Preston loses another social hub!


I finally caught up with Jacqui Jones last night after her marathon trip back from Frankfurt last week.

Her planned two day trip turned into a week’s worth of planning how to get back to the UK without Dan Snow and his RIB, HMS Ark Royal or buying a car.

She’d met up with lighting designer, @andylampy, who, of course, also had to get back to Dublin. So when they finally got back to Hull, the trip was far from over. He still needed to get to Blackpool and fly back to Dublin so in need, nay gagging for some great British scoff, decided that The Sparlings would make a great place for what Jacqui and I fondly refer to as cow pie.

It was by far their best dish – Steak and Ale pie but in a pepper sauce….humungous was the understatement and the little tower of chunky cut chips always looked far too small until you realised the enormity of the task in eating the cow pie.

So it is sad to hear that when she drove up the place was shut up and closed….went under just over a week ago.

Rumour has it that Northcotes are moving in – a good move. Another rumour, though one I personally can’t confirm, is that The Sparlings owner/chef was ex Northcote anyway so all is possibly not lost for our beloved cow pie…..and while we’re at rumours I cannot confirm, I hear one of the reasons for their demise was a whole raft of people/consultants/aficionado-esque foodies demanding ludicrous salaries for their invaluable advice…..I’ll be sad if this is true – for whomsoever put their faith in said advice must now be screaming blue murder at having seen their dream fade away as a result.

The Sparlings venue itself has always seen a mixture of success. Back in the day it was The Brass Knight, a glorified pub….would we call it a gastropub now?

Then I think it was Il Padrino, an Italian, which was good too. One or other of them always handed women a rose on entry which despite its cheesiness, when you’re 16 and overweight and thinking nobody will ever buy you flowers, is simply lovely.

Then it became The Barton Fox, fondly known as the Fart and Box by locals. Amsure there might have been one in between too but I’m damned if I can recall what it was called.

A group of us headed there one night for the pub quiz where I almost got us thrown out. We were in joint first place but were the actual winners because the DJ wouldn’t budge on an answer he himself had got wrong. His question had been who played the Master of Ceremonies in the film, Cabaret – to which I demanded everyone wrote down Joel Grey…I’d loved that film….to which the DJ in giving the answers said Wayne Sleep!


Being the verbose, goboff that I was at that age (has anything changed you might ask?) I was outraged and was probably humiliating the DJ with my incredulous response to his ignorance. In the end I had to stand down or be sent out. All good fun at such tender ages…..

I’ll miss The Sparlings. It was lovely. It had a few issues but only to me because I’m an unrealistic pedant with high expectations! The menu was always source for a good read as the typos were hilarious and their website always crashed your PC or MAC, but nothing which would stop you frequenting the place.

I last went a couple of weeks ago when things did look rough. It wasn’t quiet, far from it but unlike the normal waitress who knew her onions we had a very young girl who repeatedly got our order wrong, forgot drinks, forgot the side dishes we had ordered but I put that down to age and nerves and like we weren’t all a bit gauche at that age. It didn’t ruin an evening for us, just made things a bit more challenging!

Very sad news indeed, the cuisine was lovely, the decor equally so, the atmosphere always very pleasant. Please God Northcotes or some similar outfit move in and not some dreadful themed, transient garbage!

Can we have Alex off Masterchef please or Dr Tim or Dhruv…or Stacey, please!


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