Introducing The Highwayman’s New Chef
Ever since graduating from Nigel Haworth’s Northcote in 2002, The Highwayman’s new chef, Jason “Bruno” Birkbeck, has wanted his own pub. And dream has finally become reality at the Highwayman, where he’s created a brand new menu of destination pub food at its very best.
Bruno’s extraordinary talents have won him positions at the country’s best restaurants – and a bunch of AA Rosettes. But his appointment at The Highwayman marks a return to his roots in more ways that one. Now in his mid 30s, he’s moved to nearby Lupton with his family, and packed his new menu with homespun signature dishes, served with a “Bruno” twist.
There’s a pork lover’s fantasy (“Pig’s Head”) made from black pudding and pig’s cheeks, a chicken leg and ham pie, with complete with bone emerging boldly from the crust – and his wife’s secret recipe sticky toffee pudding conceived back when she was pastry chef at Northcote, which Bruno admits he’d definitely order if he was eating in the restaurant.
“Everything’s my version,” he says, proudly. “The fish and chips are a bit different with a mushy pea puree. The duck liver parfait is proper, classic parfait that’s all buttered up, with gooseberry pickle puree by the side of it and some nice little crisps. I was always going to use shrimps so this shrimp porridge comes from Heston Blumenthal’s famous snail porridge. It’s local, it’s not a risotto – and it’s British,” he adds.
Here at the Highwayman –and at the other Ribble Valley Inns – suppliers form the backbone of the menu. Names that the pubs have made famous include Port of Lancaster Smokehouse’s smoked salmon, Udale’s beef and seafood from Cartmel Valley Game. Duck liver for Bruno’s parfait and the chicken for his pie come from another name that trips off the tongue, Johnson & Swarbrick in Goosnargh. And then there are newcomers, hand-picked by Bruno for the Highwayman, like Kitriddings Farm Shop in Kirkby Lonsdale who are supplying pig’s cheek bacon for the “Pig’s Head”. There’s even Kitriddings bangers and mash on the Children’s Menu.
As well as stints Ambleside's Samling, Hipping Hall and Scottish Highland hotel, The Torridon, Bruno’s inspiration comes from Tom Kerridge at the Hand and Flowers in Marlow and Beverley’s famous gourmet pub, The Pipe and Glass. Years ago, Bruno was going to work at the award-laden Star Inn at Harome, but he ended up at the Samling instead, working towards it’s first Michelin star. “Running a pub is something I ‘ve always wanted to do,” he says. If his new menu is anything to go by, he really means it.