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[Wiswell, Lancashire] Freemason's

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Harters Oct 19, 2011 08:08 AM

This is a pub very definitely in full gastro territory. I’m sure you’d be welcomed if you just wanted a pint of one of the local speciality brews on offer – but you’d probably get a quizzical look as to why you weren’t eating. As far as I can see, they’re trying to push all the right buttons, even if not always necessarily in the right order

There’s an attractive looking, and attractively priced, set menu. Three courses for £15.95 with a couple of choices at each course. And that was certainly the route most tables seemed to be going down. But the more interesting stuff was on the main carte, so a different route for us.

I warmed to them even more as, within a minute or so of sitting down, a jug of water was provided, so no pressure to be buying bottles of overpriced Hildon. Bread was offered – an indifferent granary and an equally indifferent white. We scoffed that quickly and more was offered and accepted.

Our starter experience was a bit mixed. I’d gone with a lovely rich venison “sausage” – think Bambi fishfinger for the crisp breadcrumby coating over a soft and rich filling. Quince and apple cropped up in puree and a slice in a little tart. Both a pleasant sweet flavour and, I have to confess, the similarity in taste meant I wasn’t sure which was which. Yes, I know that says something about my palate but there you go. On the other hand, a pumpkin and Parmesan veloute, served in a tea cup, was less of success. No discernable taste of Parmesan and the soup topped with a thick layer of a bland creamy mousse. Perhaps the intent was to mimic serving a cup of cappuccino but this really didn’t work – we were not the only table to think so – next one scraped off the foam.

I am turning into a grumpy old man and one of my regular bugbears in recent times has been inordinate delays between one course’s crockery being removed and the next course arriving. It irritates. And so it did here. Nearly 30 minutes had passed and then one of the servers volunteered an unsolicited apology saying the mains were “on their way”. Another ten minutes passed. When they arrived, they were a mixed pair of dishes as well and, again, I got the better of it.

Partridge was pretty much autumn on a plate. There were poached breasts. And a “Kiev” of the leg – as with the venison starter, this was rich well seasoned meat encased in a crisp coat. A little disc of a full flavoured Morteau sausage – you’d really like to have some more of this; girolles and kale contributed to the five a day. And there was a good sauce. Missing the mark was a “cannelloni” of another bland mousse.

Grilled haddock had also seemed a good bet but came under-seasoned and with flabby skin but was, otherwise, nicely cooked. Some wilted pak choi and some very good chips were spot on for accompaniments.

As often, we passed on dessert but there was good coffee to finish. Service from front of house had been good – except for the almost inevitable delay in trying to pay the bill. My partner had drunk a half of the Wiswell bitter that had been on offer and had been pleased to see a good range of wines by the glass which had offered up a decent Chilean Sauvignon Blanc at well under a fiver.