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Review: Karen partakes of butties and cake at this Ribble Valley cafe set in stunning gardens

Posted on - 6th July, 2024 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Food & Drink, Opinion, Preston News, Restaurants in Preston, Reviews, Ribble Valley News, What's On in Preston
The Croft in Ribchester Pic: The Croft / Facebook
The Croft in Ribchester Pic: The Croft / Facebook

This week we’re back in the heart of the beautiful Ribble Valley to review Always Cake which, according to the website, is “a charming cafe nestled within the picturesque Stydd Gardens in Ribchester.”

Except that we weren’t, because after wandering around for 15 minutes we still couldn’t find it. Eventually we found someone to ask and discovered that, despite the Always Cake website still being active and showing up in links, it’s now called The Croft.

I ordered a bacon sandwich on white bloomer (£6.50) and a pot of tea. I’d asked for the bacon to be extra crispy because I have a horror of soft bacon fat, but there was still a bit of flop around the edges so I asked the server to stick it under the grill for a bit longer. It came back just as I liked it, although it took so long that I was worried that it would be returned as black and crispy as the tea towel that I accidentally set fire to at our table in the Aspinall Arms the night before, during a second failed attempt to celebrate our anniversary without anything awful happening.

The Croft bacon sandwich
Stand down, soldiers, I asked for it well done

There were just two strips of bacon on the sandwich, and the Scouser’s egg and sausage on toasted wholemeal (£7.50) needed another sausage to fill the area properly. The meats were obviously of good quality but despite looking the part, the taste and texture of the bread was disappointing. It was strangely doughy, dry and crumbly at the same and put up a real fight not to be swallowed by hanging onto teeth, uvula, and anything else it was forced past.

A woman sitting at another table was doing exactly the same thing when we first sat down, and I remember looking at her in horror because who orders a sandwich and leaves the best two thirds of it? Me, as it turned out. Wherever you are, my disappointed bread-less sister, I’m with you.

The Croft sausage and egg sandwich
That will be sausage and egg on toast

The service was lovely and so was the stunning view of Stydd Garden, albeit viewed only through the window because it was raining. The decor was generic cottage tea room but nicely done.

When we first arrived at about 9am or 10am it was noticeably quiet, but 20 minutes later a multitude of older ladies came pouring in and there was a run on scones in an atmosphere so cracklingly polite that one poke from a Joules umbrella could kick off a bun fight that would make the bloodbath at the O.K. Corral look like a Brush and Tipple party at Penwortham’s Artisan Deli.

Review: Penwortham’s local deli for local people

Anyone eating out in Lancashire can get a rough idea of what type of food is on offer in an eatery by looking at the dogs that accompany the customers. If you’re wanting a large fry-up and mug of strong tea, follow a Jack Russell or a Staffy. If you fancy a prawn mayonnaise on wholemeal bread with salad leaves and cracked black pepper, follow a Retriever or a Spaniel. If you’re wanting to spend £25 on half a craft beer called something like Professor Corgi’s Malty Scoocher and a homemade pie with hand cut chips and hand mushed peas, you need to find yourself a Border Terrier. An excess of French Bulldogs means you’re in Brighton, and a blisteringly judgemental, ancient Chihuahua means you’re at my house, you’ve woken up Tragic Eddie, and you need to get out of there before you get gummed into a slow, agonising death because he has saliva like a Komodo Dragon.

The Croft is a dog-friendly establishment, like many other places in the Ribble Valley including The Alston Pub and Dining in Longridge, with its unidentified, falsetto, smoke-alarm dog. In this Ribble Valley tearoom a beautiful coppery Spaniel called Blaze was trying with every ounce of its being to will its owners devilishly attractive sausages into scarfing distance, so I looked at the menu to check my theory and there it was: North Atlantic prawn sandwich dressed in creamy homemade Marie Rose sauce for £9.50! Yes! My theory is now a proven scientific fact.

Spaniel at The Croft
A Prawn Sandwich dog trying to manifest a sausage into his face

Maybe one day I too will become a Scone Lady who goes berserk with fatal consequences because she has arrived too late for cake. Then I can test my theory that one might reliably deduce upon which circle of Hell one has landed by the identification of whichever breed of bored cat is attempting to bat one off the edge.

Fortunately, there were enough scones, cakes and pastries to go around without me having to start windmilling, so my cat theory will have to wait. I bought a slice of tangy lemon cake to take away but only made it halfway to the car because it smelled and tasted lovely, and my body was going into shock from the lack of bread. Also, if I waited any longer the Scouser might get his second food wind and there wasn’t enough of it to share without some seething resentment.

The Croft lemon cake
The ‘takeaway’ cake never even made it to the car

The Croft at Stydd Gardens is the perfect place to sit out with a coffee and watch the birds, squirrels and rabbits stuffing their faces with creepy crawlies or mucking about with each other. The choice of food on the small menu is good, reasonably priced and locally sourced, and on a sunny day you’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place to while away a few hours, but if I returned it would just be for a coffee and perhaps a scone if I’m feeling feisty.

What kind of eatery would your dog lead people to? Let us know in the comments.

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