Nigel Haworth's been doing good things in Lancashire. From his base at the highly-rated Northcote Manor, he's been opening a series of pubs, three of them now, with the mantra of "Real Pub, Real Food, Real Beer". Of those, The Three Fishes at Great Mitton was the first.
The GPS unit took us cross-country to reach it, but there's a rather more direct route from the A59. Still, this Ribble Valley pub really is in the country, a lovely village on green slopes and bracketed sky-framed trees. As a result, it's both scenic, and has the luxury of space for a sizable car park. We take the last available spot in the back part of the lot and come into the warm, comfortable space to join makyo and A. for lunch.
Our table has a number, and we need to go up to the bar to place our order for drinks and food, so at first we are lulled into thinking it really is a proper pub. By the time I'm done with the list of things that C. and I are ordering, A. and I realize that it's not quite as normal as it looks. They don't need money just yet, only our table number.
When it arrives, the food looks lovely, nicely presented without being intimidating. My Three Fishes house pie is a full baking dish of waves of mashed potato, covering a buttery fish pie made great by its simplicity. The quality of the ingredients is what shines; I'm not even completely certain there were herbs or spices in there. My roast beetroot salad is a refreshing contrast to the richness of the pie, daubed with a light horseradish cream to bring the watercress and beet together.
C. is a little more disappointed in his devilled breast of cornfed Goosnargh chicken, but that's in part because the word "devilled" always raises his expectations. It was spicy in the way that Italian food is spicy - it's a flavor, not an aggression. Also, he feels the chicken is a little dry. His chunky chips are rather nice though. A.'s local seafood platter offers a good variety without overwhelming. The Lancaster Beech and Juniper Smoked Salmon is well-flavored, but then I'm always partial to smoked food.
We're all full by now, but not so full that we'll pass up dessert. Alas! There is only enough lemon meringue for two of us, so we order those, plus a chocolate and orange pudding with clotted cream, and a bread and butter pudding with apricot glaze and double cream. The lemon meringue was decorously restrained and so, though it was good, both the bittersweetness of the chocolate and orange pudding; and the lovely contrast of custardy bread with fresh apricot excited my taste buds more than did the meringue.
Table service was diligent, bringing us our drinks as well as our food, even though all of it was ordered at the bar. The pub offers a wonderful selection of non-alcoholic options, including the locally-produced sarsaparilla that A. and I opted for. A. only memorable complaint was that her tea did not come with a homemade coconut macaroon, as promised on the menu. C.'s slightly disappointing chicken (along with generic, if homemade onion rings) was more of a letdown.
The extensive menu is reasonably priced, with mains mostly in the 9-12 range. The cheese board, a run of 10 Lancashire cheeses, was voted "The Best British Cheese Board 2006", and is one of the many things about the pub worth going back for. So were all the wood-burning fireplaces scattered throughout, welcome on a cool winter afternoon. We loitered into the dark of the afternoon without being rushed, even as we increasingly had the pub to ourselves. Next time we're all up north with family, we'll meet there again for good food and good drink.