I realised, whist reclining in the bath, during a one-night stay at Northcote, that I should have brought the pumice stone.
It’s a dark grey holey piece of rock (probably actually scoria rather than pumice) and looks like a torture device. It has sat sadly neglected in the drawer at home since we became shower-only, so on those rare occasions we visit an establishment with a bath we should bring it along.
Northcote Manor sits in the Ribble Valley between Blackburn and Burnley. It holds a Michelin Star restaurant presided over by Lisa Goodwin-Allen. She was the chef who won three of the six final dishes in the 2020 season of The Great British Christmas Menu, pretty astounding considering how many top chefs were in competition with her. We caught an idea of her star quality when on checking out the following morning, Anne saw a menu at the desk, with a request that the kitchen staff sign it!
When everywhere was closed during lockdown last year, Northcote started doing an uber-posh version of a ‘Deliveroo’ service and sending out rather sumptuous three-course meals, but I could never manage to bag any of them before they had sold out.
I don’t have expensive tastes, but I really, really enjoy eating, and every now and then, I like to try a little bit of the high-end stuff. So when they put out an offer of an overnight stay with a five-course menu last December, I couldn’t resist it. I used the excuse of our wedding anniversary to present the voucher to Anne, but you know it’s the perfect present when you can enjoy it too! We decided to book for October, partly as it was more likely to happen after all the lockdowns, and partly because at that time, October did not seem like a busy month!
Well, we drove up two days ago, on a journey that should have taken us under an hour and a half, but was nearly three as a lorry had turned on its side and across the central reservation of the M56! We saw it as we climbed the slip road at junction 10, and felt like terrible voyeurs but it is hard not to look.
Thanking our lucky stars that we were not involved, we continued incident free to the manor. It looks rather grand from the outside and our room on the inside did not disappoint. Old fashioned elegance and a really comfortable bed, so we had a nice afternoon relaxing and reading (Anne on the bed, me for bath no 1, and then the chaise lounge) before our meal.
For a very expensive restaurant, in the back of beyond, on a Wednesday night, the place was packed, and apparently, according to a waiter, this had been the case since they opened up again. We weren’t the only ones who had heard of Lisa, it seems. It was a late dinner, half eight by the time we got taken to our seats, so it was handy that we didn’t have far to go after.
This was possibly the poshest meal I’ve ever had, and I was grateful for the bread!
The thing about haute cuisine is that it’s beautiful, and the tastes, in this case anyway, are amazing, but it’s tiny! It did mean that we had space to properly savour each of the courses and Anne was sated on the just those. I needed the artisan bread and the home-churned butter to fill in the gaps and then I was good.
The following morning, I enjoyed another chapter of my book in the bath and that’s when I remembered the stone. Apparently Douglas Adams (of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame) spent a lot of time in the bath and had his most creative ideas there. That creativity obviously doesn’t work with me, if all I could think about was a lump of volcanic rock.