Mal Morris discovers a meaty treat at the Bay Horse.
The word had been going round. You know, you are out for a stroll in the late winter misty hills of Rivington and, coming across friends, you begin with the thinking person’s greeting: “Afternoon. What do you know?”
Well, in most cases we’ve previously dealt with the world economic collapse, the state of the roads, petrol prices, supermarket wine bargains, whether it’s wise to holiday in Greece, the state of the dodgy knee, whether cruise liners can be guaranteed to stay upright, will Manchester United win a 20th title? These brief encounters can go on for ages.
However, this new piece of intelligence had started to crop up. Had we heard about these pies from Bristol? No, pies from Bristol? I know about pasties from Cornwall, but not pies from Bristol.
It turns out that the Bay Horse at the top of Babylon Lane in Heath Charnock has taken what can only be described as the radical step of bringing pies all the way from the West Country up into what surely is accepted by all as pie country.
From the pub car park, you wouldn’t have to throw a pie too many times before it landed in Wigan (true, some pies I’ve had would still be in one piece), and Wigan is the pie capital of the world.
So it’s either a foolhardy thumbing of the nose towards the hard-earned reputation of a world food heritage site, or a very clever ploy.
Put it this way, they are going to have to be good, and we are on the case.
Inside, it’s cosy, the wood burner is confirming its job description, there’s a cheery ‘hello’ and we can sit anywhere to eat.
It’s immediately clear that while there’s a good choice of food on the various menus and boards about the walls, there is clearly a pie theme.
A leaflet says ‘Look into my pies’.
Another is the ‘pie minister’s manifesto’, with jokey mention of chirpy chickens, carefree cows, smiley sheep and perky pigs.
There’s moo pie (no prizes), chicken and aragon, heidi, matador, mr porky and henny penny.
I hear you have a pie from Bristol, I ask. Hard-hitting questioning is an important part of the reviewer’s skill set.
They are all from Bristol. Oh, okay. What are the options? There’s the matador pie. That’s it. Just three left. Oh really, didn’t get enough in then? Not at all.
It turns out that Wednesday is the end of the pie week.
There’s a new delivery coming from Bristol tomorrow.
Six of each and 12 matadors – 42 pies on their way up the M5.
The matador it is then, with chips or mash, and I could have my mushy peas with a minty flavour.
Anticipating volume, I waive a starter as your reviewer’s assistant, who doesn’t eat moo, begins with a lovely deep fried Camembert on a bed of rocket and sliced pear.
There’s so much I must sample some, and the exterior of the cheese is crisp to the bite, not greasy and has a soft, warm interior.
Saving herself for the sticky toffee pudding, the assistant chooses another starter, of prawns in garlic butter with lettuce and a generous supply of French stick the better to mop up a lot of butter.
Mouth-smackingly good, apparently.
This much-vaunted anticipation proves to be fulfilled as the pudding is soft, moist, very flavoursome and with a blob of ice cream giving yummy contrast.
And so to the Bristol pie.
It’s compact, the moo is fall-apart-in-the-mouth tender, and the packed contents of chorizo, olives, tomato, sherry and butter beans make a rich and tasty gravy.
The pastry is light and crispy brown, and it’s clear Wigan has a southern rival.
I tuck away a slightly dry choc pud with rich choc sauce and ice cream, and with two pints each of an excellent Adnams bitter, the bill struggles to reach £38.
Address: The Bay Horse, Babylon Lane, Heath Charnock, Chorley, PR6 9ER.
Contact: 01257 480309
Opening Times: Weekdays noon-11pm (10.30pm Sun)
Disabled access: Yes
Disabled toilets: No