Sometimes you just can’t beat going to visit an old favourite.
We, like everyone, have our favourite restaurants in the gastronomic region of greater Chorley.
Places where happy hours – not the half-price drinks type of happy hours – were spent when all the different ingredients of dining out came together to create the perfect soufflé, the perfect ambiance.
Your reviewer’s assistant, pudding consultant and would-be editorial director, prefers the word ‘atmosphere’ in this context.
Yes, that inventive kedgeree and curry starter, the lovely gasto-pub with the bubbling repartee over beer, lamb and roasties, the plump and perfectly cooked pheasant, the beautiful swan meringue with the twirling caramel lattice design at ... well, I could go on for ages.
But the point of this little reverie is that we, as restaurant reviewers, cannot go back to our favourite restaurants. We have to forge onward, bravely exploring new frontiers of food.
I justify the use of the word bravely there because a friend used to find the prospect of trying different food a physical challenge he just could not meet.
He’d carefully read the menu, but he could never eat anything but his childhood favourite.
It can be tough, and I can feel your sympathy, and that is why we are making only our annual visit to Il Toro, one of our favourites, today.
It’s a traditional Italian - pasta and pizza with many regional specialities.
Guazzetto is a Toscano fish stew which has featured a couple of times in my review of the Eating Out year.
Alarmingly, after scouring and re-scouring the varied menu, it’s not to be found anywhere today.
The assistant, however, is smiling. Her favourite bruschetta trio is there: the goat’s cheese with a smudge of pesto, a curl of smoked salmon and chives, and a little mound of cubed tomatoes on olive oiled and lightly toasted bread. The memory is delivered in vivid reality.
And by now the waitress is back with the good news. The guazzetto has been specially assembled.
It arrives in no time in a spectacularly lop-sided white bowl. The sauce, I fancy the rich red of an imagined Toscano sunset, rests in the base as do mussels, prawns, clams and pearl tomatoes. Two pieces of bruschetta toast enable mopping up, of which there is much, and two moist towels enable the finger clean up.
A bottle of Italian Pinot Nero wine at £22 and a jug of water aid digestion.
My two pieces of venison steak come in a superb sauce of oil, onions and chunks of gammon. The meat is rare and packed with flavour, and even though one piece has a hidden sinew running horizontally through the middle a slight change of cutting angle with the serrated fork means there’s little loss of amount.
The fish platter is an impressive spread. Moist and tasty fillets of sea bass and salmon, juicy garlic king prawns and baked clams arrive – an attractive display on a bed of fresh dressed salad.
A plate of roasties, carrots and peas for both courses.
Vanilla ice cream immersed in chilled expresso coffee is my stylish, light and piquant dessert, a homemade cheesecake – a crumbly biscuit base, topped with a sweet and fluffy filling and a thin layer of tangy lemon sauce completing the night.
The bill: £84.
Name and address: Il Toro, Church Street, Horwich
Contact: 01204 697272 or www.iltororestaurant.co.uk
Details: Contemporary Italian cooking.
Specials: Available Sunday to Thursday and special occasions.
Hours: Monday to Saturday 6pm to 10pm. Sunday 1noon to 9pm. Early bird offers.
Wheelchair access: One step