The Parkers Arms, nr Clitheroe

So, the Coronation.

Opinion is divided.

To many, a celebration of everything that is good about Britain. To me, a farcical waste of taxpayers’ money to place a shiny hat on the head of a multi-billionaire, emblematic of everything wrong with the entrenched privilege of an archaic and divisive class system which has inevitably led to this country’s terminal decline.

Yup. I’ll get off that fence.

My wife has warned me to keep politics away from here. Although as she has also just sent me a text message hoping I ‘don’t choke on a scallop’ it’s probably not the thing that makes her angriest.

Everyone alive at the time appears to remember where they were for the Queen’s coronation. It was our (happier) JFK moment. I don’t think you have to be a rabid republican to think Chas’s bash might be remembered slightly differently. Personally, I drove up to Manchester on the Thursday, meaning I missed my kids’ school Coronation concert, which I would probably only have spoilt by scowling.

As ever on my travels, I hit up the marvellous @frivoliteabakes (well worth a follow) for another NW lunch recommendation after the brilliance of Burnt Truffle last month. She came up with a number of options, but did suggest if I wanted to head slightly further afield, The Parkers Arms near Clitheroe was well worth a trip. Well, I had a whole day, a car and a national Game of Thrones re-enactment to avoid, so off I toddled.

Speaking of which, this is a ridiculously pretty, not to say magnificent location. You could easily see Penny Mordaunt in her cosplay Lannister costume, riding over a ridge of the Forest of Bowland on a mighty charger and causing all sorts of middle-aged men to make their excuses and retire surreptitiously to the gents.

Secondly, it would be harder to find a warmer welcome anywhere. Abundantly cheery host AJ greeted me like an old friend, called me Al (you do the bloody song) and ushered me straight to a delightful table by the open fire (#winning,) while enquiring if my wife would be joining me (sore point.) At which point I was brought a bowl of salted potato skins just because the chef felt like it. I tweeted @frivoliteabakes. This was going to be good.

I was not disappointed. This wasn’t just good, it was about as close to perfection as lunch could be. It is no surprise they have won Estrella’s ‘Best Gastropub’ Award and I was about to find out why. A three course menu at £50 is not cheap, but then neither is it expensive for food this brilliant.

I started with a couple of oysters just because they were there, even though there’s no ’r’ in the month. They made a beautiful amuse bouche, with a fine mignonette sauce of punchy pickled shallots. And then to the starter. Six beautiful, juicy scallops, cooked to perfection (and just the right size to avoid choking on,) the garlic butter sauce mopped up with a homemade sourdough so good it was like cake. I often find the roe on a scallop off-putting, a little fishy and unpleasant, but here they were an integral part of an exceptional whole.

Speaking of magnificent, my main course of grilled Morecambe Bay brill may well be the best piece of fish I have ever eaten. I’ve run out of superlatives. Served on the bone, with a wedge of lemon, it was simply perfection. Alongside this were gorgeous crushed smoked jersey royals and asparagus cooked with a few wild garlic leaves – a little touch of genius from a chef who clearly knows when and when not to gild the lily (royalists take note.)

I thought I wanted the dark chocolate pot for pudding, but was persuaded to try the iced rhubarb parfait with white chocolate and roasted rhubarb because it was local and ‘simply the best’. I’m not going to say what I thought of this pudding. I’m just going to let you know that at one point I let out such an audible moan of pleasure, the table next to me turned round. And then grinned, knowingly.

A properly ballsy coffee rounded things off nicely alongside the remnants of the sparkling rhubarb cordial I’d enjoyed throughout. By this point the lunchtime rush had subsided (pretty sure booking is essential,) and I asked AJ if he minded me sitting by the fire a little longer to do some work. I’m still here, and I’m not going anywhere til he kicks me out. Which I’m sure he will do with almighty charm.

If you really want to know what’s best about Britain, personally I would suggest making the trip to Clitheroe for lunch is a far preferable option to camping out on the Mall for three days, just to catch sight of a man in stolen jewellery waving at you from a gold coach. Everything good about our country can be found here – stunning countryside, genuine warmth and simply breathtaking food.

Next time, I will definitely be bringing my wife, if only because after reading this, I imagine the divorce courts will quite rightly beckon if I don’t. And speaking of courts, at least from now on I will definitely be able to remember where I was for King Charles III’s Coronation.

May ‘23

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