You know that theory of walking off a good Sunday lunch with a strenuous walk? Yes? Well, does it work the other way round?
You have the walk and then have the lunch. Is the end result the same re-balancing of the calorie intake?
We put this mildly interesting conundrum to the ultimate test at the Rivington Hall Barn where the Sunday lunch can be, depending on your will power, a barn-stormer, pun intended.
We had noticed some people sensibly having a cup of coffee and sharing a plate of chips, some with a scone and a tea, but there was also plenty of evidence of the scales being tipped at the other extreme. We were about to join them.
The barn interior is spectacular. Those Saxons knew how to create a roof space. The lighting is warm, the floorboards wooden and varnished, there’s a welcoming buzz of conversation, and at one end a big video screen showing photos of happy revellers at various stages of revelry from the many Barn nights.
Sunday is a motorbike Mecca day. Outside are gleaming Kawasakis and Ducatis. Some bikers, not many of them hairy, are lunching inside, walking around with that slightly doubled up posture they have in their tight leathers.
Slotted into one of the quiet alcoves running along the sides we find the man in the tall white hat and choose from the bain-marie. His method with the small dinner plates is to pile it high.
He keeps adding spoonfuls. It would have been easy enough to curb his enthusiasm but somehow we didn’t have the heart.
I thought I’d already got enough lamb casserole with dumplings, Yorkshire pudding, roasties, new potatoes, carrots and peas when he decides to pile it even higher with chips and gravy before I could utter a word of objection. It’s the opposite of your school lunch experience.
Your assistant reviewer is persuaded – after putting up a pathetically token resistance – to have both ham and turkey breast. Two memorably thick slices of each before the now familiar dexterity with his serving spoon.
We tray our food over and find one of those self-controlled couples with a shared plate of chips sitting at the next table. We’re too focused to be even slightly embarrassed.
We’d planned a couple of pints of hand pumped from the bar at the far end, but as I approach the two labels on the pumps are worryingly turned the wrong way round. In their stead an already chilled Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is slotted into a plastic chiller and crunches down on ice.
It’s not the ideal choice to bring out any delicate flavours there may be in our chosen smorgasbord, but that doesn’t seem to matter.
It is a blitzkrieg of flavours. Rosemary flavoured dumplings and extra crunchy roasties standing out for me, moist and not too salty ham, stuffing and apple sauce for the assistant.
Of course, once the force is with you it’s with you. A slightly crunchy spotted dick is happily drowned in custard, and a homemade sweet and crunchy scone embellished with fresh double cream and jam.
There’s still time for more excess... dunking marshmallows in cream topped hot chocolate. Time to get the boots on again.
The bill – mains £15.45, wine £14.75, desserts £6.50, hot chocolates £4.30 - £41.