We are touring the splendid gardens at The Pines and just as we hit on the idea of having a nice dry aperitif brought out.
We weren’t sure whether that would even be possible as the gardens are some distance from the restaurant – but then it turns wet. Not just drizzling wet, but a snap torrent.
So it’s a scuttle into the spacious, elegant old world charm of the conservatory with its draped windows and ceiling fans.
A friendly welcome and through into the even more eye-opening expanse of the restaurant itself.
Lots of mirrors, intriguing ornaments, flowers, discreet lighting, matching chairs and patterned coverings, low flowing tablecloths, shining cutlery, lush napkins ... and most surprising of all huge curving seats with high arched backs and dimpled upholstery.
We are offered one of these, but the state of your reviewer’s assistant reviewer’s back after a day of decorating is probably not up to it and a more straight-backed chair is promptly brought.
While the restaurant’s charm is old worldly, its food is modern with lots of choices and interesting looking combinations.
Set on a deep purple plate is an artistic sculpture of three pan fried scallops – lightly seared, little chunks of black pudding – soft and moist, pea puree – rich green in colour and with intense flavour, and thin slices of pancetta, the Italian bacon made of salt cured and black pepper spiced pork belly meat.
Pea shoots are sprinkled on top, while the seafood linguine is equally stunning.
In sharp contrast to many, the amount of prawns and salmon far exceeds the pasta, and the whole is well integrated via a white wine and garlic sauce.
Happily, the pea puree turns up again with my marinated and roasted potatoes and racked lamb, which is moist and flavoursome.
The pan roasted chicken, two succulent pieces with stereotype defying flavour, comes with a light mushroom sauce with creamy mashed potatoes with chives which have been piped around the chicken in large teardrop shapes.
The vegetables for both meals have benefitted from thought and care too. Irregular chunks of carrot, marinated and spiced, and thin al dente slices of Savoy cabbage.
For desserts there is a flambé-at-your-table option for crepe suzette, which is always fun, but in the event the correct valve or something isn’t available, so the assiette of desserts it is.
It’s comprised of a plate full of four dessert tasters – crème brulee, shortbread with crèam and raspberries, a marzipan slice and sticky toffee pudding.
And mention of the Pines’ own recipe for sticky toffee pudding is too much to resist.
We’ve come across one in the GCGR (Greater Chorley Gastronomic Region) made from black molasses. This one, equally dark, rich and moist, features dark Demerara sugar giving it the extra strength of flavour.
A scoop of vanilla ice cream and a line of finely flaked almonds edge the sauce.
A night of fine dining. While the a la carte is a touch pricey, the Early Bird two and three course meals are fabulously priced. One of us dined out on three excellent courses for £15.50.
The bill: £74 including a £22 bottle of Rioja.
Name: The Pines Hotel
Address: Preston Road, Clayton-le-Woods
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01772 338551
Details: Lunch Noon-3pm Monday-Saturday, Dinner 5.30pm-9pm.
Wheelchair access: Through fire door at one end of the conservatory