We are at the Bay Horse tonight to conduct further extensive research into a subject never very far from a foodies’ plate: chips.
I am hearing reports from my extensive network of contacts across the restaurant world – actually a mate rang up with this snippet a couple of days ago – that something called ‘gourmet chips’ are featuring more on menus.
There is, he said with that excited exaggeration not uncommon when someone from this particular place passes on the latest, something of a revolution going on.
Now, so far gourmet chips have not turned up in the Greater Chorley Gastronomic Region.
Our chips are still, well, northern. We more often have hand-cut, curly, crinkle-cut, fat, chunky, and ‘proper.’ Truffle topped polenta frites with herbs have yet to appear.
I hit the internet on your behalf to find out what’s going on, and I can save you a lot of time by offering a summary of a thesis which might be termed: The changing social status of chips post the 2008 economic crash.
It goes as follows: When spending stalled in austerity, diners were cautious, unwilling to pay for decadent dinners. Street food filled the gap. The squeezed middle class couldn’t afford steak, but could stretch to burgers and chips. This was a bonding experience, the chip being uniquely shareable, unifying, classless and inclusive.
I’m not making any of this up, by the way.
It goes on: The chip is an important social facilitator – it helps us all to get along. When we eat chips, we see the English behaving in a sociable, intimate, “un-English” manner, all pitching in messily, pinching chips off each others’ plates – and even feeding chips to each other.
All the more shocking, then, that even chips are undergoing a type of food i.e. gentrification. Now they can be truffled frites triple-cooked, duck-fat-fried, topped with pulled pork and drizzled with truffle oil. Some, like the polenta above, are not even potato.
The Bay Horse chips with my scampi are excellent, authentic northern, hand-cut, firm, crispy.
The scampi too is fresh, with ample fish content.
A green salad is possibly a bag salad, but if it is it has defied that slightly moist feel which those have. It too is fresh, and well drizzled. I squeeze a wedge of lemon where it’s required, dip a chip into the tartare sauce.
Chicken with bacon and cheese is also going down well, plus the coleslaw and salad. When tasted on its own, the chicken breast is not at the top end of the flavour-meter, so a suggestion to taste only a combination of all three ingredients is readily taken up.
The chips here are genuine, no-nonsense chips.
We have aided digestion with beer – Wainwright and Adnams.
My pancake has a varied and fresh filling of strawberries, ice cream and crushed strawberries.
A generous wedge of carrot cake is moist and succulent, especially under the influence of pouring cream.
The bill, including a startling 76p each for two packets of crisps, is £39.