I very rarely have dessert, and I’ve certainly never chosen a whole three courses based on a pudding before.
But when I spotted two of my favourite festive indulgences combined into one delicious-sounding treat – mulled wine and cheesecake – I was sold.
And so I worked my way backwards in choosing my feast from the ‘Christmas fayre’ menu at the Robin Hood Inn at Mawdesley.
I won’t try to describe my experience from finish to start though, so let’s start at the beginning.
I’d never been to the Robin Hood before and came across it while searching for somewhere new to try on the internet.
The website was the bee’s knees and the photos of the food, bar and restaurant made it look like just the sort of place I was after – comfortable, traditional and homely, but with a modern twist.
And I’m pleased to say it certainly lived up to my high expectations.
The bar area was cosy with a roaring fire and tables set up for eating or drinking, with Christmas decorations adding to the welcoming atmosphere and complimenting the likes of the low beams, wooden floors and stone walls.
Straight away, I noticed a couple of my favourite ales on tap, including Black Sheep Bitter and Dizzy Blonde.
We hadn’t booked a table for the Sunday afternoon we visited, but were greeted by friendly staff at the bar who asked if we were dining, and then offered us the choice of the bar area or the restaurant.
The seasonal menu is priced at £12.50 for two courses or £14.95 for three, which I think is really reasonable, especially considering the quality of the food I was soon to be enjoying.
Whilst weighing up the starters, I spotted another unusual, potentially life-changing combination - pâté and blue cheese, with some booze thrown in for good measure!
On the plate, the blob of Stilton and whiskey pâté looked like a scoop of ice cream or even a large poached egg.
I’d never been faced with white pâté before, and was pleasantly surprised to come across something completely new, having exhausted plenty of pâté starters at countless pubs and restaurants over the years.
I don’t think the end result would be to everybody’s taste, but I certainly enjoyed it. It was colder and more smooth than a meaty pâté, but the Stilton and whiskey flavours really came through.
It was quite heavy-going in terms of taste, but the ale and apple chutney it was served with really balanced out the flavours once spread onto the toast, and I gobbled it all up.
For main, the game pie was a winner for me, and my mouth is still watering just thinking about it.
It was served in a dish with a thick, yet soft and buttery crust on top.
Some people complain that a pie needs to have a pastry bottom, but I don’t agree; as long as the lid is as tasty and filling as this one was, I’m happy.
The filling was also a treat, with tender meat chunks and some kidney or liver-type pieces (I didn’t ask what exactly was in the pie, but as my partner pointed out - I’m ‘game’ for anything).
The gravy inside the pie was the hero of the meal though - rich and thick and perfect for dipping the chip pan-style chips in to.
A side of vegetables with sweet, possibly honey-coated parsnips, sweet potato mash and cauliflower complimented the rich pie well.
And then it was time for the cheesecake. I ended up having to wait half an hour for it to be served, because my boyfriend and I had caught up with a big party course-for-course, so we had to wait for their desserts to be served first. Service was fairly slow throughout, to be honest, but we weren’t in a rush.
The flavours of the mulled wine cheesecake were really pleasant, and went well with the forest fruits compote and vanilla ice cream.
But I’m not so sure about the texture - it was slightly more like a blancmange rather than a creamy, rustic cheesecake. I would have preferred a more traditional style, but it still tasted great.
The base was also worth a mention - a crumbly biscuit texture which resembled flapjack in flavour - very satisfying.
Partner Jack decided to go for two courses from the standard ‘Great British Pub’ menu - and was swayed by the black pudding tower (£4.95) to start with.
It was described as being served with streaky bacon, although Jack commented it was more like a thin version of gammon, which he liked.
He raved that the egg was “poached to perfection” to allow the runny yolk to encase the pudding and bacon, and the warm potato cake at the bottom was light and fluffy.
For the main, he was torn between the offerings from the ‘Robin Hood Ye Olde Pie Shoppe’ and the ‘Gourmet Burger Bar’ sections of the large menu.
The ‘Robin Firehouse Burger’ won in the end - a ‘6oz hand smashed 100 per cent beef burger, served on a brioche bun topped with a fiery chili and onion slaw, crisp pickled jalapeños and chipotle sauce’ (£9.95).
He would normally like his meat more rare than was served, as the burger was fairly well done, but he thoroughly enjoyed it all the same, as it had a nice charred taste in places.
The ‘slaw’ was indeed hot and the chips also tasty.
The bill, with a large glass of red wine, half an ale and two glasses of sparking water, came to just over £40.
Name: The Robin Hood Inn
Address: Bluestone Lane, Mawdesley, L40 2RG
Contact: 01704 822275
Opening times: Food served Monday to Thursday from noon to 2pm and 5.30pm to 8.30pm; Friday and Saturday from noon until 8.30pm; and Sunday from noon until 8pm. Bar open later.
Festive dining: Christmas Eve menu will be served from 5pm until 8.30pm – £29.95 for four courses (normal children’s menu available).
Christmas Day menu will be served over two sittings at 12.30pm and 3pm - £59.95 for five courses, (£25.00 for children under 11).