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The Three Fishes

Gordo is out-eaten by his two-year-old protégé at the Three Fishes

Written by . Published on August 16th 2007.

The Three Fishes

The Ribble Valley. About an hour’s drive from Manchester centre, Gordo is visiting North West Fine Food’s Festival at Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit boarding school in the middle of nowhere. It’s a fine building and Gordo imagines that the bad old days of the boys being given a good rogering as part of the curriculum are long gone. Mind you, to paraphrase the character in Four Weddings and a Funeral, being buggered senseless never did any of us young lads any harm now did it?

It’s a super looking pub, tardis-like, which has a reputation as being something of a gastronomic delight

The festival itself is building into quite an affair, with over ninety stalls all presenting the best of local produce; the weather was alternating with sunshine and howling rain which didn’t seem to put anyone off. Gordo’s pal, the Italian Chef Gino de Campo, whom Gordo gave a good beating in a cookery competition was demonstrating on the day. Gordo took a sneak preview around the back of the tent where the food preparation was happening to discover Emma Jean Sturgess in charge, the stern but correct food critic from The Metro. Gordo likes the cut of her jib these days. He caught the rest of the girls troughing into Gino’s creations. Gordo couldn’t help having a go at Gino’s Banane al Caramello (sticky banana and chocolate tart, recipe below). Oh, wow.

There wasn’t a great deal of time to spare but Gordo managed to pick up some clever little packs of spices from a firm called Curry Cuisine (www.currycuisine.co.uk)and tried one of them out on Monday night, the Lamb Bhuna. Very, very good, worked well.

Debs from NWFF introduced Gordo to a character called John Skeaping, a heart attack waiting to happen, who owns Woodlands Brewery (www.woodlandsbrewery.co.uk) which he is, rightly as it happens, very proud of. He uses his own water from a spring on the farm he bought. There is a good story here, which Gordo will tell you only when he receives the invitation to the opening of his first pub, shortly to happen in Nantwich. Of four brews tasted, all showed well, but the cleverest was the Oak Beauty. It was Boddingtons on steroids with added toasted nuts, really worth the whole day’s visit.

The point of this story was to do a review of a Pub called The Three Fishes, owned by the guys from Northcote Manor (for previous review click here). It’s a super looking pub, tardis-like, which has a reputation as being something of a gastronomic delight. Walking into a welcoming bar, which acts as a waiting room for the restaurant Gordo warmed to the place immediately. You order your table with a lady who is in charge of a blackboard where everyone’s names are in a list. Democracy in action. We were told it would be forty minutes before our table would be ready, so Gordo and his team sat down to enjoy a drink and read the papers. It turned out that Sir Howard Bernstein was sat behind us on a trip out, dressed in black from head to foot. Maybe he hadn’t come home from Prohibition the night before. The three ladies with him were crackers.

The forty minutes turned into thirty, we were sat down at a pokey table next to the kitchen; not good enough for one of Gordo’s dining companion Kim, who marched us back down the room to demand another table. The lady didn’t bat an eyelid, asked us to wait another five minutes and we were sat down at a table fit for royalty. Service from that point was friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.

Three adults along with Erin, two, who Gordo is training as a food reviewer, ordered three fishes dips (£4.50) which were black pea, marrowfat pea and preserved olive and tomatoes with great bread. Gordo didn’t get a look in, Miss Erin polished the lot off. Blimey. Warm Morecombe Bay shrimps (£6.50) for Gordo with blade mace butter and a toasted muffin, Sarsons malt vinegar standing to attention on the side. The shrimps were everything that Morecombe Bay is famous for and why the French pay fortunes for them along the Champs Elysees. Perfectly shelled, cooked and swimming in the hot butter, Gordo piled them high on a quarter of a muffin at a time. Glorious.

The menu is a bit blousy in as much as it has an awful lot up front with nibbles and ‘dishes to begin’ which are really all starters, whilst next are wood platters to be shared as a starter or individually as a main course. One a plate of local meats, the other a plate of fish. We finally get onto the main courses, which are disappointingly short in a way; then sandwiches. The whole of the menu goes on for three exhausting pages when printed off at home.

