In October 2018, The Cartford Inn in Little Eccleston won Lancashire Life’s Food Pub of the Year award.
Naturally we wondered what exactly makes a food pub a food pub. Where does the “pub” end and the “food” begin? What turns a food pub from good to great? And what makes the Cartford Inn special?
Cue Patrick Beaume, owner of the Cartford Inn took some time out of his very busy schedule to speak about the food he creates for the pub, the “gravy modern movement” and what it means to be a “food pub”.
How has your menu been influenced and inspired by its traditional pub setting? How do you make sure you retain the “pub feeling” while serving good food?
What is pub food? Let’s remember that pubs were not created to serve food but to offer a meeting place where you could drink beer. Over the years and for too long, most pubs started offering basic food without any skills nor ambition. It tarnished the name “pub food”.
Fortunately, with the rise of the casual market, the smoking ban and other changes in social habits, food has started taking the driving seat in pub operations, giving the opportunity to a new generation of creative chefs to offer exciting stuff. When we bought the Cartford Inn the aim was to offer the best quality and consistency in food our facilities and resources could allow us to do. It has obviously evolved over the last 10 years has we consolidated and developed the business.
We started by offering what I would call good “bistro food”, maybe because I am French. 10 years later Jay Rayner called it in his November 2017 review of the Cartford Inn, “The gravy modern movement”. “It described a kitchen anchored in French classical techniques, but one that put all that knowledge and skills in the service of a recognisable British pub repertoire.” Retaining the pub feeling while offering better and more creative standards of food all the time is the biggest challenge we now have. In the last two menus we have created a section offering a small selection of pub classics, not to rock the boat, but in the rest of the menu we offer more innovative and modern dishes.
Do you match beer with the dishes you serve? Is this something you’ve thought about before?
We have a small private dining room, the River House, a barn conversion we did a few years back. We regularly organise themed evening and some of them involve beer matching. We have already done a couple of events in collaboration with BrewDog and the last one was BrewDog against Farm Yard Ales, a young local beer company that is really good and dynamic. In the restaurant we offer a great informative drink list with a range of quality products, all premiums. All our drinks are selected to accompanied food. The beer selection follows the same philosophy.
What made you want to create a menu that goes beyond the standard “pub fayre”?
I was born and raised in Bordeaux, where food and sitting around a dining table talking about food is an important part of life. I went to hotel and catering school in Bordeaux where I was trained to be the best in the industry, and I worked in different parts of the world in some great places where I learnt a lot and worked with great inspirational people. My mother in law was the Head of Lecturers at Blackpool and Fylde college in the 80’s and 90’s, which has also influenced my wife Julie (who is also the co-owner of the Cartford Inn) in the same manner. Good food is all we know.
What’s the most popular dish on the menu?
That is also evolving. We can see a switch from pub classics such as the suet pudding or fish pie to the seasonal dishes we introduce on each menu such as the venison dish or the Goosnargh duck that we currently have on. People are more curious and adventurous today.
Can you talk about some of your chosen local producers who create the ingredients you use?
Have you got an hour to spare? One of the core values we identified when we did our original business plan 11 years ago, was to use quality ingredients from local suppliers, family owned if possible. Not many businesses were following this route at the time; now it has become a motto for the industry.
Julie’s brother in law own and run a large wholesale fish business, Midland fish company, in Fleetwood who sources some of the freshest fish around such as lined caught seabass from Morecambe bay, Lytham shrimps, Morecambe bay cockles and plaice. Our butcher, Honeywell’s, source most of their meat from the local auction in Brockholes, fed by the farms that surround the Cartford inn within 15 miles. Most of the farmers are our customers. There are a few from who we by the whole animal directly, such as lamb and suckling pigs. Being in a rural setting, during the season, we have game from local shoots, dropped off at the back door and it goes straight on the special board.
There is also “Reg” who drops regularly seasonal vegetables from his allotment in Inskip. We work with local gin and beer producers, cheese of course. But at the Cartford Inn, it does not stop with the ingredients, we have the local pottery in Pilling making our own dishes, the local artist displaying their art in the restaurant and so on.
What is your ultimate aim for the restaurant side of your business?
The aim is to continue to be successful, but people have different views on what success is. For us it is to obviously be financially sustainable, this allow us to re-invest consistently in our facilities and our people. It is also finding the balance between satisfying our customers but allowing our staff to be creative, innovative, dynamic and most importantly happy in their environment.
Which food pubs or restaurants, chefs or pub chain owners do you admire or look up to for inspiration?
With the likes of Instagram, it is very easy to look up for inspiration. In general, we try to use our own creativity and skills but when we look at strategic direction we look up to the best in the world, the like of the top 100 restaurant in the world, not so much for recipes but more for their philosophy. Recently I took all the managers to a trip to Stockholm as we think the Scandinavian creativity and approach to food is amazing and fit with our own food culture. We go and eat at the best in the world, a trip to Copenhagen with Chris our head chef was also very inspirational last march.
Have you got any events coming up for people to come down specially for?
We regularly do special evenings in our private dining room. Chris our head chef and Danny our bar manager have just started a supper club, the first one we did was “Gin, Jazz and Japanese”. We will be doing another one end of November based on Lancashire food around Lancashire day. We are also planning to do a Game evening with blind folded transportation of the guests to a secret location “A local shoot shed”. That will be fun.