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The Cartford Inn: home of hospitality

The Cartford Inn: Lancashire's quirky home of hospitality

by Tom Shingler 26 November 2018

Tom Shingler visits The Cartford Inn in Great Eccleston, Lancashire and discovers a thriving restaurant serving delicious food made with local ingredients. With a quirkily artistic interior, incredibly passionate staff and some of the warmest, friendliest service in the UK, it’s a must-visit if you’re in the county.

There are good gastropubs all over the UK, but it’s rare to come across one that really stands out. The Cartford Inn, however, is definitely one of them. Dating back to the seventeenth century, it ticked along as a run-of-the-mill inn until 2007, when Patrick and Julie Beaume took it over, completely refurbished it and stamped their own unique style all over the walls. It’s won floods of awards – and rightly so – but there are three things that, for me, make The Cartford one of Lancashire’s most prized culinary gems.

The first is the people who work there. The hospitality really is second to none, with Patrick and Julie welcoming everyone in with open arms and talented head chef Chris Bury (a born and raised Lancastrian) keeping an eye on the kitchen. There’s a real sense of family at The Cartford Inn and everyone genuinely seems to love working there, which clearly comes through in the service.

The second is, of course, the food. Chris and Patrick have worked hard to make the menu familiar enough to please the locals but interesting enough to make a meal there worth a trip into the Lancastrian countryside. You’ll find all the classic pub favourites prepared to a very high standard, but a browse through the rest of the menu throws up some seriously impressive cooking. Smoked Jacobs Ladder with beer-braised onions; crispy snails with cashew nut purée; glazed bacon knuckle with a salami and bean cassoulet; banana savarin with rum ice cream and pecan brittle – this isn’t your average pub grub. Chef Chris has worked in places like Claridges and The Fat Duck and his technical skill is obvious in the menu, which is incredible value for money seeing as the team focus on using only the very best of Lancashire’s produce.

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Chef Chris Bury ensures The Cartford Inn offers really fantastic pub food, balancing the menu between familiar favourites such as oxtail suet puddings, fish pies and steaks right through to more unusual dishes like cod tongue scampi and Jerusalem artichoke soufflé
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This is The Cartford's famous Bury black pudding doughnut – a favourite of Jay Rayner's when he visited

The third is The Cartford Inn itself. When travelling to countryside boltholes you have an idea of what to expect – timber frames, roaring fires, real ales – and while The Cartford has all of those, Julie and Patrick have created something truly extraordinary. There’s artwork all over the walls both inside and out (there’s a fantastic mural of an eye with David Bowie in the centre done by graffiti artist My Dog Sighs) and the personality of the owners can be seen everywhere. Over the years they’ve refurbished the dining room, expanded the kitchen, added rooms for people wanting to spend the night and even opened a small deli called TOTI (Taste Of The Inn) which is full of incredible stuff from all over Lancashire. The latest addition is probably the most impressive, however – a pair of studio ‘pods’ in the car park next to the Inn. They best encapsulate the quirky nature of The Cartford; two sustainably sourced and eco-friendly cabins on stilts themed around David Bowie and robins (which nested underneath the cabin whilst it was being built).

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TOTI (Taste Of The Inn) is The Cartford's on-site deli, which stocks a range of artisan food and drink from producers across Lancashire
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The latest addition to The Cartford's offering is two seriously impressive eco-cabins themed around David Bowie and robins

Sound a bit odd? That’s what I thought, but after staying in one for the night I fell completely in love with them. They’ve been beautifully designed, with works from local artists all over the walls, an incredible sound system hooked up to a record player, an iPad to control everything and the cabins themselves built from old floorboards and heated with eco-friendly heat pumps. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Lancashire, there really isn’t anywhere better.

