There might be a time and place for the dodgy delights of the hotel tea-tray – sachets of grainy coffee, cartons of never-enough fake milk – but the tail end of an over-indulgent Bank Holiday weekend definitely isn’t it. To the tender-headed and jittery-limbed – the hungover, if you will – that muck won’t cut it.
Thank christ, then, for the Inn at Whitewell’s ‘only fresh’ policy which, following check-in and a quick phone-call from bedroom to kitchen, saw us flaked out on the sofa glugging down redemptive cups of thick, rich coffee in much the same way as a teenager might neck a can of ‘energy drink’ before school.
As you might expect of somewhere as lauded as this place – framed awards adorn the walls, Coogan and Brydon visited back when The Trip was worth watching – ours is a peach of a room with the whole mullioned windows, beamed ceiling and four-poster shebang. There’s a healthy smattering of original and antiquey features around the whole place – the pretend appreciation of which proves a useful tool when, later, I get lost and end up blindly wandering up and down each hallway before ringing Asbestos Tongue to come and find me.
The plumbing, I’m guessing, has been modernised given that the all important shower is nothing less than a surging, gushing beast. If your room’s got a fireplace you could have it lit and dry off before it but, this being the muggiest day in the history of the world ever, we swerve. Also, that’d be a bit sleazy.
A Ruark stereo – not, I don’t think, an original feature – means that Asbestos Tongue can listen to her ‘Happy Happy Hardcore’ Spotify playlist while doing her hair and make-up, which only adds to the already relaxing atmos. (I jest: she’s strictly Acid House.)
Refreshed, guests can acquaint themselves with the rugged charms of the surrounding countryside (we didn’t) or enjoy a few rejuvenating beers on the tranquil terrace (we did). It’s Real Ale territory this, of course, and although cask stalwarts such as Moorhouses and Timmy Taylor do the job, some of that new-fangled keg stuff wouldn’t go amiss for the more discerning beer geek.
Notably, as afternoon became evening, staff who’d previously been working behind the bar made the short journey around the other side to prop it up with the locals. A good sign, I reckon.
The ‘writing about food’ law dictates that the kind of scran served in these countryside gaffs should be described as ‘hearty’, ‘generous’ or – my fave – ‘posh pub grub’, but although we’re not pushing culinary boundaries here there’s far more to it than that without straying onto Fine Dining’s overly-manicured turf.
Necking slabs of good stretchy bread lathered with proper butter (the bread, not me), in front of a crackling fire is going to be a pretty decent start to any meal, and the bucolic views from the dining room – misty moorland tonight – shift things up a notch again.
A trio of rotund, buttery scallops (£9) have been well looked after both by a knowing chef and a protective film of smoky, crispy pancetta; a rib-eye of beef (£20) carries the loose grain and deep flavour of a well sourced cow – its accompanying chips are non-Jenga’d and damn fine – and a hunk of moist bronzed chicken (£19) has us thinking about that reet good Sunday lunch we scoffed at the Box Tree that time.
Wines start at £18.50 a bottle with plenty by the glass, but there’s proper posh stuff too if you want it; just brush up on your French. Reception doubles up as a wine shop should you fancy bagging a few souvenirs.
There’s a more pubby menu too, served in the bar, with yer sausage and mash and yer fish pies at around 11 quid each.
A combination of firm bed, thick walls and wine necked makes for a sound night’s slumber punctuated only by an inner debate as to if the wardrobe is or isn’t haunted. Pretty sure it is.
Breakfast’s a bustling business here and, wisely, the menu’s been kept succinct and snappy to make dealing with peckish guests a slick affair. Fruit and cereal for the pretenders; full mashings – including top-drawer, meaty bacon – for the realists.
Pretty much yer quintessential trip to the countryside then, this place; the full Gosford Park in appearance with all the laid-back charm and characteristic features of a rural local boozer.
Where? The Forest of Bowland straddles Lancashire (mostly) and Yorkshire (a bit). It’s that second part that makes it an official Area Of Natural Beauty. (Only joshing, Lancashire chums.) Get to Clitheroe and you’re there or thereabouts.
Food, accomodation and definitely haunted wardrobe were provided by The Inn at Whitewell. Doubles start at £134.