Natalie Banks enjoys a trip down the Leeds and Liverpool Canal onbaord Romance restaurant.
It’s fair to say that my family is completely mad.
So, it wasn’t surprising when my Grandma June (or Grandma Duck as I call her) decided that she was going to knock a few decades off and have a 50th birthday party for her 70th!
Coming from the woman who had a 21st birthday party for Clarence (a teddy bear) complete with presents and cards, we didn’t even batter an eyelid.
We were however, somewhat bemused when the party girl (who is always the last to leave a party and complains if it’s before 2am) decided to book a barge for the big occasion.
I instantly had visions of a dark canal boat with not enough room to swing a cat and mediocre food that had been reheated onboard.
How wrong could I be?
Pulling up on our party bus (a taxi to most people) I was immediately struck by the elegance of our boat for the night - which was called Romance.
Moored at The Boat Yard, in Riley Green, the family-run barge is 58ft long and 12ft wide and has been purpose-built as a luxury widebeam boat.
The staff had decorated it with pretty pink bows, fresh flowers and fairy lights and it looked beautiful.
My 6ft 4in fiance had been dreading stepping on board, but even he was surprised at just how much room there was and he didn’t bang his head once - even after the beer had been flowing all night!
The boat is split into tables of four that stretch down both sides and there is plenty of room to mingle down the middle.
There is also a bar area - which serves everything from soft drinks to wines, spirits and even a Blue WKD or two for me.
The prices were really reasonable too - definitely on par with a local pub and the measures were much more generous.
With the barge packed and everyone settled at their tables, we set sail down the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
The boat enjoys panoramic views of the countryside and everyone was in high spirits as the food started to arrive.
The menu was varied and catered for all tastes and at £13.50 for two courses and £17.50 for three it suited all budgets too. As there was 40 of us on the night, we had seen the menu beforehand and made our choices.
I had decided to skip the first course and give in to my sweet tooth and have a main and dessert.
My fiance Rob and bother Jamie, however went for the Greek salad and after a scorching summer’s day it looked delicious.
Just as I had given up any hope of pinching a taste from the boys, the owner of the boat kindly offered me a spare salad free of charge. It was a generous offer and I enjoyed every mouthful of the crisp salad and feta cheese.
Just enough time was left between the courses, and then the smiling staff, who couldn’t do enough to help throughout the night, started to bring out the mains.
I had opted for the lamb kleftiko - a favourite of mine when I holiday in Greece and Rob had gone for a chicken dish.
The lamb was perfect. There’s no other way to describe it.
It fell from the bone and was so tender it was even slightly difficult to pick up on my fork. The sauce was delicious too - a real authentic take on the Greek speciality.
The portions were generous and I even had enough left to let Rob have a cheeky taste.
For desserts there was only ever one choice for me - sticky toffee pudding.
Again, it got a resounding thumbs up and even though I’m supposedly on a bikini diet I couldn’t resist but finish every single mouthful.
The party was far from finished after the plates had been cleared away too as the boat was ours to enjoy until well after midnight.
Every single one of us couldn’t say enough about the whole experience and have gone on to recommend it to anyone who’ll listen.
I hadn’t set out that night to write a review, but Canal Boat Cruises of Riley Green are just too good to miss.
It’d be perfect for a birthday, anniversary, meeting or Christmas party and they also run lunch and dinner cruises for couples and smaller groups.
name: Romance Restaurant and Trip Boat provided by Canal Boat Cruises of Riley Green
address: Moored at Riley Green Marina, Bolton Road, Highton, PR5 0SP
Tel: 01254 667412
email: info@canal boatcruises.co.uk
description: A purpose-built luxury widebeam boat, with 28 covers to dine and room for 10 more peope in the bow lounge. There is also a kitchen, bar, and two toilets.