At last the phrase al fresco moves into your reviewer’s leisure time lexicon.
Except that, after an excellent meal on the terrace at The Pines during which a light breeze occasionally cools the balmy warmth as the sun plays through the exotic range of trees and shrubs in the impressive gardens, it turns out that al fresco – despite its popular usage – has something of a double meaning.
For Italians, it apparently means ‘spending time in jail.’ In Italy they must have open-air prisons. They use all’aperto instead.
So we are all’aperto with a glass of chilled white Chilean wine aperitif helping to sustain the mood.
A Chilean red, Plate 95 from the central valley, is already opened and waiting at table, breathing nicely and stylishly wrapped around the neck in a red napkin, and chilled water arrives in a planished metal jug.
My scallops have a light brown seal and a firm and moist interior.
They rest on a pea puree, which I remember as a distinctive and heavily flavoured feature of our last visit here. I’d been hoping it would turn up again.
Also scattered about are little cubes of black pudding, also moist, and a fresh cob adds a little substance.
A charming looking starter across the way is a Lancashire cheese crème brulee with brioche soldiers.
The sweetness of the brioche is a complimentary contrast to the savoury cheese which is smooth, creamy, chilled and bursting with strong flavour, and served in a classic shallow and wide brulee dish. Curly lettuce leaves have a light and fresh dressing.
Two hefty double ribs of racked lamb arrive, with just a hint of pinkness, and plenty of taste.
The pea puree is splashed on the plate more generously, this being a main course, and a delicate selection of vegetables comprises marinated potato, moist and peppered wedges of courgette, and firm pieces of red onion.
From the Weekly Menu, the scampi and chips are also demonstrating much thought and care in preparation and presentation.
The scampi are lightly battered in a mini wire mesh basket fresh out of the deep fryer, and served with slightly crushed garden peas – not mushy peas in the least, a very different flavour and freshness.
Large hand cut chips are perfectly fried … not oily or greasy, and a little pot of citrus mayonnaise completes a modern up-dating of the old classic.
On our last visit the flambe apparatus had not been working so I’d had to miss out on the crepe Suzette.
Tonight it’s in action. There’s something rewarding about having things burst into flames by one’s table, but I’ve had to miss that bit again as the action took place indoors.
The result though is two delicious, slightly crisped around the edges crepes soaked in a brandy sauce, sprinkled with brown sugar and with slices of juicy orange.
Having spotted an Eton Mess, your assistant reviewer leaves the Weekly Menu and returns a la carte.
It’s an especially rich example, like a big coupe of whipped double cream combined with a generous amount of fresh raspberries, and soft chunks of meringue.
The bill, including white wine at £9 and a bottle of red at £17.50: £84.
Name: Haworths Restaurant at The Pines Hotel
Address: Preston Road, Clayton-le-Woods
Contact: 01772 338551
Opening times: Lounge Menu 11:30 - 9:30pm Mon-Sat. Sun 5-8pm
Access for disabled diners: Yes, through fire door at one end of the conservatory. Smooth from then on.