The Parkers Arms in Lancashire was 2017’s Highest Climber, shooting up a whopping 35 places from 48th to 13th then 7th and now 4th – no small feat.
It’s testament to chef-patron Stosie Madi and her business partner Kathy Smith’s dedication to making their pub one of the best in the country.
The pub’s isolated location works in its favour, commanding stunning views out of rolling hills whether you visit in summer or winter.
Madi and Smith took on the Parkers Arms in 2007 and have amassed an equally adoring local and national following, with gourmands travelling on occasion the length and breadth of the country to sample Madi’s cooking.
Menu highlights have included pheasant escalope in sourdough and Kirkham’s crumb with cranberry relish; Newton venison with local bramble and unpasteurised cheese; and Lancashire hogget hotpot with damson pickled red cabbage.
There are also a variety of pub classics available including top quality steaks; fish and chips; and of course, Madi’s famous pies.
The pub offers a selection of local cask ales and draught lagers as well as a wine list that caters equally to cheap-and-cheerful lunches or long, indulgent suppers.
Over the past 11 years, Madi has grown the business to dizzying heights with her family and business partner. But what’s in store for this pub’s future and will this inspiring chef open more sites?
Anyone who has met Madi will agree the three words that best describe this whirlwind of a chef are passionate, talented and inspiring. It’s as simple as that.
Madi is clear about what she is trying to achieve. She explains this outside her pub on a warm spring day ahead of an exclusive Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs regional dinner.
“The Parkers Arms is a country pub that welcomes everyone and their dog,” she says. “It’s all about food and local sourcing and what grows around here and on our doorstep.
“Our menu is also ruled by what’s local. We made a decision a long time ago that, if it doesn’t grow in the area or within a 30-mile radius, apart from something like chocolate, vanilla or spices, we don’t want it on the menu.”
It is not only the local produce available in the area that Madi holds dear, she is clearly in love with the majestic landscape surrounding her unassuming gastropub. It is an environment, she explains, that offers something new every single day. So enamoured with the beauty of Newton-in-Bowland, Madi will forgive even the most brutal winter weather, she says.
“I love where it is, every day I get up and it’s a different view. It changes with the seasons and I love the bounty that we get as chefs. It’s a romantic thought, but it’s magical.
“The Parkers Arms, over the past 11 years, has come along massively,” says Madi. “When myself and my business partner Kathy took this pub on 11 years ago it was rundown and closed.
“It had been mismanaged and had been shut for about two years, so we took it on and it’s gone from nothing to being nationally acclaimed, award-winning and a very recognised landmark of the area and I’m very proud of that.”
Though blessed with glorious countryside, people flock to the area to sample the skilfully cooked food that comes from Madi’s kitchen, which is manned by herself and, if she’s lucky, another chef. The front of house is managed by AJ Nolan.
The number of awards that have been bestowed on the pub are testament to the high quality of cooking, as well as the outstanding customer service at the front of house. Her continuous rise on the Top 50 Gastropubs list in recent years is recognition from her peers, who voted her into the top 10 this year, seeing her rise from 13th position to 8th.
Years of globetrotting have grown Madi’s cooking style, which result from a family background in hospitality. The chef previously told The Morning Advertiser: “I learned cooking by travelling around and eating a lot. I come from a hospitality family and my parents always owned bars, restaurants and hotels.
“I grew up going on field trips with them, and when I took over one of the family businesses, I decided I didn’t just want to run it, but I wanted to cook in it.”
She also had a natural fascination with chefs, how they worked and so gained inspiration. On her travels, Madi would make a beeline for the kitchens to find the chefs behind the food she was eating to learn more about cooking and develop her own recipes.
Her food experiences from travelling have defined the Parkers Arms as well as Madi’s view of what a gastropub is. “I love the fact that you can come and eat really good, exciting, sometimes innovative or traditionalist, really new forms of cooking, but in a really casual auberge French-type of environment,” she says.
“For me, the gastropub is the auberge of England where you can go and eat beautiful food really well, but you don’t have to get dressed up or worry about all of the pomp and circumstance and frills and fuss of a restaurant.”
Though the Parkers Arms has had a big past, there’s plenty more to come. “We would like more rooms because that means bums on seats and customers there ready to eat,” Madi says.
“We turn away a lot of customers at the weekend and I would like to see the Parkers Arms being fully sustainable with its rooms, customers and staff to make things more varied and interesting and I want to make sure that we develop all of the land that we’ve got and to do something great with it.”
Parkers Arms / CHEF
An equally adoring local and national following