some of these aren’t 10 because I don’t want to go too high, too early in this series!

Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

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Ribble Valley Sundays: The Calf’s Head at Worston

Ribble Valley Sundays

This year, Tim and I are planning to make the most of the amazing pubs we have practically on our doorstep in the Ribble Valley. Having a toddler means that evening visits to pubs are generally out, but we thought a regular Sunday lunch slot would be a fair measure of working out the best and the worst. It also means that we’ll get to know lots of the villages around us. We’ll be visiting lots of Ribble Valley pubs to sample their Sunday Lunch menus – sounds like a good plan to me.

Last Sunday, we visited The Calf’s Head at Worston. Worston is a pretty little village, tucked under the imposing Pendle Hill. The pub (Country Restaurant, Hotel and Watering Hole actually, according to its slogan) is the biggest building in the village, and certainly doesn’t want for car parking. We visited on a wintry, windy day in January, and the setting was a bit bleak.

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At this time of the year, it sometimes feels as if it’ll never be summer. Looking out on Pendle Hill, winter was definitely in full force. So the roaring fire inside, with hot spiced apple for sale at the bar, were both very welcome.

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Although we had booked, we were asked to buy a drink at the bar and wait until our table became available. In fact, before I had even ordered the drinks, Tim was being taken to our table and had ordered our meals.

The dining areas are, I presume, extensions of the pub, and there seemed to be three different areas in use. This meant that, although it was very busy, it didn’t feel crowded in any way. This is certainly a popular location for Sunday Lunch, particularly with multi-generational parties – I think we were the only table with only two generations, rather than three, at the table.

Although the pub is very traditional, the dining areas are a bit more modern, although the decor did seem quite dated. It is a hotel, and it felt like a hotel dining room rather than a pub, if you get my meaning. Rather than being cosy and traditional, the dining areas felt a bit cold and unloved. However, the facilities for children – highchairs and changing rooms – were excellent, and the toilets were good too.

Sunday is carvery day at The Calf’s Head, and, having a slightly fractious toddler on our hands, we opted out of having a starter (I had already seen the dessert table). We were given a slightly odd plate of crudites to nibble, which kept Ben happy while Tim got our meals.

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The carvery offered quite a selection in terms of meat on offer: turkey, gammon, lamb and beef were on offer, and, as Tim got my meal, we both had all four. Tim, being a committed carnivore, thought this was excellent, and was particularly pleased with this. Ben devoured his Yorkshire pudding, and would have happily eaten ours too if we had let him. Personally, while the meat was fine and well-roasted, I would have liked a lot more vegetables. Mashed carrot and shredded cabbage just weren’t special enough for me, I’m afraid.

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The dessert table was a bit special. I’m a real sucker for dessert, and this one is clearly a draw for the Calf’s Head. It’s on display opposite the carvery, so you can’t miss it.

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There’s a fresh fruit salad right at the bottom end, so you do have a healthy option!

The choice of desserts fitted the traditional aspect of the pub: lemon meringue pie, black forest gateau, trifle, banoffee pie. We sampled both the lemon meringue and the banoffee, and both were fine, although I did wonder how much the menu varies from week to week.

As Ben had well and truly had enough by this time, we skipped coffee and headed home, our bill coming to just under £35. That wasn’t too bad, I thought, for a 2 course Sunday lunch for us, but I did think the whole experience was slightly like stepping back in time, in terms of the food and the decor. However, it is very popular, and we went based on a recommendation, so it definitely suits other people’s tastes.

Food: 7

Atmosphere: 5

Service: 6

Child-friendliness: 8

Overall: 6/10

I’d love to hear your Sunday lunch recommendations, so please comment below. Next week, we’re heading to the Aspinall Arms at Mitton.

4 months in…

Back in August, we moved into our new home. We had hardly any furniture, a surprisingly big garden and we couldn’t believe how blessed we were to have found this house. But, with my old flat in Manchester empty and on the market, we still had 2 mortgages to pay, and a car that was surely on its last miles. I was facing starting work at a new school, with the challenges of being full time with a maximum teaching timetable. Ben was starting a new nursery, full time. In addition, we were further away from our families and didn’t have any friends nearby. We tried to prepare ourselves for a tough few months.

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As I’ve blogged about before, our first couple of months were crazily busy, mostly with family commitments. Throughout November and December, we’ve were able to spend some quality weekends in our new home, and to finally purchase some furniture. We’re slowly getting to know the village and – very slowly – making connections.

Sofa

They finally bought a sofa for me!

The centre of Whalley is a 10 minute walk away, which is great. A library, a park, lots of lovely coffee shops, a florist, a hardware shop, an old Abbey and even a monthly farmers market – not to forget the wine shop and some lovely pubs (or so Tim tells me). The village really drew us to this area, and we’re really enjoying having all this loveliness in our doorstep. We’ve also enjoyed taking visitors, like Becca in the photo below, and her husband Jon Man, who took the photo, to the Whalley Wine Shop.

Whalley Wine

Outside Whalley Wine Shop.

Ducks

Feeding the ducks… or eating their bread.

We’ve also found a church in Clitheroe. We’re getting involved in St James. It’s a year since we left Ivy in Manchester, and it’s great to be able to commit to a church community. Churches are sometimes, paradoxically, quite difficult to get into – it isn’t always obvious how you move from ‘visitor’ to ‘regular,’ and from ‘regular’ to ‘part of the community.’ When you have a toddler, we can spend much of the service involved in distraction techniques, so when the service ends, even if he’s been in the creche, you want to get out of there asap. It takes a real effort to spend some time having coffee and trying to have a chat. Mid-week small groups are definitely the way forward, although it was great to be part of the choir and to attend church on Christmas morning all together. 

Church

The evening carol service just before Christmas.

Our first Christmas in our new home was excellent, with my parents and Ben’s godparents and their little boy coming to visit. We were so glad of the extra space – rooms for people to sleep in, (just about) enough chairs for everyone to sit in. It was really good to cook Christmas dinner ourselves – Tim took responsibility for the potatoes.

Sleigh

This was a very classy Santa in a local garden centre.

We had a few days away for New Year, heading to Betws-y-coed in Wales for a few days with some friends. Tim’s parents had Ben to stay for a couple of nights, which was fantastic – we had a really fun time, and it was lovely to have some proper grown up time.

Garden

Tim gardening with my dad.

So now we’re back in Lancashire to settle in to 2015. I’m praying it’ll be a peaceful year, one of really establishing ourselves where we live. We’re hoping the flat will have sold and completed in a few weeks, and we’re coping with one car. I’m hoping to rediscover a bit of work-life balance by limiting myself to stopping work at 9pm each night (a New Years Resolution), and hopefully to blogging a lot more. While these “catch-up” posts are useful for looking back on what we’ve done and where we’ve come from, it’s not what I really want from the blog, so that’s something to work on. I’d love to hear what you’d like from the blog (if you read it), so please comment below, and a Happy New Year to you all.