Iain Lynn heads to the outskirts of Chorley where he is impressed by a bistro’s transformation.
I could never understand why the Red Cat in Wheelton wasn’t a runaway success. It was a cosy, stone walled cottage-like bistro, just far enough out of town to afford lovely countryside views and an air of calm.
But struggle it did between managers, chefs and new looks, and, once again, the old place has been reborn for another crack at local gastronomic notoriety.
It has been renamed the Fat Bull and owner Sam Crompton brings a wealth of experience and success from his other Fat Bull at Ashton-in -Makerfield. Victory in Chorley could be the birth of a very classy chain.
So with my girlfriend’s birthday approaching, and the weather looking cold and bleak, I thought I’d take the opportunity for shelter and a lunchtime treat, and sum up the Fat Bull’s chances.
The cosy cottage interior still remains, and it still makes for a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, made even more cosy by the weather outside rattling the window panes.
Billed as a “contemporary British restaurant concept, serving freshly prepared, proper food”, I was eager to discover what a restaurant concept was. However, proper food is what I was hoping for, and with its description noting a service-orientated experience I was eager to experience it.
Although it was lunch, I did book ahead and was pleased to find a number of diners within the restaurant area giving it a lovely atmosphere. We were treated immediately to their ‘service orientation’ by a waitress, who was pleasant, friendly and knowledgeable.
Over the course of our meal we would enjoy her company, making the meal a really pleasurable experience.
And with so much on the main menu, and lunch dishes, too, it was difficult to choose.
To help us with the decision, my girlfriend ordered a bottle of New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and we decided to mix both menus for a complete test of the chef’s skills.
Waitress advice was plentiful, particularly noting that while the patrons of the Fat Bull in Ashton are predominately meat lovers, the good folk of land-locked Chorley tended to prefer fish.
With this bizarre but persuasive fact in mind, I eventually chose to start with Thai Style fishcakes (£5.50), which came with a cucumber and coriander crème fraiche and sweet chilli sauce. It was delicately flavoured with crispy bread crumbs, and just the right size.
On the advice of our server, my girlfriend chose the Bantry Bay Mussels (£6.50), which were cooked in white wine, garlic and cream. She loved their fresh flavour combined with rich sauce and mopped up every drop with the accompanying warm bread, resulting in many brownie points for everyone involved.
Despite a huge array of fish, steaks and traditional meals on offer, the main course was coming from the lunch menu.
I selected an intriguing sounding Cumberland sausage hot potato salad (£6.50) and my partner chose the steak baguette, which she asked for as medium rare, with sautéed mushrooms and onion, a basket of fries and, the main selling point it seems, a pan of dipping gravy for £8.50.
Both mains were fantastic. Mine was a delicious hearty combination of creamy sauce, sausage and potato - the type of dish I’ll be craving for weeks to come. The sauce was delicate with just the right hint of mustard.
My dining partner loved her baguette and was incredibly impressed with the steak, cooked to perfection. And who can grumble with the option to dip a sandwich in gravy?
Despite feeling nicely full, it was a birthday lunch after all, so we chose a pudding too. I went for my tradition favourite of baked vanilla cheesecake (£4.50) and my girlfriend went for all-time classic of sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice-cream (£5.00).
Both were lovely, beautifully presented and just the right thing for a venture into the winter storm
We were delighted with the food and service. Considering what we’d just eaten, total bill of £56 seemed surprisingly good value and there is no doubt we shall return.
If this latest reincarnation of this lovely little restaurant isn’t a success, I’ll eat my hat – if I have room.
TheFat Bull - 114 Blackburn Road, Wheelton, Chorley, PR6 8LL - 01257 263 966