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The Fisherman’s Retreat Restaurant Reviewed

Karen Regn likes it wild and windy – The Fisherman’s Retreat Restaurant

Published last Monday at 10:52 AM.

The Fisherman’s Retreat Restaurant Reviewed

At the Fisherman’s Retreat, a glass-walled sanctum of whisky bottles flanks the entry, followed by leather settees around a fireplace and a casual bar area.

The food is good, the drinks range extravagant and if you want to stare dreamily out of massive windows at the countryside then this is the place.

But the homely feeling evaporates as you enter the huge dining room.

Massive windows offer a grand view of the countryside’s autumnal transformations while the vaulted ceiling, rows of recessed stainless steel light fixtures, wooden beams, and orchids on the large oak tables make the place bright and airy, but the scale of the place is forbidding and lacking in character.  In fact it looks almost like a motorway service station trying to fit in by using local building materials.

If you want it intimate, ask to sit in the Nuttall Room, a much gentler space, complete with a wood-burning stove.

The drinks range here is very very large. I opted for the Ondarre Rioja, which was an absolute treat.  It’s a red for red drinkers, and not for the faint of heart.

But centre stage are the 500 Scottish single malt whiskies.  The Retreat has whisky tastings regularly, complete with Scottish fare and even a piper for atmosphere – indeed it’s a Gold Whisky Bar of the World with Whisky Magazine.

The editor tells me that he once went to The Fisherman’s Retreat and drowned himself in a bath of Lagavulin: he’s certain he took off through the windows and floated home over the hills.

But I digress.

Lobster bisque is one of my favourite starters. And it was the one item I had already chosen from the online menu before going in. The bisque came with a sprinkling of crab bits on top. It wasn’t as creamy as I’d expected, nor as seasoned as I like. It was nice, but without the oomph I look for in a lobster bisque. At £6.50, the portion was generous.

My fiancé ordered the black pudding, haggis, scallops, and bacon starter. At nine quid it was the most expensive item. With so many major components this was a whopper of a starter and a heavy-weight beginning to our meal. The haggis had a nice lentil-like consistency with just a whisper of fermented flavour. The scallops were meatily right, but the bacon was over-crisp, and the burned tinge took away from the otherwise lovely and complex dish.

The starters had landed on our table just minutes after we’d ordered them, and the mains arrived in just as timely a manner. They were beautifully presented.

While my fiance’s roasted rib of beef (£16.50) stretched long and flat across his plate, my sea bass rose above in 3D. I had been delivered fish and veg in cylindrical form and it was the start of my strata by strata excavation.

The fillets of my sea bass (£16) were on the thin side, but I reckon they need the fillets that thin so they can balance on the tower of mash.  The fish skin made for a slightly too crispy top ‘roof’. The samphire, was beautiful, cooked to the right point of withering and seasoned nicely.

Between two massive dollops of creamy mashed potato, I found the diamond in the rough, the star of this main, the crayfish tails. I spent the rest of the meal digging them out.

I don’t often eat dishes that are both a game and a meal. And though it’s not polite to play with one’s food, I did find myself enjoying my crayfish hunt, and delighted when I found them burrowed in the creamy mash.

Overall, my main was attractive, filling, and fun. And the rib of beef, 30-day-aged and slow roasted, won over my fiancé, who had nothing but compliments for the cut of beef and the preparation.

Unfortunately, my chosen dessert of whisky truffles had run out. So, I ordered the Bailey’s crème brûlée with raspberries and shortcake (£6.50), which was on the specials menu.

For me, dessert was everything. I relished the sweet crème, and ate it so slowly that as I finished I glanced over to see a man at the next table staring at me. I deprived him of a ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and put my spoon down.

By the way the backstory of the Fisherman’s is fascinating starting in 1981 with the Hervey family who opened a trout fishery in the Twine valley above Ramsbottom. They set up the pub and restaurant in 1990 after the fisherman decided they wanted to chow down too. The Hervey’s still own the place.

Back to the meal and something that needs examining. The service at The Fisherman’s can be chaotic. There were so many waiting on staff it was like dinnertime in Beijing.  There was one to seat us, another to take our order, one to bring us our food, one to take it away, one to bring us the bill…. We never had a face or a name to focus on.

That aside, the food is good, the drinks range extravagant and if you want to stare dreamily out of massive windows at the countryside then this is the place. It just needs to sort the service and soften that large dining room – unless you drink enough whisky to allow you to float home unassisted, then it doesn’t matter.

You can follow Karen on Twitter @karenregn

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

The Fisherman’s Retreat, Riding Head Lane, Shuttleworth, Ramsbottom, L0 0HH. 01706 825314

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