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Forget France, go to Preston: How Lancashire forged a sublime food scene

Simon Calder’s Travel

I suppose bread and dripping had to be on the menu at Eight at Gazegill. Lancashire people are proudly provincial. But chef Doug Crampton, who is originally from Leeds and worked at James Martin’s Manchester flagship, is no arch-traditionalist. The bread is fermented potato flatbread and the dripping-doused roast potatoes come with Yorkshire pudding. The Sunday lunch menu (£45 per person) also contains wild garlic veloute, hogweed and hibiscus – hardly the kind of grub you get at home.

Eight at Gazegill, which opened in March, is the latest venture to propel the Ribble Valley onto the national food map. It’s located on an organic farm run by Emma Robinson and Ian O’Reilly, who have built a strong business selling meat boxes. Six years in the making, the restaurant is a striking green oak, glass-walled octagonal building. Fields lie all about and you can see the ridge-like back of Pendle Hill – the magnificent Pennine outlier that dominates the upper Ribble Valley.

The restaurant is solar and turbine-powered and all vegetable waste is composted to cultivate microgreens and edible flowers.

“Taking the lead from our farming activities we knew the only option was to keep the project carbon neutral,” says O’Reilly.

Green and pleasant land: the view from Pendle Hill
Green and pleasant land: the view from Pendle Hill (Getty/iStock)

“We’ve always embraced organic farming principles. We have some of the rarest upland meadows in the UK. Nothing has been ploughed and the only evidence of significant earth workings are our medieval ridge and furrow. Everything we do at Gazegill is from the soil up.”

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A few miles along the A59 are two gastropubs that routinely win national prizes. Parkers Arms in Newton-in-Bowland came seventh in this year’s Estrella Damm Top 50 ranking (it was first in 2023) and Freemasons at Wiswell came ninth. Pubs, Sunday roasts and pies are a holy trinity in the North West. These establishments take classics to another level. They have also saved two beautiful village inns in an area where many have been shuttered or turned into private homes. On the other side of Pendle Hill, the White Swan at Fence serves Michelin-starred cuisine and pints of Timothy Taylor.

Freemasons at Wiswell promises a ‘slice of country refinement with a twist’
Freemasons at Wiswell promises a ‘slice of country refinement with a twist’ (Freemasons at Wiswell)

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