Jenny Simpson takes a trip to the North of the county and finds a traditional inn where a starter or a dessert costs just 1p...
You can’t get much for a penny these days, so I wasn’t expecting to get fed for a copper.
The Wheatsheaf is a cosy country pub, just skirting the Lancashire-Cumbria border, which we’ve often driven past while making a vague mental note that we should pop in some time.
The revelation that they have a ‘penny menu’ – offering a starter or dessert for a meagre copper when you have a main course– encouraged us to put on the brakes and pull over on this occasion.
The pub is a real traditional village inn, with an old-fashioned interior which retains a quaint charm.
We were seated at a large table near a welcoming open fire, in a room with walls dotted with framed hunting paintings and alcoves of well-thumbed books.
Service was friendly and prompt on a quiet evening in the pub, with our waiter able to recommend a nice, dark real ale for my dining partner Ben from a good selection on tap.
The tranquillity was punctuated (or, in Ben’s view, ‘spoiled’) by some gentle background music in the form of a Boyzone’s greatest hits CD, coupled with the bell-ringing practice from a neighbouring church, giving us an amusingly quirky soundtrack for the evening.
We were a bit disappointed to find the version of the menu on the pub’s website was now out of date.
Diners used to be able to order both a starter and a dessert for a penny, but it was now a choice of either of them for 1p.
Still, it’s hard to argue that a penny for anything isn’t good value, so I ordered the chicken pate with fruit chutney and toast (1p) and Ben chose the leek and potato soup (1p).
The pate was well-presented and was a nicely-sized portion to go with the toast slices. It came with a well-dressed fresh salad and a pleasant chutney which balanced the meaty flavours of the pate. Ben’s soup was a hearty affair, served with two hunks of bloomer bread which were just right for dunking, though he’d have preferred the soup a little hotter.
Our main courses were the herb and cheese crumb-topped haddock mashed potatoes with a white wine sauce (£11.95) and a venison burger with battered onion rings on a brioche bun, with hand-cut chips (£11.95).
My fish was again well-presented on a neat bed of creamy mash, with some tasty mixed veg on the side, though I would have preferred a sauce with a stronger, zingier flavour to lift the delicate dish.
Ben’s was a filling choice, with the plate heaving with food, but he made a noble effort and almost finished it. The chunky chips received an appreciative nod for being home-made and while the venison burger was tasty, he felt the brioche bun had been over-toasted, making it a bit dry.
The range of desserts included sticky toffee pudding and Eton mess, but with full bellies, we asked for the bill. It was a good value night out, costing £33 including three drinks, and it is a cosy spot worth pulling over for if you are in the area.