Restaurant review: Artisan Ribble Valley at Foxfields Country Hotel, Whalley Road, Billington, Clitheroe

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Christmas came early for my partner and I when we dined at a hidden gem in the Ribble Valley, Billington’s Foxfields Country Hotel.

Nestled in the village of Billington, a short hop from historic Whalley, is Foxfields and its stunning restaurant Artisan Ribble Valley.

Mercifully open to the public as well as hotel guests, the restaurant lives up to its name in serving up skillfully crafted dishes but without the pretence of some fine dining establishments.

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Indeed, in choosing from the festive set menu, Andrea and I were treated to hearty traditional Lancashire fare, perfect for those cold winter nights.

Roast turkey dinner at Artisan Ribble ValleyRoast turkey dinner at Artisan Ribble Valley
Roast turkey dinner at Artisan Ribble Valley

The set menu, which costs £30 for three courses at dinner or £26 for lunch, offers diners choices of grilled fillet of salmon, roast local turkey breast, slow-cooked blade of beef or carrot, spinach and mushroom turnover from the mains.

Starters range from a platter of smoked salmon, prawns and crayfish, leek and potato soup, pork and chicken liver pate or crispy chickpea falafel.

To finish, options include warm ginger parkin, glazed lemon tart, chocolate cheesecake or classic Christmas pudding.

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The starters, so often my favourite course, were the perfect light introduction. My platter of smoked salmon, prawns and crayfish with a herb mayonnaise, cucumber, beetroot and brown bloomer was delightful. The beetroot and cucumber was the sweetest I have ever tasted, a subtle tang which complemented the seafood perfectly.

Platter of smoked salmon, prawns and crayfishPlatter of smoked salmon, prawns and crayfish
Platter of smoked salmon, prawns and crayfish

Andrea’s pate with winter fruit chutney, rocket, and crispy ciabatta was equally well-matched.

And on to the mains!

Andrea opted for the turkey which arrived with all the trimmings you would expect – roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, seasonal vegetables and a rich red wine gravy. It was, she said, perfect. Turkey can be a notoriously dry meat, but not so here. Moist and tasty without scrimping on size.

I opted for that other meat dish, which can also suffer from being too dry, the beef. The slow-cooked blade fell apart was anything but, falling apart, accompanied by a wholegrain mustard sauce. My only quibble was that, combining with the garlic and thyme fondant potato – tasty as it was – the dish did become a little stodgy by the end and difficult to finish. Perhaps a gravy could have cured that, but that’s the northerner in me coming out perhaps!

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Warm ginger parkinWarm ginger parkin
Warm ginger parkin
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Dining on a Saturday evening so soon to Christmas, with the added pressure of large bookings and work outings, there was a fear we may have had a wait on our hands. Not so. Our meals arrived promptly, steaming hot.

The problem with a three-course set menu is that you obviously must make room for the dessert. Again, hearty tradition won the day for me – warm ginger parkin with vanilla caramel sauce, seasonal berries, and stem ginger ice cream was fulfilling and finishing. Finishing in that I could not have fit a wafer thin mint into my mouth by the end.

Andrea’s glazed lemon tart with crushed meringue, strawberry coulis, and raspberry sorbet was the refreshing, zingy and more sensible option to end.

The Ribble Valley is blessed with an abundance of great eating destinations, and Artisan Ribble Valley is certainly doing its name and home justice.