I’ve been watching crime thriller Reacher on Amazon Prime.
For those not familiar, it’s about a veteran military police officer who is built like a warrior and has become a bit of a nomad since entering civilian life and is emotionally shut-off. He is falsely accused of murder and promptly gets to work solving the case. He also eats ALL THE TIME.
You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this at the start of a food review. Well, Reacher tries several times but keeps getting interrupted, to eat a slice of peach pie that he is repeatedly told is “the best in the state [Georgia]”.
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Spoiler: In one of the final scenes of the series, he finally gets to eat the pie and says “he’s had better”.
Skip to my dessert at the Higher Buck gastropub in Waddington. just a few minutes drive from its bigger foodie neighbor Clitheroe. My eyes were drawn to it at the bottom of the specials board – hazelnut and raspberry meringue, is to me, a dream flavor dessert trio.
I was delighted as I don’t remember ever seeing that ingredient combination on a menu so I really built up the anticipation, but then remembered Reacher’s reaction to his pie, so was aware it could be a giant disappointment.
It was not. I spent the whole two minutes it took to demolish it, eyes glistening and mumbling “oh my goodness” at the tangy pop of fresh raspberries, blood-red sauce and crunch of hazelnut crumb, sitting on top of a perfectly formed and textured meringue.
So, we don’t have states over here but we do have counties, but this meringue was easily “the best I’ve had in Lancashire” [or anywhere, to be honest] but it also made sure I finished what had been an all-round excellent meal on a meringue-peaked high.
The Higher Buck was recently named as one of the top 50 gastropubs in the country, and we didn’t need to look beyond the substantial specials menu and warm, genuine greeting to understand why.
The quintessentially English pub with rooms is right on the main road which runs through the pretty Ribble Valley village, adjacent to a stream running past the outdoor beer garden picnic tables and is right at home among terraced stone cottages, blooming flower beds and a parish green .
The interior is classic, rustic and very well finished, with pleasant greens, browns and grays, individually embroidered chairs with patterned material and a wood-fire smell drifts invitingly out into the car park.
I was particularly taken by the subtle nod to the pub’s name and Ribble Valley and nearby Forest of Bowland landscape and heritage, with references to stags and also wildlife such as pheasants and grouse, with colorful artwork using shotgun bullet shells adorning the walls.
The venue also sells homemade flavored gin and there’s plenty of other little quirks that helps set it apart from the rest and the only thing it lacked is ambiance [the music was also tinny]but that may have been because we dined on a Tuesday evening.
Also, our final bill was pushing £ 100 for two (with two glasses of wine and not including tip), which is closer to the quite steep end of pub dining prices.
We focused heavily on the specials menu, which changes regularly, ordering the Queenie scallops starter (£ 10), beef Wellington (£ 24 chicken, leek and mushroom pie (£ 17) for mains and the dreamy dessert I previously gushed about (£ 7 ).
The black pudding scotch egg (£ 8) and vanilla yoghurt panacotta (£ 7) were from the main menu.
The three scallops were served adorably on individual sea shells, the garlic and black pudding crumb counter-acted the fishiness and marshmallow-y texture of the scallops and I could have eaten treble the portion, as they just kept getting better.
The scotch egg was substantial and hearty, the egg yolk bright and bold and the treasure at the heart of the crunchy, flavorsome outer layers. The mustard mayo gave the less in-yer-face savory flavors a welcome zip while the bacon on top was salty and crisp.
I’ve had some disastrous pub pies in my time, and its put me off ordering them, but I had a very good feeling about this one – and my gut did not let me down.
Served in a cute pie pot [main picture], the filling was creamy and soft, the chicken tender and it was stuffed to the brim, tucked inside the best flaky pie pastry I’ve had in quite some time. I enjoyed how the pastry flakes fell into the fill, giving each forkful a variety of textures. The accompanying greens were seasoned well and had not had the nutrients cooked out of them and the kitchen was good enough to swap out the chips for mashed potato [pie and mash is always the way]which was fluffy, with hint of cheese and pepper.
Beef Wellington can also be a risk, but the meat was perfectly pink and succulent, the pastry delicate and crunchy and had a wonderful gloss to it and the jus-like gravy was rich.
It was served with a good portion of beautifully buttery dauphinoise potatoes, which had nailed that delicate balance between soft and hard, with a golden crunch top layer.
Finally, the panacotta was set nicely with a signature wobble, again showcasing the chef’s clear technically savvy cooking skills. It’s sweetness along with the fig compote and homemade shortbread worked really well
And while there wasn’t a plastic carton in sight, the unusual and distinctive yoghurt vibe made sure it would be one of the finest desserts to ever put next to a ham and cheese deer in a lunch box.
Food was a running theme throughout Reacher. Despite being constantly on the move, he always found time to eat, snacking or shovelling a meal into his gob – it was certainly needed to sustain his Herculean frame.
But I’m entirely confident even he would have stopped in his brutal crime-solving tracks to enjoy a meal at the Higher Buck and leave with a full belly. I’d wager he take an extra portion or two of that meringue to go, too. He won’t have had better.
Note: I would score the Higher Buck 4.5, if I was able.
Food dviews by Denise Evans are published every Sunday morning. The restaurant did not know we were coming and our review is anonymous.
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