Tuesday 8 April 2008

A flying visit to Lancaster

Things to do in Lancaster

I was in Lancaster for the weekend to honour a remarkable woman who passed away last week at 92.

It was what you might call a flying visit, into Manchester on Sunday morning and well, I did not know a cab ride to Lancaster would have traversed 100 miles – anyway, it was all well arranged, one can no more rely on the jumbled railway system that charges rip-off prices to travel by bus in the United Kingdom nowadays.

My hotel was the Premier Inn, a group of budget hotels that offer the minimalist and no more – I cannot remember when last I stayed in a hotel room without a phone, wireless connectivity is more or less standard for the dog-house – there were no viable choices.

A hotel that has Lenny Henry as their big advertising face could well have funny deals but not ones one would call sophisticated – however, they would appeal to a certain clientele.

Lancaster is an old city and it is quite provincial too, for most of the 90s I spent Christmas with a family that could well be my family in Europe in a village (Brookhouse) where you could point to the cow that produced the milk and name the chicken that laid the eggs.

Thoughts and realities

However, considering the occasion, alternative arrangements had to be made as I ventured to the “restaurant” Cottams Field Restaurant attached to the hotel.

My thinking did not connect with the possibilities – I was in a restaurant and had to order at the bar, then I was offered the opportunity to pay immediately – that struck fear in me.

I had ordered a Sunday roast; lamb being the meat of the dish, thinking of good old England and the sheep in the fields not too far away – this after I had had to ask if both my drinks and food would be brought to my table.

When my drinks arrived, none were poured as one would expect in a “restaurant”, I was beginning to think, what I am doing here.

Meanwhile, the locals just got into the flow, if you have never had good service, you will never bother about bad service.

Toughening the meats

The Sunday roast arrived, my lamb without mint sauce, I could live with that, but by the time I put my fork on the lamb and could hardly dent it and my knife could hardly cut it, I could have put my shoes in my plate and had more tender leather to chew.

I put my fork and knife aside and began to gobble down my drinks when the barman came round to ask if everything was fine, I mumbled something about the lamb being really tough – I politely refused another offering of lamb hide or the choice of deserts as I promptly made for the door.

If I though all would be well at breakfast, the sausages were no doubt annealed – it must be a new cooking technique in that kitchen.

Later on Sunday, I did have a real home-made roast and my lamb was just as tender as one should have it.

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