Finally, one of Lancaster’s oldest and most impressive hotels is back in the game.
The Royal King’s Arms, in Market Street, has been refurbished and rebranded, with an impressive new brasserie that has transformed the hotel into a food destination, and returned the establishment to the top table.
Several years of neglect had left the bulding and the rooms inside in desperate need of an upgrade, and this has been achieved, with quality new furniture and tasteful decoration, and a much more welcoming foyer area.
The big front windows looking across to The Merchants and The Robert Gillow pubs also allow a view across to Lancaster Castle, and given the proximity to the railway station, there’s always people coming and going, making it a great place for a spot of people-watching too.
We booked to eat on a Friday evening, the sun still shining outside.
We received a friendly welcome and were seated at a table which had a little blackboard on it saying “reserved for Nick”, which is a nice touch.
There’s an extensive drinks menu, and surprisingly for a hotel, there is a good selection of bottled craft beer, such as Tiny Rebel Tropical IPA, Curious Brew, Brooklyn Summer Ale, and, of course, Lancaster Red and Black. We ordered a pint and a half of the Shed Head American Pale Ale on draught while perusing the food menu.
There’s plenty on it, and it’s quite unique. Starters include Goosnargh pressed duck (£7.95) served with an orange and pistachio dressing, Queenie scallops (£9.95), pork belly bites served with a side of pork scratchings (£6.95), savoy hash brown (£5.95) and vegetable or prawn tempura (£5.95).
We decided to share mussels of the day (£6.95) as a starter.
The food took around 40 minutes to arrive, so that we were getting a bit edgy and wishing perhaps we’d just gone straight for mains.
Not sure what the hold-up was.
However, this particular serving of the trusty old mollusc was well worth the wait.
They came in a creamy white wine sauce, loaded with bacon pieces and shredded cabbage and served with warm, crusty bread.
It’s one of the better mussel starters I’ve had in years and there was enough to share too.
As we ate, the Lancaster sharing platter (£10.95) – with handmade sausage roll, scotch egg, Lancashire cheeses, honey mustard glazed ham, pickled vegetable and homemade chutney served with warm artisan breads – came to another table, and this too looked excellent.
Again, we felt the wait for the main meals was a bit long, but, again, when it came, the food more than made up for it.
I had pan-seared Lune Valley pork cheek (£14.95), served with Bury black pudding straw, marrow mash, homemade cider jus and baked sliced apple, with crunchy, fresh and flavoursome seasonal vegetables on the side.
My wife Liz had a rich, spicy home smoked shredded crispy duck salad (£13.95), with sesame noodles, fresh chilli and hoi sin infused dressing.
Both dishes were very well presented, the pork was tender and full of flavour, and there was plenty of it too.
The main menu also includes fish – oven-roasted lemon sole, monkfish, cod, smoked trout salad – and grilled lobster (£19.95 half, £35 whole), and a selection of steaks.
The vegetarian menu includes a butternut squash risotto, popped wild rice, marinated tofu and feta salad, priced between £9.95 and £11.95.
There is also a brunch menu (served between 7am and 5pm), offering smoothies, juices, milkshakes, pancakes, smoked salmon, Croque Monsieur and bubble and squeak with Lancaster sausages.
On Saturdays you can get “bottomless prosecco” with anything ordered off the brunch menu.
We ended on a high with a light, fresh and fruity Eton mess cheesecake with cream cheese, biscuit crumb, strawberries, basil, Italian meringue, and toasted almonds (£6.95).
Despite the slight delays, we were really impressed with the whole set up, the friendliness of the staff, and the relaxed environment.
The hotel, which was originally built in 1625 and then rebuilt in 1879, oozes charm.
It is soon to open a Champagne Bar in what was The Crypt nightclub, further expanding its offer and making this historic Lancaster hostelry well worth a visit.