Brian Ellis turns back the clock and sits down for lunch at the New Drop Inn at Ribchester where the traditional roast is making a welcome comeback
The classic Sunday lunch may be in decline, especially in the North of England where it was first served, gravy and all.
But mercifully the traditional roast still takes pride of place on the Sabbath in some of Lancashire’s smartest eateries.
And none more so than the sumptuously-refurbished New Drop Inn above Ribchester where gold standard silver service and stunning vistas leave diners with a long-lasting impression.
We should have known it was a bit special when Mrs Eating Out called to book a table days in advance and they only just squeezed us in before the “house full” signs went up.
Swerving breakfast was a good move for a 12.15 start. Yet neither of us had banked on skipping tea and supper.
At £17.95 a head for three courses, plus coffee, we’ve had cheaper Sunday lunches. But you get what you pay for in this world and we both agreed the New Drop fare was a cut above most restaurants we’ve tried in the rolling Ribble Valley.
From the choice of five starters Mrs EO enjoyed the Chicken Caesar Salad, a Herculean dish of char-grilled breast meat, bacon, anchovies and olives on a bed of Cos lettuce.
If that was the starter portion, I shudder to think how large the main course version was from the a la carte menu.
I tackled a formidable chunk of homemade duck liver pate served with a port wine sauce and hot toast and I wasn’t disappointed.
The selection of a dozen mains covered every base. But, while the Northern lad in me plumped for the roast beef and Yorkshire pud, the boss was unequivocal, it had to be the roast duckling.
There were no complaints on either side as a posse of courteous and attentive staff delivered the meal piping hot, with vegetables served at the table in the traditional way by spoon and fork. Always a nice touch that.
Stuffed to the gills, it is normally at this point that I wave away the sweet menu and head straight for the coffee or, if I’m totally truthful, a second look at the wine list. But, ever the professional and purely in the interests of Eating Out, I submitted to a third course, a family-sized bowl of my favourite bread and butter pudding with vanilla ice cream.
Perhaps this was the straw which snapped the camel’s back, or in my case the midriff shirt button.
The lady across was far more conscious of her figure and shunned the crumbles and cakes for the fresh fruit salad which, she confessed, looked and tasted delightful.
The lemon tea and filter coffee – which I had to pay extra to convert into a cappuccino – were top class and rounded off a memorable visit. It is a while since Mr and Mrs EO have enjoyed Sunday lunch so much in such delightful surroundings.
A return is already being planned, subject to availability.
New drop inn, higher road, Ribchester, pr3 2yx. (for satnav use pr3 2xe) Tel: 01254 878338.