For a moment it appeared like we had fallen into an episode of the Great British Menu.
From the vantage point of our table close to the 'service' point between kitchen and restaurant, we followed the fascinating plate dressing undertaken by the chef at The Lounge Bar and Restaurant.
There were drizzles from sauce bottles, strategic placing of exquisitely cooked pieces of meat and fish, a pile of pea shoots on top, before a final wipe down flourish. Et voila!
For instinctively nosy folk like us, this was a dream come true, like small children being allowed to see Santa's elves at work.
We watched small pieces of artwork being created on a plate, each little cheffy nuance a treat. Surely such tender care of each ingredient meant that we knew we were in safe hands....and this was before we had tasted even a small morsel.
The Lounge Bar and Restaurant is the new eating place on the site of what was once Langs of Longton. The previous owners are concentrating on their other restaurant in Southport, but appear to have left it in good hands, with many of the former staff remaining.
The menu has changed, but that's not necessarily a bad thing and there are still plenty of interesting options.
There is an early bird menu from 5-9pm Wednesday to Friday and 5-6pm on Saturdays at two courses for £17.95, which sounds like exceptional value.
But in the interests of ensuring every option was on the table for us, we went for the a la carte menu.
Husband Bob flirted with the black pudding and smoked pancetta bon bons but in the end went for the coconut and panko breaded king prawns and he wasn't disappointed. Four large king prawns with tails on for holding, accompanied by a pistachio salsa and fresh passion fruit. Clean tasting and delicious.
For me it was the wild mushroom risotto. A risotto can be a good test of a chef. Too often the rice is overcooked, becoming too soft. Here is was creamy, but with the smallest trace of a bite, while a well-tended stock and some flavour-packed wild mushrooms made it a complete winner.
As we waited for our main courses to arrive, our eyes were drawn back to that service area, where the chef was putting his artistic talents to work on a chicken ballontine. I rarely choose chicken in a restaurant - too bland - but I could be tempted by this one, not least because it appears on the early bird menu! It looked like the stuffed breast of chicken wrapped in parma ham had been laid above a rosti then topped with a bunch of herb roasted tomatoes. I was actually a bit jealous as it disappeared across the room.....
I needn't have been. My shoulder of lamb was fabulous. A large chunk which fell apart at the slighted touch of a fork and melted in the mouth. It was served with dauphinoise spuds, a spiced carrot puree, asparagus, broccoli and a jus (gravy) of red wine and mint that put the plate in serious danger of being licked. (I didn't).
On the other side of the table, a chunky fillet steak had arrived, along with the trimmings of chips, mushrooms, tomatoes, peas and a large onion ring. Again, it had all been arranged with care to provide a treat for the eyes as well as the palate.
The steak was perfectly pink medium rare as requested with a crusty exterior which added to the flavour while keeping the interior tender. A diane sauce had been requested and each last drop was teased from the little saucepan container to fall onto the steak.
A few glasses of wine had been dispatched during the main courses, a Chilean Merlot suiting both the lamb and the beef perfectly.
We were pretty full by this time - not least because we had asked for a side dish of cauliflower cheese (delicious) - but we felt we would not be doing a proper job without testing desserts.
Mr P had spotted a spicy sticky toffee pudding on the menu which apparently had his name on it. He chose well. The sponge was light, the sauce sticky and there was a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg throughout which went well with the butter toffee ice-cream.
For me it was the chocolate orange mousse pot with blood orange sorbet. Dense chocolate and a refreshing sorbet hit the mark.
We reflected that this was the perfect place to come for a special occasion (our bill was around £100 including drinks) but a pretty perfect place to come for a bargain early bird menu.
Delicious food, lovely atmosphere, excellent staff....and entertainment laid on by a top chef. What more could you want?