Dining Out: Is this the best homemade pie and pint deal in any Lancashire pub?

The wind was blowing a hoolie and the heavens opened just as we approached the village of Croston.

Saturday, 25th January 2020, 5:00 pm
The Wheatsheaf at Croston
The Wheatsheaf at Croston

The wind was blowing a hoolie and the heavens opened just as we approached the village of Croston.

We were in search of the kind of comfort food you need on a cold January evening when summer (and payday) seem like a long way off.

We had heard a suggestion that the Wheatsheaf, a place we used to frequent on a regular basis, was once again a hive of activity and top-notch, value-for-money pub grub.

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Beef brisket and red wine pie

And so, on this windy and rain-sodden Thursday evening, we headed there to see if the tip was a good one. How glad we were that we had braved the elements.

The Wheatsheaf not only lived up to its billing, but exceeded our expectations.

I had phoned ahead to see if they could accommodate us at a dog-friendly table (they could) and we were seated in our own little snug, with a window view onto the village.

The initial signs were good. Several real ales to choose from, including a Speckled Hen which was superbly kept. A great start, and just what you need to warm the cockles.

Fish and chips

Given that we were testing the place on your behalf, we opted for a starter each.

In retrospect, we may have been a bit ambitious...but more of that later.Husband Bob can never resist a black pudding ‘stack’, and his face lit up when he realised there was one on the menu.

His smile got even bigger when it appeared in front of him.

There were two slices of black pudding, bacon and a poached egg, all covered in hollandaise sauce.

The brilliant starters

He pronounced it one of the best ‘stacks’ he had ever eaten. Praise indeed.

Across the table, I had opted for the smoked haddock fishcake, which was wrapped in bacon and it, too, had a poached egg atop.

There was a moment of anticipation while the eggs were speared. Would they be hard as a bullet or soft as silk, pouring gently over the food beneath?

I’m delighted to say it was the latter. Perfectly cooked and utterly delicious.

And so good was the fishcake itself, packed with that smoky taste of haddock, I’d have been happy to have it as a main course with a few chips. Just a thought for the future!

As it was, we had already ordered our mains.

It was Thursday, so we were informed that this was Pie Night. A choice of four pies, lovingly created by a chef on the premises and served with chips and peas, a little jug of gravy – plus a pint of your chosen ale – all for £10.95.

It was too much of a bargain for hubby to miss.

After toying with the idea of the steak and ale, he opted for brisket and red wine, which arrived looking like something Desperate Dan might eat.

But it wasn’t just great value, it was also a fabulous pie – softly yeilding pastry, clearly fashioned by hand, with an interior of tasty beef and red wine stew.

I, too, was tempted by another pie, the chicken and stuffing, but in the name of trying something different on your behalf, I went for the fish and chips with mushy peas and tartar sauce.

They were recommended by the (excellent) waitress, who revealed it is the best selling dish – except on pie night!

It was a good steer. The fish was flaky, the batter thin and crispy and there was plenty of it.

So much so that the labrador under the table got to the stage that even he was full.

A word for the chips too. Clearly hand-cut, all of differing shapes and sizes and cooked to a turn. Another hit.

We were offered puddings and I have to confess on another occasion, I may have been tempted by the cherry pie... but we were both completely stuffed.

The whole bill, including three pints of tip-top real ale, came to a very reasonable £40... and that’s for three, if you include the diner with four legs.

The very friendly waitress also informed us that Friday is fish night and that involves fish for two and a bottle of wine for a bargain price.

Not surprisingly, she recommended booking in advance for that one.

We spent the return journey wondering why it had been so long since we ate at the Wheatsheaf... and we made a pledge to head back there soon.

After all, the beer and the food was great, and the black labrador was given the warmest of welcomes – always the sign of a ‘proper’ pub.

And if it’s Pie Night when we return, all the better!