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After a quick tour around Fleetwood Docks, which supplies The Cartford with local fish, Chris ventured out to Pilling Sands to forage for sea vegetables
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The flats were absolutely covered in samphire, sea coriander (or arrowgrass) and sea purslane

After spending the night at The Cartford, tasting the food with Chris and enjoying some of the best hospitality I’ve experienced in a long, long time, we got up early to go foraging. Chris loves going out into the Fylde countryside, and as soon as we got to Pilling Sands I knew we were in for a treat. Huge swathes of saltwater marshland stretched out in front of us, and as we walked out Chris started picking samphire, sea purslane and sea coriander from the ground. These salty, umami-rich ingredients are used with abandon on The Cartford’s menu, but what really struck me is how beautiful this part of Lancashire is. The Fylde is often overshadowed by Blackpool’s sometimes questionable reputation; drive just a few miles out, however, and you’re rewarded with some absolutely stunning countryside.

Chris doesn’t just rely on his own foraging skills to keep his larder stocked, however. He works closely with some brilliant suppliers to source everything from fruit and vegetables to meat, fish and even the crockery he serves his food on. We didn’t have time to visit them all, but the ones we did echoed everything I experienced at The Cartford: a clear passion for craftsmanship and a commitment to producing the very best.

Rob Mason's Texel sheep

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Rob was born into a farming family just down the road from The Cartford Inn, and was inspired by his grandfather to specialise in Texel sheep
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Texel sheep have plenty of muscle, wide heads and big, broad shoulders – something that comes through in the taste of their meat

The world of farming is a bit of an unknown to those of us who don’t live in the countryside – something that became apparent when Chris took me to meet Rob Mason, who supplies the restaurant with lamb. His flock is far from average; Rob specialises in Texel sheep, a slightly intimidating rare breed originally from a Dutch island that looks like it is made from pure muscle. As we walked through the fields to take a look at the animals, Rob’s enthusiasm for things like crossbreeding, agricultural tech and farming life really shone through – perhaps that’s why he keeps winning awards for his sheep. Chris says the meat he gets from Rob is some of the best they’ve ever had at The Cartford, and whenever it goes on the menu he’s sure to point out that you can see the field where the sheep were reared from the restaurant itself.

Thomas Hayton’s Saddleback pigs

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Thomas might only be fourteen, but his pigs are some of Lancashire's most prized animals
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It all started when Thomas was bought a pig for his birthday, and he now spends all his spare time looking after his herd and growing his business

There aren’t many fourteen year olds out there who can say they’ve set up and run a successful business, but Thomas Hayton is one of them. He’s the proud owner of a smallholding full of Saddleback pigs – some of which are very rare indeed – which he looks after and rears before selling to chefs like Chris. It all started when he asked for a pig for his birthday, and rather than being a passing interest (which fourteen-year-olds are prone to having) pig-rearing turned into a true passion. His rare breed pigs now win awards at local country shows; he’s expanded his smallholding to accommodate more animals and he looks after his pigs entirely by himself, often getting up in the early hours before school to clean them out. His father says he’s found Thomas asleep in the pen with his beloved pigs before, and it’s obvious he makes sure they’re incredibly well looked after. These must be some of the happiest pigs in the county.

Dylan Cross' Pilling Pottery

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All good chefs take the time to build up relationships with the people who supply their ingredients, but Chris goes one step further and ensures the plates and bowls his food is served on are produced by local artisans too. Just a short drive away from the restaurant is Pilling Pottery, where Dylan Cross creates handmade crockery for the restaurant. Experimenting with different glazes means his creations truly are works of art, and when I visited Dylan and Chris were discussing the shapes and sizes of various bowls so they would perfectly match specific dishes. It seems everywhere you turn in Lancashire there is an artisan at work, and at The Cartford Inn you can see, taste and experience all of their beautiful products.

Of all the fantastic places I visited while in Lancashire, it was The Cartford Inn that stood out the most. The people working there, the unfussy but delicious, comforting food and the inn itself made it one of the best places I’ve visited in quite a while. Patrick and Julie have created something so unique and pleasant in the heart of the North West, and in Chris they’ve found a stellar chef that knows exactly what people want to eat. I can’t recommend it enough.

For more information on Lancashire's fantastic food scene, take a look at the Visit Lancashire website.

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