American Breakfasts in the Heart of Bowland

I’ll take any excuse for a weekend away.

Whether it’s a housewarming, christening, wedding, funeral, concert, garden show – literally, any excuse to go on a road trip.

My latest excursion had me flying my weekend warrior flag high, as I missioned a gruelling five hour on a Friday Night, straight from the office in London up to Bowland Fell, a static caravan site and holiday/retirement park for over 50s. My absolute favourite Uncle and Aunt had both just packed their jobs in down South and had decided to retire to one of many residential park homes in Yorkshire. Although they’d stressed time and time again that they weren’t staying in a caravan, I was still expecting to be bunking on a spongy sofa that vaguely smelt of damp – it turns out I was a little far from the mark…

Credit: Bowland Fell

I could tell my Aunt Rose was proud of her new home and she was even happier to see how surprised I was by the condition of her new home. Although it was only a 2-bedroom bungalow, the state of the finish was a far cry from your traditional caravan. Glittering white walls were accompanied with some classy decor which I could tell were a particular boon for Aunt Rose, who was keen to pick out each piece, with a little side-note as to how much money she had saved. I was sure to make all the right sounds and gestures, which were mostly genuine.

What both of them were most excited to tell me about was a new restaurant that they had found in the local town of Clitheroe.

They’d always struck me as traditionalists when it came to food, their dinners mostly consisting of the classic formula of ‘Meat and Two Veg’, so I was surprised to hear them so enthused about a new ‘style’ of eating. They were so excited that they’d booked us a table for Brunch the next day at Hoof and Rooster, an ‘American inspired Smokehouse and Bar’…in Clitheroe.

For context – here’s a map of Clitheroe and it’s surrounding area:

Now – I’m always one for experimentation, but I feel like there’s something inherently wrong, taking locally sourced meat from the area and turning it into gourmet American food, a trend that was on trend well over 5 years ago now.

Let me try and explain myself here:

There are certain foods which are just a little too difficult to stomach when they’re out of context.

Credit: Pixabay

Gourmet Burgers, for example, sit comfortably on most modern high streets; but transplant them into an utterly English rural town, like Clitheroe and something doesn’t quite feel right.

It’s a little like Disney Land Paris. Despite it’s distance from the city there’s something innately un-American about that particular resort – you just know that what you’re getting is a cheap imitation, rather than the real thing. You know in that Mickey Mouse suit, there’s no friendly, vaguely brainwashed, failed actor; you’re more likely to find an overweight French fellow, who’s desperately looking forward to his next fag break.

Now, the question of authenticity is a dubious one when you’re dealing with the physical manifestation of a global brand like Disney, but when it comes to authentically replicating specific types of food it’s a little easier, especially when you’ve eaten as much food as I have. Often a chef can try as hard as they can for authenticity and end up shooting himself in the foot. Despite my reservations, I found myself enjoying the American-flecked breakfast that I had at this recently opened establishment and I could see why my Uncle and Aunt liked it.

Credit: The Hoof & Rooster

The decor inside the The Hoof & Rooster (Neon lights, bare bulbs in wire cages, taxonomy and industrial props) might well feel a little rote to experienced diners from the city, but these little touches made the restaurant stand a mile out in Clitheroe, a place that has clung to it’s traditional values for some time. Going there made Aunty Rose feel ‘young and hip’ and that’s something that I would never dream of taking away from a woman in her mid-50s.

Especially one who’s just moved into a caravan – sorry – ‘residential static home’.

Three Not-So-Square Meals in Cardiff

The absolute best thing about my job is that I get to travel (and eat) all over the UK.

The brand I work for sent me out to Cardiff to check up on a few potential locations for new restaurants, which was the perfect opportunity for me to book a hotel room and get three utterly filthy meals out – all on the company’s money of course…I ain’t no sucker.

Cardiff’s one of those towns that I’ve visited many times but have never quite got to grips with. Whether that’s because of the confusing* nature of the streets (*they’re really not confusing at all), or because I’ve always left the place in a half-drunk post-hen do stupor will forever be a mystery to me. Regardless, I was more than keen to head back once more to Wales’ capital, especially after I heard from a pal that there were a whole raft of new, hip places to eat there.

So without further ado – here are the 3 Not-So-Square Meals that fuelled my very productive day of company funded research:

Breakfast @ Anna Loka

Credit: @lunnonjhl

When I roll out of bed there are only two things on my mind: Food and Coffee. I found both of those things in abundance at Anna Loka, probably one of the most typically hipster places in Wales, if not the world. Roll up, roll up! We got your rough-hewn tables, we got your battered-to-shit uncomfortable chairs, we’ve even got an open plan kitchen with white-tiles and tattooed chefs. And top of the bill – what you’ve all been waiting to see for the thousandth time…EXPOSED RED BRICK WORK!

Decor snobbery aside the *cough* vegan *cough* menu is drop dead gorgeous. I eat Banana & Blueberry Pancakes – I then forget myself and order a Scrambled Tofu Bap which is silly-tasty. As I leave I promise to myself not to take the piss out of vegans for at least a month (the can’t even eat bacon!…damnit).

Lunch @ Katiwok

Credit: Wriggle

I had to go just a little bit out of my way to find KatiWok, a cornershop shack serving possibly the best kati rolls I’ve ever tasted. I’m sorry – what’s that? You don’t know what a kati roll is? Oh, I’m sorry. I am so sorry. Kati rolls are basically are as fashionable as burritos were last year, about as cool as gourmet burgers were 5 years ago and 10-times tastier than both combined. I understand that’s not a very helpful answer…

The team at KatiWok have been serving up quality pan-asian food (kati rolls, noodles and the like) for the last 3 years. They offer fresh, fun twists on great Asian classics and have easily made my Top Eats list of the year. Their katis (a gorgeous kebab wrapped in doughy, stretchy paratha bread) are the reason to go there, but I was also surprised and elated by their spicy masala fries and excellent ‘bhajees’ (why isn’t there a standardised spelling for these things?!).

Dinner @ The Clink Restaurant

Credit: @Kelsey Reanne Lewis

The Clink’s premise is akin to a shitty new, BBC soap-drama that only your Dad watches because ‘that guy from Spooks is in it’: a group of convicted prisoners in a Welsh prison are given a chance of redemption by cooking in a restaurant. “Yes Dad, it sounds…cool – yes, I’ll make sure to watch it on iPlayer so we can talk about it next time.”

Fortunately for humanity, this concept has not been green-lit through The Writer’s Room – it’s the basis of a whole charitable organisation that runs four restaurants across the UK. All the chefs are serving time and are also working towards their NVQs in Food Preparation, Food Service and Customer Service. I order a pigeon salad with lardon salad, quails egg and black pudding – they’re classic ingredients, well pre-prepared and cooked. The main is a roast supreme of hake with potato rosti and pickled griolles – this surprises me. It looks like a £30 dish, tastes amazing and costs half the price.

Although I’m tempted by the Trio of cherry, I can literally feel my waistline expanding by the second – so I demurely decline and donate a fiver to The Clink – a truly tasty, worthwhile cause.