It’s almost 10 years ago to the day since I last stepped foot inside the Knowles Arms.
On that first, and until now, only visit I was on a first date.
I remember my date grabbed me by the chops and smooched off my face in the car park at the end of the night.
A decade later, I reminded her of that fact when we returned as man and wife for a meal on what would be the 10th anniversary of that first date.
I’d like to say it was by design that we returned to the scene of our fledgling romance on such a significant anniversary but truth be told we only realised as we slipped and slid across the car park on a bitterly cold night last week.
And like us, it became instantly clear that things have changed quite a bit at the Knowles Arms over the past 10 years.
While the pair of us are looking substantially older and are, perhaps, a little less eager to impress each other these days, the Knowles Arms is in fact far more impressive than I remember.
What I remember as a typical end-of-the-night boozer, a place where your feet might stick to the carpets as you down a final tequila before chucking out time, is now a swish Mediterranean eaterie by the burgeoning Ego restaurant chain, which also has restaurants in Little Hoole and Lytham.
It’s all mood lighting, smart furnishings, open kitchens and trendy couples sipping cocktails and sharing mezze boards.
Far too trendy for a drunken smooch in the car park these days. Thankfully, I imagine my date might be able to resist the urge on this occasion.
The menu is a sort of pan-Mediterranean sort of affair with the likes of tapas boards and Andalucian pork fillets to Portuguese peri peri and Moroccan lamb.
I normally find it annoying when a restaurant tries to juggle too many different cuisines. You wouldn’t go to a Chinese restaurant for pizza, would you ? But Ego pulls off the trick quite nicely with a menu of summery, modern European flavours that work together.
To start, we shared the Greek mezze board for two (£13.95) from the main menu. Smoky, chargrilled chicken souvlaki came served with moist lamb kofte, deep fried halloumi and a fattouche salad, fresh with mint, tomatoes and cucumber.
It all came served with warm pitta breads, creamy hummus, garlicky tzatziki dip and a pot of mixed olives, which I downed myself thanks to Mrs Eating Out’s aversion.
For main course, we opted for the cheaper Prix Fixe menu, which is £12.95 for two courses until 7pm Monday to Friday, 6pm on Saturday and all day Sunday. (The time for flashing the cash to impress dates is long gone. Frugality, is the name of the game when you’ve been married as long as us).
I had rump steak, frites and peppercorn sauce, which was nice enough, if not mind blowing. The steak was cooked medium rare, as requested, the chips were crispy and seasoned and the sauce had a good hit of pepper.
Across the table, Mrs Eating Out was pretty boring too with pan roasted chicken supreme with mustard sauce and crushed potatoes.
Both dishes were decent but they didn’t live up to the promise of the tantalising starter.
Come to think of it, it’s much like marriage really. At the risk of being served my divorce papers, it’s fair to say marriages tend to start off with a bang and then can get a little run-of-the-mill when the novelty wears off.
The trick is to find a way to get the excitement back into things.
To keep the, somewhat clumsy metaphor running, our desserts did just the trick. A double hit of chocolate has a tendency to do that.
Mrs Eating Out’s oozy chocolate brownie was stuffed full of walnuts, pecan nuts and sultanas and smothered in chocolate fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream, much like her overfed husband. My tiramisu was soaked in coffee and layered with mascarpone and chocolate for a decadent end to the meal. Last time we were here it was probably shots of tequila by this stage, but this time I had the good grace to stick to the wine. Ardesia Pino Grigio 2016, in fact, at £18.95 a bottle. Delicious it was, too.
And maybe it was the aforementioned wine talking, but as we sat and reminisced about things, we agreed what an amazing experience it has been. Things started off great, had a few rocky moments in the middle and came good in the end.
And our marriage ain’t too bad either. Cheers to the next 10 years and more drunken kisses in pub car parks.
EGO AT THE KNOWLES ARMS
Address: Pleckgate, Blackpburn, near Wilpshire
Telephone: 01254 240 752