Dining Out: Farmers Arms, Great Eccleston
We'd hoped to enjoy a brisk walk in the countryside last weekend to work off the festive excesses.
But the 40mph winds soon put a stop to that. Instead, we settled on a drive through the countryside to a warm, cosy pub – and we were blown away by the food and service at the Farmers Arms at Great Eccleston. It’s been three years since our last visit and, it seems, the time has been well spent fine-tuning what was already a popular gastropub. Everything about the place seems that little bit more refined than we remembered. With no other plans on Sunday afternoon, we were looking forward to a leisurely meal. The warmth of the roaring fire, a table tucked away in the corner and friendly, pleasant staff who were efficient yet didn’t rush us certainly helped us to enjoy a relaxing two-hour dining experience. Our waitress expertly recalled the specials as well as the lagers and ales from the bar, a technique that shows great training and knowledge of what’s on offer. Following the meat consumed over Christmas, I was pleased by the wide range of fish and seafood dishes on offer – it’s a Seafood Pub Company venue after all.Founder Joycelyn Neve prides the pub’s food style on light and fresh seafood dishes but British classics and hearty dishes also have their place firmly on the menu so there really is something for everyone. For starters I chose the cod cheeks (Â£7.95) with mango salsa; a beautiful dish presented in a MasterChef-style and bursting with colour and flavour. The nuggets of fish were succulent and the mango accompaniment added a zesty freshness. Queen scallops and black pudding with an apple salad (Â£6.50) was chosen by the hubby for his first dish. While everything on the plate was cooked brilliantly, it lacked seasoning and the hubby thought a drizzle of sauce would have given a boost to the taste buds. Onto the main courses now and our five-year-old son tucked into a children’s meal of sausage and chips (Â£5.50). The staff showed no qualms when we asked to swap the mash for chips, the peas to cucumber and to leave the gravy off the plate. It’s nice to know that even the fussiest of children can be easily accommodated. I’d originally ordered the lamb rump for my main but was informed a couple of minutes after ordering that the last one had been sold. So keeping to the fish theme, I opted for the grilled hake (Â£16.95) with roasted garlic, squash puree, pak choi and rosemary oil – and it turned out to be a great swap. Like my starter, the dish was bursting with flavours that all came together beautifully. The generous portion of tender, white fish was perfectly cooked while the squash puree just melted in the mouth. The hubby chose a hearty Goosnargh chicken, ham hock and leek pie (Â£13.95) and it was everything he’d hoped for. It was served with chips and cabbage – although green beans were mentioned on the menu. No matter, the hubby prefers cabbage anyway! We fancied something a bit sweet to finish a wonderful meal so chose the apple and plum crumble with ‘proper custard’ (Â£5.95) for dessert. The crumble had a lovely granola texture about it and the firmness of the fruit surprisingly worked. Delicious. With drinks, our bill came to Â£66. The food may be on the more expensive side – but sometimes it’s worth paying that little bit extra for a menu that is written freshly every day, allowing the chef to make the most of whatever fish and seafood has just landed. As a traditional country pub with a contemporary feel, the Farmers Arms offers everything we look for in a quality, memorable meal.