Oli Martin 263 Butter PieFirst up, Oli Martin’s new restaurant 263 in Preston. I think the paint was literally still drying and I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to try out the fabulous tasting menu. Oli was there to oversee the cooking and introduce the different courses himself, all true to his style of showcasing the best Lancashire produce in innovative ways. The dining room has a lovely, intimate atmosphere and the service was as warm and welcoming as Lancashire gets. Stand out dish for me had to be the butter pie – such a traditional Lancashire dish and yet this was a butter pie like you have never eaten before. I will be going back. Often.

Next, another new opening, this time So-Lo in Aughton, Tim Allen’s new restaurant which is set to bring even more accolades to this beautiful corner of West Lancashire. We took our six year old daughter with us and the team called before hand to say that they were not yet running their full menu and so choices would be limited. This did not phase us in the slightest and we were right not to be worried. First out of the kitchen was freshly baked milk loaf with local butter and quite frankly, we would all have been happy just eating that. This was followed by a haddock dish devised by Tim just that morning, and a duck egg with iberico lardo that I am certain will become a firm favourite with regulars. We had a great view of the kitchen and Tim kept checking that our daughter was OK. He needn’t have worried either, she stole most of my lamb. It was all beautifully done, a great addition to the Lancashire food scene.

After these two new arrivals, next up was a stalwart of Lancashire fine dining, the original and unstoppable Northcote. Lucky to be there as a guest of the ICAEW Lancashire and South Lakeland chapter, this was a networking lunch where new contacts were made and conversations were inspired by both the beautiful setting and the delightful food. Gradvalax with cucumber and horseradish snow? Yes please. Beef wellington (with the thinnest, most delicious pastry ever)? Go on then. Lemon Tart? Now you are spoiling me. This is a Lancashire institution for a reason. Lisa Goodwin-Allen never disappoints and the kitchen brigade delivers remarkable consistency and attention to detail. A very fine lunch indeed – ‘work’ doesn’t get any better.

Chefs table at FreemasonsLast but by no means least, on Lancashire Day itself, good friends had secured the chef’s table, Mr Smiths, at the Freemasons in Wiswell. As a group, we had eaten there just before the world went into lockdown back in 2020. The memory of that night set high expectations which, if anything, were somehow surpassed. How Steve comes up with these dishes and then executes them perfectly in such a relaxed, joyous kitchen is beyond me. We started with ‘snacks’. Mouthfuls of utter deliciousness, a ‘cornetto’ of duck parfait with a shot of duck broth pretty much silencing the table as we ate. The truffled cheese hotdog is a Freemasons classic, served with a mushroom soup and kickass cheddar fondue. Wow. Just when it can’t possibly get better, Steve himself introduces the cod loin, with a Bombay mix crust and a chip shop curry sauce. Inspired. If my local chippy ever pulls off a curry sauce like that I am buying a gallon. The beef was incredible (gallon of the mushroom ketchup too please Steve), the lemon meringue pie outstanding. There are not enough superlatives in the English language.

There are so many reasons to be proud of this incredible county. That it inspires brilliant people to make meals like these is one of them. Happy Lancashire Day!

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263 Restaurant
Restaurant
263 Restaurant

Passionate about food, and creating a wonderful, memorable dining experience. Whether you are looking for a romantic meal for two or an evening catching up with family and friends, 263 Restaurant is perfect for all occasions.

Sōlō Restaurant
Restaurant
Sōlō Restaurant

This informal modern British restaurant reflects chef Tim Allen's classical training and international influences.

Northcote - Restaurant
Restaurant
Northcote - Restaurant

Executive Chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen creates visual, elegant and packed full of great flavours and textures.

Freemasons at Wiswell
Pub/Inn
Freemasons at Wiswell

Set in this quaint Ribble Valley village, Freemasons at Wiswell provides a slice of country refinement with a twist of contemporary creativity and flair. The aim is to provide the ultimate gastronomic experience in a stylish pub setting that feels as relaxed as your own front room.

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