FOOD: Downham inn wins pub-of-year title

AWARD WINNER: The Assheton Arms at Downham has earned a 'Dining Pub of the Year' title.
AWARD WINNER: The Assheton Arms at Downham has earned a 'Dining Pub of the Year' title.

One of the Ribble Valley’s most historic country inns has landed a top North West food award – only eight months after a major restoration programme relaunched it as a destination gastro-pub.

The 18th century Assheton Arms at Downham pipped the shortlisted Queen’s Hotel at Lytham St Annes and the Lunesdale Arms at Tunstall to be named the “Lancashire Life Dining Pub of the Year”, ahead of The title was awarded at a dinner at Manchester’s Midland Hotel, when judges said they were were impressed by the “honest, high quality food” and executive chef Antony Shirley’s style of letting top ingredients – including “caught that day” fish - speak for themselves.

The award comes only weeks after the Assheton Arms’ sister pub, The Oyster amd Otter at Feniscowles, Blackburn, was named the best North West food pub in the Great British Pub Awards.

Both gastro pubs are run by the Seafood Pub Company, who pipped celebrity chef Marco Pierre White to get the lease of the Assheton Arms earlier this year.

A £400,000 refurbishment created a two-storey 130-cover eatery offering panoramic views across the valley to Pendle Hill.

The latest award is another landmark for the partnership between the Seafood Pub Company’s managing director Joycelyn Neve and executive chef Antony Shirley, a former sous chef at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge and head chef at Raffles in the West Indies.

“Coming so close after the Oyster and Otter award has confirmed that our straightforward approach to uncomplicated preparation of top quality food is hitting the right mark,” says Joycelyn.

Joycelyn is the daughter of Chris Neve, whose Fleetwood-based wholesale fish operation ensures the best catches from Fleetwood trawlers can be on the plate at Downham within hours.