Lunch at Freemasons at Wiswell

Lunch at Freemasons at Wiswell

by Eliot Collins 21 February 2014

Eliot was luck enough to get out of the hustle and bustle of London to enjoy an enticing 3 course-meal cooked by Steven Smith at Freemasons at Wiswell.

Eliot worked as a chef partnership manager at Great British Chefs.

Eliot worked as a chef partnership manager at Great British Chefs.

I’m a self-admitted “city boy”, but there is something wonderful about getting on the road and out of the Big Smoke. This time it was a road that led me to a quaint, homely gastro pub in the heart of the Lancashire countryside.

Situated in the lush Ribble Valley, a stone's throw away from Clitheroe, the Freemasons at Wiswell was exactly what this city boy needed to wind down and lunch up.

Low ceilings, exposed beams, hand crafted wooden tables and half a pint of local ale was the perfect aperitif. My first look at the lunch menu had me intrigued, as it was an expression of love for local produce and appreciation for the flavours of the East.

Contrasting textures and unexpected bursts of exotic spices were a pleasant surprise in the starter of Nidderdale lamb – crispy belly and kofta, miso aubergine, charred lettuce mint and yoghurt. Combining a little of each element on the plate in one mouthful was an excursion to 3 distinct corners of the globe, illustrating the chef’s knowledge and versatility.

Low ceilings, exposed beams, hand crafted wooden tables and half a pint of local ale was the perfect aperitif.

I couldn’t help but stick to my unjustified habit of starting with meat, followed by more meat. This time to the tune of succulent swine… a neatly bacon wrapped, juicy loin of pork, joined by home-made sausage and smooth rich black pudding. The fruits commonly paired with pork in the UK were dismissed and instead a salt-baked pineapple created the perfect partner. Usually reserved for an unsophisticated Hawaiian Pizza this combination was the exact opposite.

If there’s a method to give a garnish 4 different flavours, this was certainly one way to do it. Steven took full advantage of the maillard effect, slightly blackening the exotic fruit, to give it a hint of bitterness to go with the sweet, salty, tang achieved during the salt baking process. I’ll have some more please…

The wine list, much like the menu, is extensive and international but not over-the-top with plenty of variety by the glass. Somewhat perfect for the clientele that frequent what is essentially a local pub with great beer and an outstanding menu.

On any given occasion, the end to a meal is often the choice between pudding or cheese. Chefs love a delicious cheese board, but it’s hard to say no to the fruits of labour from the pastry section. To assist, I ask the advice of Aga, who runs a very professional, but relaxed Front of House team at Freemasons.

Fox taxidermy
One of the many curiosities at Freemasons

The answer is definitely not scripted as she um’s and ah’s over how I should conclude my lunch. With informative descriptions about each dessert, we both agree that the Michel Cluizel 64% Dark Chocolate, Carmelised Banana, Rum and Rasin, Brown Butter Ice Cream is the one to have. The meal ends like it feels – warming, homely, decadent and gastronomically enlightening.

Despite not holding pints of ale, my chat with Steven after the meal felt like a yarn at the pub. This local lad loves Lancashire and is keen to welcome regulars and newcomers through the doors (that’s if you can get a table for dinner!) His inventive approach has the team in the kitchen looking at ways to recreate the classic chippy dinner, or chicken in a basket and that’s why the pub host a number of events throughout the year to celebrate the best of Britain.

Great British Chefs are looking forward to working with Steven and his team at Freemasons. It’s clear that other industry heavy weights have had the pleasure in the past, with Steven playing host to Frances Atkins, Mark Poynton, Peter Joseph (Tamarind), Michael Wignall, Paul Foster and more.

Freemasons at Wiswell is in the top 50 best restaurants in the UK as voted in the Good Food Guide 2014, it holds 3AA Rosettes and the accolades for 2014 are set to come thick and fast in this home away from home...