To start, guests were served lobster and langoustine ravioli. Then came the main course of chicken in a champagne-infused sauce or chorizo pork medallions in a red wine sauce. Proponents of the aphorism "there's always room for desert" were then offered a selection of sweet treats.
Verdes Restaurant was celebrating a quarter of a century in business, and as 25th birthdays go, this was a very good one indeed.
Ever the local favourite, Verdes - based in Eccleston, Chorley - has long been a pioneer in bringing international-quality artisinal Italian food to the North West. Extolling the gilt-edged virtues of fresh cooking, fresh twists on classic recipes, and perennially high standards, the restaurant does it all in a friendly, community-driven atmosphere.
Promising "an incomparable dining experience in the most luxurious surroundings," Verdes, spearheaded by Head Chef Giuseppe Cioffi, serves everything from fresh Mediterranean salads doused in olive oil to an irresistible seafood menu offering swordfish fillet, poached salmon, and seared halibut.
Rustic tomato and basil chicken dishes abound, bringing a taste of Salerno to the North West, while fans of redder meats will find wine-infused veal, sirloin steaks, and juicy pork medallions. And there's also classic pizza and home-made pasta, too. No wonder it's been a local institution for so long...
"I’m overjoyed and feel very proud about reaching this important milestone," said Restaurant Manager, Gabi Valenzuela. "I’ve watched the business grow over the years - just up and up with no disappointments, no downturns, which is truly exceptional for the industry we are in."
Born in Madrid, the 63-year-old Gabi has been with the restaurant since day one.
"We've built the restaurant little by little," he said, having first moved to the UK 26 years ago with his wife, Kate. "It's always been busy; we've been very lucky and have built a good reputation. A particular standout for me when I look back at the past 25 years is the delight seeing those who came to this restaurant as children bringing their partners and their own children to dine here. It makes us feel like one big family."
With around 80% of the restaurant's clientele being returning customers, Gabi attributes the success of the restaurant to perfecting standards, consistency, and the "wonderful" staff, many of whom have been at the restaurant for over 10 years. And a recent £500,000 refurbishment hasn't hurt, either.
Changing the "flow" of the restaurant, according to co-owner, Charnock Richard-born Ben Wilkinson (38), the renovations have allowed Verdes to update the decor and take advantage of their stunning lakeside setting.
"It's a significant investment, but we're hoping it's going to set us up for the next 25 years," said Ben, with Gabi adding: "For me, [the refurbishment] was both a way of saying ‘thank you’ to our customers by providing a new, luxurious dining environment, while also creating the perfect setting for ongoing success in the future."
With Verdes having been his family's business for around 15 to 20 years, Ben believes that the restaurant's USP is its universality. "The inclusivity of the restaurant appeals to all generations; one of the things Gabi - who has lived and breathed it every day - takes pride in is seeing families get together and having quality family time and sharing special occasions," he explained.
"He's very family-oriented and that's certainly filtered through to the customers: we could've sold [the 25th anniversary celebration event] two or three times over, which just shows what loyal customers we have and what support we get."
Far from being just a business, a distinct flavour of communality defined the restaurant.
"Verdes has been grown by everyone together," said Gabi. "We've built a restaurant around a family."