The Clog and Billycock is one of Lancashire chef Nigel Howarth's chain of Ribble Valley Inns that are big on locally sourced food and advertising the producers behind what's served up. Decked out in eggshell blue, mismatched furniture, food served in kilner jars/on chopping boards and a roaring fire it's got the gastropub look down to a tee - though it can sometimes feel a little sterile as the building's had quite a modern fit out and the serving utensils are sometimes over thought.
Clog and Billycock interior - with thanks to CityLife.co.uk
The food's generally good, there's a lot of care and thought gone in to something that's basically being served in a pub. Some of the stars are the Lonk Lamb hotpot with homemade pickled cabbage and crispy potato topping, which is served with a spoon (more places should promote eating up the leftover sauces with spoons, this is the North - embrace it!); the burger, which is usually served pink is massive, soft and salty - plus it comes with chips cooked in dripping; they are what I think young people term 'fit.'
Burger - with thanks to Clog and Billycock
Every month there's a new specials menu, which disappointingly has gone from being a separate menu with pictures/descriptions of what the seasonal ingredient is; parsnips, asparagus, apples... to being a little stick on bit on the main menu - a victim of the economic downturn?
Puddings are reminiscent of school, lots of suet and custard going on (can you hear the boy emitting an audible yay from there?) and they're big on cleverly flavoured homemade ice cream (eccles cake is a recent addition); but I'm sad to say that the most amazing pudding; a chocolate mousse (mousse is too airy a word, it was almost a ganache) with milk foam and hot dark chocolate is no longer on the menu. It was ace, but you'll have to take my word for it as it's not there now.
The food is well sourced and this attitude also applies to the drinks. There's usually a good selection of casks, bottled ales, local ciders and interesting softies including Mawson's sarsaparilla.
So what's the bad point then? The thing is, as good a the Clog and Billycock is ever since we've been there the service has been getting worse. The first time we visited things were pretty much great, apart from a little slowness here and there. But each time since there's been more and more mistakes, ending with our last visits for the Mother's birthday. Firstly we asked three times for a glass of wine (from the same waitress), only to have to go to the bar and then be given one in a dirty glass, a dish was forgotten, we asked for more bread with the starter and it came out with the pudding, the food was cold/overcooked and it goes on - we weren't even there at a particularly busy time.
Clog and Billycock waiter
The Clog at Billycock can be a great pub, it's best in the winter with the fires roaring as it gives the place a little more soul. Food's generally of a high standard and it's commendable that ingredients are sourced with care from the local area. It's a shame that service has become poor, leaving you feeling exasperated and annoyed as the price you pay for locality and sustainability is pretty high, especially as you realise you need to order veg with some of the dishes (most dishes do come with sides, it's just they're generally veg free!). The management need to sort this out as I doubt we'll be back for some time now, and if we do go it'll just be the two of us, no more showing it off to visiting relatives.
Best time to pop in is an evening in the winter and asked to be sat in one of the booths (can seat about four or six smallies at a push) by the fire.
Ps - try the Morcambe Bay shrimps - they smother them with lovely mace blade butter and they're the nest I've had throughout the NW (bar from the trailer on the beach with wind whipping through your hair and sand in your trainers).
Pps - portions can be quite big so I usually only choose two courses, or have two starters and a pudding.
Pps - sorry for the lack of photos, technology gremlins
Starters £2.50-£13.50, mains £9-£25, puddings £5-£10.
Food - 7/10
Atmosphere - 6/10
Service - 5/10
Value for money - 7/10
Total - 25/40
The Clog and Billycock, Billinge End Road, Pleasington, Blackburn, Lancs, BB2 6QB - 01254 201163 firstname.lastname@example.org