Eating Out: Hooked on quality of new gastro pub

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Glorious fruits of the sea are in ample supply at a brand new gastro pub just a few miles down the coast from the Lancaster and Morecambe area.

The rather marvellous Seafood Pub Company – which recently reopened and rejuvenated the Fenwick Arms at Claughton in the Lune Valley – launched the latest of its ventures on Wednesday.

It’s the company’s fourth gastro pub in little over two years and it is simply stunning in its desing and culinary offerings.

I attended the opening night of the Farmers Arms with my husband Mark. We were immediately impressed by the design and finish of the refurbished building.

A large and light extension with commanding views of the countryside had been added as well as an outdoor seating area.

I loved the eclectic mixture of country house-style seating – most of the chairs and couches were covered in a variety of Tweed fabrics and the muted tones of the walls created a relaxing atmosphere.

Uber cool designer lighting, original paintings of fish and birds, a wide choice of dining areas and large fireplaces all added a touch of luxury.

We chose an intimate corner and prepared to sample some of the pub’s dishes.

Friendly and attentive members of staff brought out beautifully presented plates of food for everyone to try.

The delicious dishes included sticky chicken skewers with cucumber and peanut sauce, crispy katsu prawns with Japanese curry dip and smoked venison carpaccio with parmesan dressing artichokes and cress – simply divine.

We also loved the ‘pig on a stick’ (skewered Cotswold and chorizo sausage with slow cooked pork belly, watercress, rosemary potatoes, apple and mustard seed sauce), hake with satay spices, coconut and lime, shredded pickles and papaya salad and Toro pie (slow cooked beef and chorizo with manchego cheese). All were to die for.

Owner Joycelyn Neve said she was delighted to be back on home ground with the launch of the Farmers Arms.

The Great Eccleston area is the Neve family home and it’s been Joycelyn’s plan to take over the Farmers Arms since the inn became vacant at the heart of the picturesque market village.

Now, after a £750,000 refurbishment over the past four months, the two-storey pub with an outside dining courtyard becomes the biggest in the Seafood Pub Company portfolio with rare capacity for larger functions and private dining.

Their first pub was the Oyster and Otter at Feniscowles on the outskirts of Blackburn – currently a Great British Pub Awards ‘Best Food Pub’ – followed by the Assheton Arms in the Ribble Valley village of Downham which, within months, won the ‘Lancashire Life Dining Pub of the Year’ title and was a finalist in the Top 50 Gastro Pubs ‘Best Newcomer’ category.

Now, The Farmers Arms – just off the Garstang to Blackpool road – is the latest to showcase the values that have earned a string of awards and rave reviews.

“Everything will centre on providing customers with the consistent quality that they now expect,” says Joycelyn. “That’s exceptional locally sourced food, cooked and presented in a straightforward uncomplicated manner.

Excellence in food, service and surroundings has become a trademark that the Farmers Arms will continue to represent as the Seafood Pub Company carries on growing.”

Since 2011 the business has emerged as a recognised combination of Joycelyn, her father Chris Neve and international chef Antony Shirley.

Chris, whose Fleetwood-based wholesale seafood operation became a national name for quality, ensures the freshest ‘same day’ catches can be on the plate within hours. And top Lancashire suppliers provide the freshest meat, poultry and game.

Then it’s executive chef Antony Shirley’s style of cooking that turns the ingredients into acclaimed signature dishes.

The former sous chef at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge moved to the Seafood Pub Company after being head chef at Panacea in Manchester, at Raffles in the West Indies, and serving as UK development chef for Piccolinos – a chain of restaurants that he helped to set up.

To use a phrase often coined by my dad, we were stuffed to the gills.

And happily so.

For more information go to greatecclestonpub.co.uk or call 01995 672018.