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The Fisherman's Retreat Restaurant Reviewed

Karen Regn likes it wild and windy

Published on October 31st 2011.

The Fisherman's Retreat Restaurant Reviewed

AT the Fisherman’s Retreat, a glass-walled sanctum of whisky bottles flanks the entry, followed by leather settees around a fireplace and a casual bar area.  

The food is good, the drinks range extravagant and if you want to stare dreamily out of massive windows at the countryside then this is the place.

But the homely feeling evaporates as you enter the huge dining room. 

Massive windows offer a grand view of the countryside’s autumnal transformations while the vaulted ceiling, rows of recessed stainless steel light fixtures, wooden beams, and orchids on the large oak tables make the place bright and airy, but the scale of the place is forbidding and lacking in character.  In fact it looks almost like a motorway service station trying to fit in by using local building materials. 

Dsc_0310 - 2011-10-24 At 00-46-31

If you want it intimate, ask to sit in the Nuttall Room, a much gentler space, complete with a wood-burning stove. 

The drinks range here is very very large. I opted for the Ondarre Rioja, which was an absolute treat.  It’s a red for red drinkers, and not for the faint of heart.

But centre stage are the 500 Scottish single malt whiskies.  The Retreat has whisky tastings regularly, complete with Scottish fare and even a piper for atmosphere - indeed it's a Gold Whisky Bar of the World with Whisky Magazine.

The editor tells me that he once went to The Fisherman's Retreat and drowned himself in a bath of Lagavulin: he's certain he took off through the windows and floated home over the hills.


But I digress.

Lobster bisque is one of my favourite starters. And it was the one item I had already chosen from the online menu before going in. The bisque came with a sprinkling of crab bits on top. It wasn’t as creamy as I’d expected, nor as seasoned as I like. It was nice, but without the oomph I look for in a lobster bisque. At £6.50, the portion was generous.

My fiancé ordered the black pudding, haggis, scallops, and bacon starter. At nine quid it was the most expensive item. With so many major components this was a whopper of a starter and a heavy-weight beginning to our meal. The haggis had a nice lentil-like consistency with just a whisper of fermented flavour. The scallops were meatily right, but the bacon was over-crisp, and the burned tinge took away from the otherwise lovely and complex dish.  

Dsc_0311 - 2011-10-24 At 01-01-28

The starters had landed on our table just minutes after we’d ordered them, and the mains arrived in just as timely a manner. They were beautifully presented.  

While my fiance’s roasted rib of beef (£16.50) stretched long and flat across his plate, my sea bass rose above in 3D - see main picture at the top of the article. I had been delivered fish and veg in cylindrical form and it was the start of my strata by strata excavation. 

The fillets of my sea bass (£16) were on the thin side, but I reckon they need the fillets that thin so they can balance on the tower of mash.  The fish skin made for a slightly too crispy top ‘roof’. The samphire, was beautiful, cooked to the right point of withering and seasoned nicely.   

Between two massive dollops of creamy mashed potato, I found the diamond in the rough, the star of this main, the crayfish tails. I spent the rest of the meal digging them out.  

I don’t often eat dishes that are both a game and a meal. And though it’s not polite to play with one’s food, I did find myself enjoying my crayfish hunt, and delighted when I found them burrowed in the creamy mash.  

Overall, my main was attractive, filling, and fun. And the rib of beef, 30-day-aged and slow roasted, won over my fiancé, who had nothing but compliments for the cut of beef and the preparation.  

Unfortunately, my chosen dessert of whisky truffles had run out. So, I ordered the Bailey’s crème brûlée with raspberries and shortcake (£6.50), which was on the specials menu.  

For me, dessert was everything. I relished the sweet crème, and ate it so slowly that as I finished I glanced over to see a man at the next table staring at me. I deprived him of a ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and put my spoon down.  

By the way the backstory of the Fisherman's is fascinating starting in 1981 with the Hervey family who opened a trout fishery in the Twine valley above Ramsbottom. They set up the pub and restaurant in 1990 after the fisherman decided they wanted to chow down too. The Hervey's still own the place.  

Back to the meal and something that needs examining. The service at The Fisherman's can be chaotic. There were so many waiting on staff it was like dinnertime in Beijing.  There was one to seat us, another to take our order, one to bring us our food, one to take it away, one to bring us the bill.... We never had a face or a name to focus on.  

That aside, the food is good, the drinks range extravagant and if you want to stare dreamily out of massive windows at the countryside then this is the place. It just needs to sort the service and soften that large dining room - unless you drink enough whisky to allow you to float home unassisted, then it doesn't matter. 

