Restaurant Review: Hoghton Arms, Withnell
My beef with the menu over, it was a relaxing, rustic good value lunch
There are many things to enjoy when dining out. Professionally prepared food, a relaxing atmosphere and no washing up at the end of it are my three main priorities. One thing I don’t seem to like these days though, is menus.
Too much choice baffles me. And as one who likes to sit and peruse a menu I can usually feel my indecision brewing impatience across the table from Mr I’m Having The Roast Beef And I’m Hungry.
So, for our latest restaurant venture, I did my homework and studied the menu online. Because I knew what I had coming.
We had been to The Hoghton Arms previously and I think that’s where my menu anxiety originated. Illustrating the myriad combinations of size, sauces and sides of their speciality rotisserie chicken created a wipe-clean cardboard riot of colour. Huge background photos littered with starbursts displaying prices and extras created a confusing onslaught. I gave up and resorted to my go-to gammon and chips.
But this time I was prepared. I had chosen my chicken. And, when we got there on a Sunday afternoon, nice surprise, the picture book menu has been replaced with a more reader-friendly version.
And it’s full of just what you need from a pub too, with appetisers from £3.45 and mains starting at £6.45 for a Light Bite. Dishes are mainly classic pub grub, but there’s one or two little surprises – a crispy, puff pastry beetroot tarte tatin and a Cambodian style vegetable curry catching my eye. There’s plenty of vegan, veggie and gluten free choice, plus sandwiches, jackets, and lunchtime and Sunday two- or three- course deals too.
But that rotisserie chicken section had still had me procrastinating, albeit from the comfort of my own home. First you choose your size – whole or half – then it’s on to a combination of six sauces and ten sides. Throw in some optional wings or goujons and you’re finally there. Mr Roast Beef, a number-cruncher by trade, worked out there are 2,160 combinations to choose from. And he wonders why he has to wait!
Not this time though. After all that preparation, my order was in before he could say ‘Yorkshire pudding’. And, joining us,The Teen is so fussy the decision is usually made for her – fish and chips.
To start we all shared a gluten free Nacho Sharer For Two. Big enough for the three of us, it was full of crunchy chips smothered in colourful, cool and creamy toppings and the juiciest of jalapenos. A second starter for Mr Roast Beef, he also had a bowl of vegetable soup so chunky it was almost a stew.
With those menu anxieties behind me, and with a nice glass of Zinfandel rosé, I finally relaxed and could take in my surroundings. Decorated in neutral tones with exposed brick walls, open fires and lots of chunky wood surfaces, it offers the warm hug of a welcome only a lovely old building can. A muted mix of rustic and modern, the layout has lots of nooks and crannies to get cosy in. A brighter vaulted extension has views over the surrounding countryside and leads to a beer garden, a treat in the summer time.
And everyone couldn’t have been more helpful. A mislaid side of cauliflower cheese was soon delivered to accompany Mr Roast Beef’s roast beef, alongside some pigs in blankets. But despite delicious extras, well-cooked veg and a fabulous gnarly explosion of a Yorkshire pudding, the beef itself, where thickly sliced, was disappointingly tough.
The Teen’s fish however was fresh and flaky, and my chicken, after all that spinning around, was steaming hot and just fell off the bone. A little dry in the breast, it still had plenty of flavour from its crispy skin and the even crispier fries were delicate and delicious sticks of sweet potato. The side of roasted veg could have done with some carrot or peppers to perk up the quite bland and mushy courgette, mushrooms and celery, but my tomato and rosemary sauce added a bit of pizzazz.
Dessert took us back to that menu, and no fewer than 12 options! Fortunately for me, the gluten-free choice is down to a more manageable four – it’s predominantly ice-cream, but there in all it’s glory was a sticky toffee pudding – soft, warm, sweet and gooey. An apple pie was pale, sweet and stodgy (in a good way) and a Cookie Cup gave The Teen a rich, biscuity Belgian chocolate sugar rush.
With a couple of quid knocked off for Mr Roast Beef’s three-course ‘Sunday Best’, the bill came to £66.10.
And as I left I felt incredibly relaxed. I was fed and there was no washing up. And no more menus to have to mull over – for now.
Tel: 01254 201083
Five More To Try
The Nabs Head, Samlesbury - A delightful pub and the ideal watering hole for weary travellers, serving proper Lancashire food and ale in a warm and friendly environment.
The Oak, Hoghton - At the heart of the local area, it’s everything a village pub should be. Delicious food and a great range of drinks in a comforting atmosphere.
The Hospital Inn, Bamber Bridge - Premium beers, wines and spirits and a lovely range of delicious meals in an English village pub that’s been serving for over 200 years.
Halfway House, Chorley - Long-established pub and restaurant using fresh, local ingredients to create their Home Comfort themed menu.
The Cavendish, Brindle - A small country pub on the outskirts of Chorley offering delicious fine food and all your favourite pub classics.