The cat chases away the fat bull and leaves us with the cream
by Helen Lindsay
We’re very lucky here in Lancashire to have some of the UK’s finest pubs and restaurants serving us a wide variety of cuisines in some stunning settings.
Whether it’s winter and a cosy pub with a roaring log fire or a summer’s evening to sit and sip something chilled with outstanding views of our countryside, we have it all.
But we mustn’t become complacent. With the rise in popularity of craft gins and beers, supermarket offers on alcohol – and not to mention Dry January -boarded-up boozers are an all too common sight – while the lucky ones display yet another ‘under new management’ sign as they drift from one owner to the next in an attempt to evade last orders.
And The Red Cat at Whittle-le-Woods is one of those that pubs that has had its fair share of ups and downs over the past few years.
Situated on the outskirts of Chorley, between the pretty villages of Wheelton and Heapey, the stone building, thought to date back to the mid-18th century, had been a stalwart serving locals for decades – but then underwent a change of ownership twice in the space of a few years.
First re-opening in 2014 as ‘contemporary British restaurant concept’ The Fat Bull, it was only a couple of years before he charged off and The Red Cat emerged again.
And if my experience there is anything to go by, this feline has found a warm spot, curled up and got itself comfortable.
The pals and I had booked for peak time on a Saturday night and it’s a good job we did as it’s popularity was immediately apparent– a party which pulled into the car park just before us left disappointed and the entrance conservatory was bustling with diners.
On reaching the small but perfectly formed bar, we were greeted by a smart and friendly member of staff who pointed us straight to our table. With only 65 covers there’s an intimate atmosphere and the bare stone walls and flagstone flooring, dark wood tables and upholstered chairs gave me the feeling I was in a (considerably more wealthy) friend’s converted barn for dinner.
And tonight it was Mediterranean food. The noticeably extensive menu offers dishes inspired by Europe’s southern hotspots; there’s six-hour slow-cooked lamb Kleftico from Greece, Iberian Belly Pork, an Italian Salmone Filleto Puttanesca and Turkish meatballs.Spanning the region we chose a Gambas Pil Pil, a Kofte Piccanti and a Bruschetta Ai Funghi, followed by a Penne Pollo Funghi and two Souvlaki.
Arriving alongside a very well-baked, crispy garlic flat bread with mozzarella the starters were cleanly presented generous portions with some fresh salad on the side. Everything was perfectly cooked and bursting with flavour – my prawns were large, juicy and coated in a delicious sauce of soft sun dried tomatoes, mild garlic and a warm chilli hit. A squeeze of lemon and those tasty leaves kept it light and zingy.
Tender meatballs and creamy mushrooms also enjoyed, our meander round the Med continued at a leisurely pace -and my initial reservations about the lengthy menu being quantity over quality became unfounded.
Our souvlaki – one pork and one chicken – were vibrant in colour and packed with meat, courgette, onion and peppers. Dripping with juice as we slid it from the skewer, my first bite of pork was surprisingly on the dry side but it must have been the cap of the kebab as all the rest was tender and succulent. A basket of hand cut skin-on chips added some crispy saltiness and with a little bowl of cool tzatziki it all combined to create a dish full of flavour.
The other pal’s penne was al dente, gentle on the garlic and packing plenty of creamy chicken. Glancing at passing plates I don’t think any diner would have been disappointed – I spotted plenty of dishes to sample on future visits.
Back to the evening in hand, our puddings consisted of two beautifully smooth, wobbly, not too sweet panna cottas and a melt-in-the-mouth homemade chocolate brownie.
All three courses were washed down with a lovely Chilean Merlot at a relatively reasonable (these days) £15.95. The bill for everything came to around £35 each, not bad at all for three very good courses and drinks.
Plus, the service was impeccable. It all happened around us while we didn’t even notice – a chip basket disappearing here, an empty wine glass gone from there, and anything we asked for was delivered with a smile.
So hopefully, now it has had a couple of years back to it’s old self, The Red Cat has found it’s feet (or paws) and will continue to thrive during its nine lives.
The Red Cat, 01257 263966
Five More To Try
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Authentic Italian food made using the freshest ingredients to prepare homemade dishes. They bake bread daily and make sauces from scratch.
The Halfway House, Chorley
Recently refurbished, long established pub and restaurant using fresh local ingredients to create wood fired pizzas, pasta and pub classics.
Mediterranean 3, Whittle-le-Woods
An authentic Mediterranean Restaurant with warm friendly hospitality and dishes made with locally sourced seasonal produce.
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Ego at The Fox Cub, Little Hoole
Freshly cooked Mediterranean food, wine, cocktails and cask ales in a charming country style pub located between Southport and Preston.