You can follow Karen on Twitter @karenregn

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

The Fisherman's Retreat, Riding Head Lane, Shuttleworth, Ramsbottom, L0 0HH. 01706 825314

Rating: 14/20
Food: 7/10
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3.5/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.



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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousOctober 31st 2011.

This is just the sort of average, annodyne restaurant experience that should be panned by critics.
For me the review is nervous and timid. To describe cray fish tails as "star" of a main course dish is beyond naive.

For a restaurant with that name, the sea bass fillets are so thin and puny......ah wtf I'm off to read AA Gill, I'd rather be patronised than insulted

CheesmanOctober 31st 2011.

But Anon, do you ever read the other Mancon reviews they are mostly utterly opinionated and say it as it is. The Fisherman's is ok. The review is ok.

AnonymousOctober 31st 2011.

there can be burnt, but never too crispy bacon, which in the picture looks fine, as indeed the the same with fish skin. Crispy is good. Been here, its 1.5/5 for ambience and 5.5/10 for cooking. Service isn't bad.

RayNovember 1st 2011.

The article provides prices for the food but not the wine. Why not? Was it free? (RRP of Ondarre starts at £9 or thereabouts). The website has no mention of their wine list - odd, considering its apparent size. That aside, I bet the place looks great on a sunny day.

CrooningtonNovember 1st 2011.

Whenever I see the word Ondarre I can't help sing Volare.

Andy LoynesNovember 1st 2011.

I personally gave up on the Fisherman's Retreat a couple of years back after the prices appeared to shoot up. Nigel Haworth does this so much better and at a much better price.

AnonymousNovember 1st 2011.

We were regulars as a family of 6 and always took visitors here. They offered fantastic food at reasonable prices. They then added the Nuttall Room as it's now called and price's crept up. Having eaten here recently we were seated in the new hall which as previously stated is more akin to a service station environment. Gone is the warm friendly atmosphere. The family running the business need to decide what they what to be because big isn't always better. Unfortunately, the prices reflect the need to make the expansion pay, but with Nutters not so far down the road, there is stiff competition on quality and the Fishermans is way off winning the race.

AnonymousNovember 1st 2011.

The extension was built as a function room as there's another room on top, the terrace area and lovely views make it a nice wedding venue. Its not somewhere I would go for Sunday lunch, as the review mentions its too large and airy...I prefer warm and cosey. Plus its an absolute nightmare to get to, dirt track etc- my car came off pretty badly. I don't know what it is about the hall but it just needs something more to make it cosey

TattyoldbitNovember 1st 2011.

I have been going to the FR for many years now, in fact since it opened, & it has always been one of my favourite places - good food, decent portions, friendly ambiance & lovely location. However over the last few years the prices have crept up quite and so I don't go there anywhere near as regularly as I did - esp as my partner balks at going due to the (now) high prices. On our last visit we ate in the new hall and, though very nice esp. with picture window overlooking Knowle Hill, it wasn't what we go to the FR for - which is a warm, cosy, friendly atmosphere. I agree with previous comment that the family need to decide what they want to be.

AnonymousNovember 1st 2011.

Agree with most, the new hall is aweful to eat in and prices have shot up. Used to go often but now rarely. Never had a bad meal but too often its become ordinary at extraordinary prices

AnonymousNovember 4th 2011.

Restaurant expansion and growth - FAIL
Oh dear.

AnonymousDecember 19th 2011.

i disagree. the new extension has an amazing view...there is nowhere like that i have been or even heard of. the food was excellent...not cheap but i don`t mind paying for good quality food that is fresh and well prepared.our starters came propmptly and were well portioned and delicious. between us we had steaks which were truly the best we had ever experienced, fish...cooked perfectly and full of flavour. the veg was fresh and tasted like veg!!!! something quite rare in recent times. the desserts were equally as tasty and all the minor changes we made to our orders were accepted and catered for without fuss or debate i.e mash instead of chips, garden peas instead of mushy etc. the wine list is the best i have experienced in a long time and we had much fun enjoying our own little tasting at the table...we bought three different wines and the whole family kids excluded tried and compared each one. all in all everyone felt the whole meal was very good value for money. the huge room was warm, comfortable, clean and homely without frills and fuss. the decor was tasteful and the artwork beautiful. the staff were extremely unpretentious, helpful and welcoming, in fact some enhanced our visit so much every member of the family left something towards a tip. i would highly recommend visiting and forming your own opinion as my family and i have....the fishermans retreat is now our retreat too. thankyou

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