However, expecting mediocrity with so many choices Gordo discovered a high standard. Diane, pregnant with twins and clearly making bloody sure that none of the three of them were going hungry had gammon and chips with two poached eggs on top (£10.95) ‘Real chips in dripping’ were good, the gammon steak the size of a saddle bag, from Sillfield Farm, a great pork producer. Cooked correctly, the eggs runny in the middle. Lovely. Kim had the Three Fishes Pie (£9.95) which was ‘mmm, really really good’. Gordo wasn’t offered any. This seems to run in the Sumner family. The further description on the menu, ‘Fleetwood fish and seawater prawns’ is another example of ‘blousy’. Annoying really, ‘fish pie with cheesy mash’ would have sold it. Gordo was in beef burger mood which he only gets in when he thinks the chef is the kind to take care, and Nigel Hawarth is. At first he was disappointed as there was no beef burger on the menu. So he had ‘100% char-grilled minced Ribble valley rump steak, English muffin, real chips cooked in dripping, tomato relish and pickles’ (£8.75) Blimey, guess what? It was a beef burger, a great one at that. Mind you the extra cheese (Shorrocks Lancashire, mind) was a tad eye watering at a quid.

Craig Bancroft, one of the owners and a man who could give Steve Pilling and Gordo a run for their money on wine has put together a good list for the people. Gordo was drinking the bitter (Thwaites are the beer partner) which is in spankingly good condition although Gordo could only have one pint (driving for a change). Kim had a glass of Three Choirs Rose, (£5.95 250ml), an English wine and quite a little charmer. Well done Craig.

This is a delightful place. The feel of it is like Gordo’s big fluffy cardigan on a cold crisp day. The service is great and the only pretentious bollocks comes from the hyperactive copywriter who wrote the menu. However, there is something on that menu to please everyone. Please do go. It’s well worth a journey.

A Gordo Go.

Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
4/5 Service
5/5 Ambience
Address: The Three Fishes
Mitton Road
Nr. Whalley
01254 826888

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

shiveringgoatAugust 16th 2007.

Superb Review - Incidentally the controversial comedian Chris Morris went to Stonyhurst College! Eat C.a.k.e !! best Goat:)

PaulAugust 16th 2007.

yes looks intresting i will give this one a go......The menu was five pages i have a child !!!!!

stejaskiAugust 16th 2007.

I will give it a go-I love a country pub!When you said the three ladies with Berstein were "crackers", do you mean they were mad?

Craig MellorAugust 16th 2007.

btw Richard, aren't you a little obsessed about the writers on here?

Craig MellorAugust 16th 2007.

richard, marginally better writing than what? where did that come from? Baffled.The point is that the booking system works, it actuall usually works out around twenty mins so i thnk that they are erring on the side of caution and this write up gets it right in my mind. I have been here many times. u sit in the bar having a pint and reading the menu or the papers. very pleasant. Still baffled, are you a restaurant critic critic?

RichardAugust 16th 2007.

Marginally better writing - only 4 paragraphs of waffle before getting to the restaurant review this time. 3 Fishes is great - would benefit from a table booking system though. It's a long way to drive for a 40 minute wait.

Craig MellorAugust 16th 2007.

Richard, many times. I arrive around two and it works perfectly. The 'out for a sunday drive' crowd are on their way then.

gordoAugust 16th 2007.

Charlie, not sure about the eggs, was that when there was that salmonella scare?

RichardAugust 16th 2007.

Craig - have you been for Sunday lunch? There is a stampede when the doors open at midday. These articles should be about restaurants. If I want to read about micro celebrities I will get Hello magazine.

GordoAugust 16th 2007.

stejaski, nope, they were a good looking bunch.... don't go getting me into trouble!

AnonymousAugust 16th 2007.

I've been on a Sunday and was impressed with the bar, the blackboard system and the beer. Unfortunately the food was disappointing to the point that my partners meal was actually unpleasant. We brought this to the attention of the staff who merely shrugged their shoulders. I won't be returning.

alexAugust 16th 2007.

visted the three fishes with my girlfriend after a long walk around the ribble valley and stonyhurst college. really impressed with the food. i had the treacle baked middle ribs with devilled black peas and veal escalopes whilst my girlfriend had the duck followed by the fish pie. both of us anjoyed the meal immensely and would definitely visit again. had no problems in terms of getting a table and ended up with a lovely spot near the fire. rounded off a lovely sunday perfectly.

CharlieAugust 16th 2007.

I've eaten there before and it was excellent, really lovely setting, friendly staff and good food. Just one small comment, I thought your eggs should be cooked through properly if you're pregnant?

PaulAugust 16th 2007.

eggs should be fully cooked if your up the tub thats why you cant have fresh mayo not that there is any ever on offer

markmAugust 16th 2007.

i have been many times and have never been let down. nigel H maintains a standard far superior to his neighbour Mr heathcote, who seems to think his name will allow his food to be served badly for silly amounts of money, even in manchester city centre.

AnonymousAugust 16th 2007.

Is it all males who are commenting on what women should eat in pregnancy? Fresh mayo has completely raw eggs in. That is not the same as being cooked but slightly runny. If the egg is extremely fresh and from a good source its hardly the greatest sin in the world! Suppose she should lock herself up for 9 months too! Great review by the way, food sounds great!

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