I’ll be honest, the food review this week wasn’t going to be on The Withy Arms in Leyland, but after finding the cafe we originally intended to visit closed, it was a fortuitous turn of events.
I say fortuitous, because this place far exceeded our expectations. So much so, we’ve reserved a hut for their upcoming beer and sausage festival at the start of November.
My husband wasn’t too hopeful as we walked up to the pub in Worden Lane – outside the grey paint is a bit gloomy looking, but through the door the place opens up into a stylishly-decorated, cosy enclave with a bright bar area. There are booths as well as tables and rustic pieces of decoration such as an old woodcutting saw.
We were welcomed as soon as we walked in and were genuinely taken aback with the choice of tasty-sounding homemade meals on the menu and handwritten specials on blackboards around the bar.
After ordering a Diet Coke (£1.15) and a latte (£1.89), I decided on a half-and-half (chicken and steak) fajita (£14.99) and Chris went for the homemade plate pie of the month, which in this instance was chicken and mushroom (£8.99).
We opened a tab at the bar and was asked to leave my card in a small brown envelope with my name and phone number written on. I know this is fairly common practice, but I did feel a bit uncomfortable with it.
We weren’t waiting long for the food, which we could see being prepared in a partially-open kitchen behind the bar.
My fajita turned up first, sizzling as it was brought to the table in a red-hot metal skillet, accompanied by a separate plate of fajita wraps, sauces and cheese.
I couldn’t wait to dig in and I wasn’t disappointed. The chicken and the steak were cooked beautifully - not too charred, and with a lovely slightly salted rub. Onions and green and red peppers had also been given the same treatment.
Chris’ pie arrived a short time after mine, with sides of mash, peas and gravy.
As much as he enjoyed every mouthful and the pastry was beautifully crisp, we both thought the pie portion was quite small. But that’s the only minor gripe we had.
Although some might think £15 for a fajita is on the steep side, it knocks others you can get from generic chain restaurants into a cocked hat. And my portion was big - I only managed to fill two out of the three wraps and had to be helped out by Chris at the end.
This place is neat, tidy, was playing a cracking selection of background tunes, and has a fantastic beer garden with an outdoor bar and seating for 100 people.
It was a hidden gem for us, and we’re genuinely sorry we judged the book by the cover.
I’ve also got to mention the service, because it was nothing short of first class. The waitress did her best to make us feel welcome, and the landlord was keen to tell us more about the venue, the events, and clearly takes pride in his great pub.