Saturday, 12 July 2008

Gastropub or not?

My travels took me on Wednesday to the Cartford Inn in Little Eccleston. This former farmhouse sits in an affluent Fylde village adjacent to the River Wyre with an unusual private toll bridge just around the corner. It also houses the Hart Brewery, which although on the same premises, is an entirely separate business. (Readers of this blog and Stonch's will recall some lively debate about the pumpclips issued by Hart Brewery, which are seen by some as controversial.)

The pub, for that is what it is despite six very well appointed letting rooms, is run by a Frenchman, Patrick, who, sensible fellow, is married to a Lancashire Lass. That'll keep his feet on the ground. It is bright, modern and airy with light streaming in from all sides and is spotless and well appointed. We had a nice chat with the owner who had his head screwed on. We were asked if we were lunching and if so, menus were on the bar for our perusal. There was no pressure to eat, though we did. Staff were cheerful and polite. On the bar were Theakston's bitter and two from the next door brewery. We settled on Ice Maiden which was pale, intensely hoppy and cut through a dull day like a ray of sunshine. It set an extremely high bar for our forthcoming two nights away. The food when we ate was well prepared, not cheap, but not off-puttingly expensive either. The menu was sensible and interesting without being too showy. We liked that too.

Over lunch, I outlined the recent gastropub debate to my companions who considered the matter. We all agreed the Cartford Inn had been immensely improved since our last visit maybe nine years ago. We all agreed too that it was a pub with rooms, not a hotel. Was it a gastropub though? Agreement abounded in one respect. We all detested the gastropub moniker. Malc who at three score years and ten, is the senior member of our annual get together summed it up. "This" he said "is a pub that has looked to the future and got it right.". We nodded agreement and set off for our next destination happy in our conclusion. Was it a gastropub? We didn't know and in this case, it didn't matter!

On the way out we bumped into the Hart Brewery owner who was loading up and had a nice chat with him. He remembered our visit to the brewery nine years ago and Ken who organised it. Not bad eh?

Interestingly the Hart Brewery site alleges the pub is a restaurant now. Maybe it is at night, but at lunchtime it was just a pub with good food. The pub's own web site says "Hotel, Bar and Restaurant". Take your pick!


Bailey said...

I'm not over keen on the G-word either because it's just a bit pretentious. But I do like pubs where the food isn't just an after-thought, only there to soak up the booze and stop people going home to their loving families.

This place sounds great.

My parents' pub in Exeter in the 1980s was an early gastropub. They had a microwave, a chest freezer and a plastic sign advertising hot pies and pasties...

Tyson said...

Nice place-I've been. But definitely not a gastropub. Apart from the prices and the fact it serves crisps, albeit organic, with sandwiches, it isn't even a pub. When a place describes itself as a restaurant, the locals describe it as a restaurant and it's listed in restaurant guides, it's a restaurant! Cask ale doth not make a pub.

Tandleman said...

Indeed cathk ale does not. In this case though, as I said, at lunchtime at least, it was a pub.

Stonch said...

But I do like pubs where the food isn't just an after-thought, only there to soak up the booze and stop people going home to their loving families.

Boak, that is brilliantly expressed and very quotable!