FOOD REVIEW: Freemasons Country Inn
Freemasons ideal for new Roses war...
It’s not always easy being a tyke in pie-eater country – Lancashire doesn’t have ginnels, the folk don’t understand what I mean by nesh and they seem to think all Yorkshire people are mean (we’re just careful okay? There’s nothing wrong with knowing the value of a pound).
But despite some initial missteps – why isn’t Euxton pronounced like Euston? – I think I’ve settled fairly well into living in the lovely county of Lancashire.
After two years here I have concluded that Yorkshire has better beer (Black Sheep) but Lancashire has better pies (Preston’s incomparable butter pie).
When it comes to natural beauty I’d say the two counties are roughly equal, with the Forest of Bowland standing up to the North Yorks Moors, and when it comes to cricket, I honestly couldn’t give a toss.
But my even-handed assimilation was challenged when I was invited to a War of the Roses event at the Freemasons in Wiswell.
Fortunately this turned out not to involve massed battles with the loser being murdered and buried under a car park in Leicester but was a cook off between the Freemasons’ own star chef Steve Smith and a Yorkshire challenger – Sheffield-born Rupert Rowley.
The premise was simple (if belt-straining) each chef cooks a starter, a main and a pudding, the diner eats them all, then chooses their favourite, and the chef with the most favourites wins.
What was not simple was the food, which was a complex, beautiful, rich and entrancing delight, from both parties.
We started with the deceptively simple ‘snacks’.
This turned out to be a trio of beautiful and delicate starters – raw tuna and wasabi on a puff pastry disc, a mini ‘hot dog’ of potato croquette and brioche and a gorgeous mini tart containing cheese, fresh green beans and peas and topped with flowers.
The tart was one of the prettiest things I have ever seen and it’s fresh summer flavours were a delight.
It was served with a special beer, from Barcelona’s Estrella Damm brewery and brewed with help from Ferran Adria, formerly of the world famous El Bulli, which was the lightest and yet most flavoursome beer I have ever tasted.
The rest of the meal was accompanied by a series of matched wines, which included a lovely Sicilian red with the beef and a very nice Riesling as a pudding wine.
The snacks were followed with a crab starter which involved fresh crab, avocado and wasabi ice cream, with dots of tomato and Hendersons Relish sauce reductions. It was light and lovely and we voted it our favourite starter.
For the main courses, fish took on meat, with a Langoustine tail followed by slow-cooked short rib of beef with a mini Yorkshire pudding and some excellent gravy. The Langoustine was good, but I don’t think I’m being too Yorkshire biased when I say that beef and Yorkshire pud is a hard act to beat.
As puddings arrived the theatre moved up a notch.
The first pudding was a deconstructed version of a lemon meringue pie, in the centre of the table was placed a bowl of lemons and pine branches, to which was then added dry ice for a touch of drama. We polished off our delicious lemon pud surrounded by swirls of faintly lemon and pine scented fog.
The finale was a strawberry pudding with a fantastic berry compote, fresh strawberries, sponge, honeycomb and bee pollen.
Both desserts were fabulous and tough to split.
The Freemasons does these special themed evenings fairly regularly, and the friendly staff go out of their way to create a sense of occasion and make sure everyone is having a good time.
It’s a great way to sample some really good and unusual food, with the added entertainment of the competition, all in the lovely and relaxed atmosphere of what determinedly remains a good local pub.
And who won? Yorkshire of course – there’s a reason it’s called God’s own county!
War of the Roses night set menu, £70 per person, plus drinks.