‘The Codfather’ tells us about Shark’s head ‘show and tell,’ giant crabs and wresting conger eels
Don’T worry if the recent Seafood Week (4th - 11th October) flashed by you by like a shoal of shimmering mackerel, because there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the fruits of the sea.
In fact, why not make a weekend of it and head over to one of the Seafood Pub Company’s growing portfolio of welcoming pubs with excellent food. To be fair, they’re not exclusively about fish and seafood, their menus are choc full of classic pub dishes along with a few globally inspired plates thrown in to show off the skill of the talented chef team.
After wrestling with it on the kitchen floor for a couple of hours they rang him up and asked him to take it back
Their collective strength lies in the provenance of the ingredients, which they take very seriously - well you would if your pubs were mostly dotted around the arable Lancashire countryside. Quality fish and seafood, though, is in the blood. Seafood Pub Company owner Jocelyn Neve is the spawn of Chris Neve who has been supplying restaurants all over the country with fresh fish and seafood for over four decades from their Fleetwood base.
We met him recently at the Derby Arms in Longridge, which was hosting a special four-course seafood dinner, where Chris was to be the guest speaker. The event was one of the seasonal guest events they put on every so often and is incredible value at £35 (including a welcome glass of Prosecco and half a bottle of wine) - considering it’s a chance for the skilled kitchen team to really show what they can do.
I’ll be honest, the journey up to Longridge on the M62 on a Friday night was not an easy one and we worried we might miss the start. In the end, we only just made it and burst through the door, absolutely soaked in the short journey from car park to front door, to be greeted by a very relaxed team who sat us down in the cosy modern dining room with a warm welcome and a chilled glass of bubbles.
It only took a few sips and a delicious starter of fresh, plump king scallop with roasted squash puree and crispy cavalo nero to get us in the Funtime Friday mood. Meanwhile, Derby Arms’ head chef Jordan Senior was setting up a live demonstration area where he showed us how to make the base for his signature crab bisque, while undertaking an impromptu question and answer session from a few of the regulars – who had to lean back when he got to the flambé bit.
After a first course of sea trout with textures of beetroot, cucumber and horseradish granita it was time for the main man. Don’t let Chris Neve’s calm unassuming manner fool you, the man is an encyclopaedia of piscine knowledge - but more importantly, after a glass of wine or two he is hilarious.
He had us in stitches with stories such as how he once caught a sturgeon, which aren’t usually found in UK waters, and he didn’t know what to do with it. “Well I phoned Buckingham Palace to see if the Queen fancied it,” he said, straight faced, “but they just said she was sick of bloody sturgeon.” Chris told us about the time he sent his kids into school with a giant shark’s head for show and tell, resulting in the teacher calling him to ask him 'please, never to do that again.'
He then told us how once the head chef from what is now Manchester Central asked him to send over ‘something different’. So he delivered a giant conger eel, still alive. After wrestling with it on the kitchen floor for a couple of hours they rang him up and asked him to take it back. He regaled us with tales about the goings-on during working weekends, which would regularly start at ungodly hours and fishy tales of crazy catches. He should definitely write a book.
As much as we wanted him to carry on, it was time for the main course – which had to be good because Chris and his Mrs (Jocelyn’s mum) were also guests for the evening. It was an utterly perfectly cooked piece of halibut served on buttered leeks with a hint of smokiness coming through from some lardo, and that bisque (one they’d prepared earlier.)
Pudding was an incredibly well executed (and huge) chilled chocolate fondant, with a very generous pool of salted caramel sauce and hazelnuts.
Fortunately The Derby Arms also has accommodation – making it ideal for those who want to explore the full wine list more thoroughly – so we didn’t have too far to waddle to our room upstairs.
Considering we were a bit work-weary and the journey up there was a bit of an ordeal (take note, the return journey on the bright and sunny Saturday morning was a breeze in comparison) we had a lot of fun and highly recommend you look out for these special events, or just book a weekend stay anyway to try out this friendly, comfortable Lancashire pub with rooms (and a proper Lancashire breakfast.)
The Seafood Pub Company regularly holds seasonal dinners at all of their pubs. The next dining event at Derby Arms is a Game Dinner on Friday 8th November, 7.30pm.
Places are £35 per person and include a Prosecco and canapé reception, a cooking demonstration, half a bottle of wine and five seasonal courses featuring game pie, rabbit, pigeon, venison and an autumnal dessert.
Click here to book.
Derby Arms, Chipping Lane, Longridge, PR3 2NB