Eating Out Review: The Hospital Inn, Bamber Bridge
For excellent pub grub with great hospitality, you’re on the right track
By Helen Lindsay
I’ve sat outside The Hospital Inn countless times, jealously gazing in on people smiling and chatting, drinks in shiny glasses to hand as the institute that is the British pub radiates its warm glow.
Don’t be mistaken though, this yearning behaviour is not because I never go out (not quite) or that I’ve been barred – not yet... It’s because this popular pub is in one of those locations where, at certain times of the day, you invariably find yourself at a standstill.
Situated at an unusual intersection of three roads on a 90° corner, when a level crossing gets thrown in to the equation, things begin to back up, particularly at rush hour.
And that’s where I’ve found myself on numerous occasions wondering why I was going nowhere in my car while all those people in the pub were having a whale of a time.
So making good on a promise to myself to one day be on the inside looking out, we headed straight there – no queues – for Sunday lunch a couple of weeks ago. Aware of the Inn’s popularity, we had called ahead to book and our table was ready for us in a raised seating area – with a view of that level crossing. Excellent!
Warm and inviting, The Hospital Inn is everything you would expect from a traditional local. The same old bulk-bought ‘quirky’ artefacts that gather dust in so many branches of pub chains across the country aren’t here – there’s simply old photos of the building, the brass fittings of the well-stocked bar and the familiar, if psychedelic, pub carpet that’s sympathetic to spills.
The menu, too, is as you would expect, but that’s not to say it’s predictable. There’s plenty of the old classics in there – lasagne, scampi, sausage and mash – plus burgers, steaks and grills, hand-crafted pies and some Oriental-style ‘sizzlers’. Extra daily specials are offered, as is a selection of Sunday roasts with a choice of veg. Plus the kids are well catered for with all their favourites at less than a fiver a pop.
But what really stood out for me was the gluten free menu – it’s the best I have seen pretty much anywhere. For the coeliacs among us, or even just the wheat intolerants like me, those burgers, fish and chips and even a choice of pies are no longer off the menu.
So that was the decision made for me. A pie and a pint in a pub. How much more traditional can you get? OK, so the pint was Diet Coke and for the pie I’d chosen an unusual Thai Chicken Curry, but it hit the spot.
Much more fragile by nature, gluten free pastry can be a real disaster, but this held together well and even had that crumbly, buttery flavour of a ‘real’ pie crust. There was plenty of filling which had a nice bit of heat, and while I wasn’t too sure about the accompanying little jug of gravy alongside all those Thai herbs and spices, it was quite light, not too thick and perfect over my crispy, fluffy, chunky chips and al denté fresh veg.
My dining partners, Significant Other and the Pre-Teen, meanwhile had opted for the roast pork and chicken goujons respectively. Never happier than with a Sunday roast in front of him, SO’s pork was tender, tasty and piled high with fresh veg and a gnarled mountain of a Yorkshire pudding. It barely touched the sides. And the goujons were good too. Crispy and herby, they looked home-made rather than pulled out of a catering company’s big bag in the deep freeze.
We finished off with a dessert each: a substantial sticky toffee pudding for SO, a chocolate-fest of an ice-cream sundae for the Pre-Teen and a lovely piece of hot chocolate fudge cake for me. Gooey, light and no doubt horrifically calorific, you would never have guessed there wasn’t a grain of wheat flour in there.
Having started it all off with a smooth bowl of cauliflower and Stilton soup, the bill came to £57.50, including four soft drinks. In the past, we’ve paid a lot more for less in places with a much higher opinion of themselves. Here, the food is of exceptional quality – and quantity. Passing plates were piled high and a sandwich served to an adjacent table was an eye-opener.
Plus, the service was friendly and efficient, everywhere clean and tidy and the blokes watching the footy tucked round the back of the bar disturbed no-one.
Although quiet on the road, I had a lovely time watching drivers waiting at the crossing. Some however, at those peak times, choose to dice with death as they pass stationary traffic on the wrong side of the road – on a blind bend! It’s no wonder it’s been dubbed ‘suicide corner’. But don’t let that put you off your Sunday roast.
333 Brindle Road, Walton Summit Centre, Preston PR5 6YP
Tel: 01772 335151