Ann’s (world famous) Pasties in The Lizard, Cornwall is a place I’ve been to many a time with my family.
Every year since I was a tot, in fact, until this last year, when we decided to give Newquay a try instead.
No Ann’s Pasties there I’m afraid, but I was delighted to be taken back to that little shop (metaphorically) when I tucked into a delicious cheese and onion pie at the Hop Vine pub in Burscough recently.
I’d been to the pub a couple of times before, once for a beer festival and another for a drink after a day at Martin Mere Wetland Centre, but this was my first visit as a diner.
It’s a lovely place, with roaring fires, beer bottles lining the shelves near the ceiling, brass chandeliers, and dried hops surrounding the tall window frames.
It was busy when we dropped in on a Sunday afternoon, and most of the tables were reserved, but luckily my partner and I managed to be seated near the bar.
That’s when one of the ales caught my eye; a rather unusual-sounding orange and chocolate IPA.
Curiosity got the better of me and I ordered one, and was pleasantly surprised with the result; very light and crisp, with a citrus kick and a mild hint of chocolate on the finish.
Unusual indeed, but most enjoyable.
Sipping my new-found favourite drink, I browsed the menu, which serves all the pub classics from burgers and steaks, to pies and fish and chips.
The front of the menu is also where I learnt that the pub has its own brewery - The Burscough Brewing Company Ltd - and I made a mental note to make sure to try one of those ales before I left.
It was prawns all round for the first course. I opted for the tempura prawns (£6.75, also available as a main for £10.75), and partner Jack went for a ‘retro classic prawn cocktail’ (£5.85).
The tempura batter was so light it just added a little crunch with a sweet deep-fried taste, not too heavy at all.
The prawns were, as described on the menu, large and juicy, and the side salad was a welcome accompaniment with a tasty dressing.
But it was the piri piri mayonnaise which really brought the whole meal together, and we couldn’t get enough of it.
Even though Jack’s prawns came with plenty of homemade marie rose sauce, he still enjoyed sampling my delicious dip, which we agreed was like nothing we’ve tasted before, despite normally being quite adventurous eaters!
His traditional starter was nothing fancy, served with salad and buttered brown bread, but was just what you’d expect from a prawn cocktail, and certainly hit the spot.
Avoiding the temptation of the Mighty Mixed Grill (£13.75), he followed it up with a more conservative sticky chili chicken salad (£9.25).
It came in a large bowl with lots of colourful salad leaves and cherry tomatoes, and a thick, tasty homemade sweet chili sauce, of which there was more than enough.
On the side came a little chip pan prop filled with chips, and Jack thoroughly enjoyed the lot.
I initially had my eye on the steak and ale pie (cooked with the brewery’s own Hop Vine bitter), and ‘smothered in gravy’ (£9.25).
But I decided to try something a little different for a change, so ordered the cheese, onion and leek plate pie instead (£7.95).
It came steaming hot and oozing with melted crumbly-style cheese, with a thick peppered crust and served with a portion of chips, a colourful salad, and lovely peas.
The cheese, as the menu suggests, is chosen for its depth of flavour, and the strong cheese was the most prominent ingredient, but was balanced perfectly with the soft, sweet onion and leek running through the slice.
The pastry was crumbly and buttery and held the filling together well - most satisfying.
Before I even mentioned it to Jack, he also announced how the bite I allowed him reminded him of Ann’s Pasties.
And so we sat reminiscing about our coastal walks and trips down to Kynance Cove over the years, as we tucked into some proper homely Lancashire grub.
I washed it down with a half pint of the Hop Vine bitter, which was refreshing and lip-smackingly tasty.
There’s certainly plenty of reasons to return to the Hop Vine, from the food and drink, to the welcoming atmosphere and friendly and attentive staff.
It may not be Cornwall, but on a blustery, rainy afternoon, it’s close enough for me.