Anyone on walkies with Rover on Sunday will know just how filthy a day it was.
Sometimes, when it’s lashing down and you get up a bit of pace and Rover’s having fun splashing through all the muddy puddles, a kind of devil-may-care takes over and you think well we’re out now, so we might as well splash on with it.
This was not one of those days. Cold, misty, windy and the muddy detritus of the last few months of flooding still lying about. But enough of that. I’d hate to sound like a stereotypically national weather grump.
So here’s a photograph of our post-walkies respite.
It would be tough to find a greater contrast, Rivington Hall Barn on this occasion acting like a big and cosy drying room with good food, bright lights, happy laughter all around.
Communal, was your reviewer’s assistant reviewer’s word for it.
Before we get going on our meal, just a note on the relative toughness of the modern-day biker.
The barn is a bit of a gathering place for motorcycle fans who congregate on the concourse at the front. Today? Almost none. Don’t they make them like they used to?
It’s struck me that in writing about this place before I’ve not much mentioned its history. So here’s a summary.
It’s Grade II listed, and may date from between the ninth and 13th centuries, but more likely the 16th, and was restored, altered and enlarged – the word makeover hardly describes it – in 1905 at the behest of the philanthropist Lord Leverhulme who built two mansions (the first was burnt down by a suffragette) on top of the hill out the back.
The impressive interior has huge oak beams and mullion windows, and on either side of the open, central space are aisles with seven cosy bays, and it’s in one of these that our lager and beer, and lamb shank and full turkey lunch are served up by one of a squad of busy and rapidly moving waiters and waitresses, all in black.
A slightly dodgy tummy is restricting your reviewer’s appetite – a whitebait starter has to be passed up for this very reason – but not the appreciation of an excellent lamb shank.
It’s a generous portion, on the bone, and proceeds to succumb willingly to the knife and to surrender tenderly thenceforth.
It rests on creamy mash and is ringed by sugar snap peas, florets of cauliflower and thin slices of carrot - all crunchy.
Roast potatoes are so mildly roasted there’s just a hint of golden brown colour.
The interiors are soft, and I immediately get a bonus roastie as the assistant’s plate is piled high and she forks one over.
Also from that same source soon comes more gravy after one of the waitresses puts in a personal best in response to an anticipated shortfall apropos the turkey. Happily proves handy in the latter stages for the lamb too.
The turkey is succulent and plentiful, with stuffing and cranberry sauce, plus the aforementioned vegetables.
Our sole dessert (see dodgy tummy above) is a delicious Eton mess sundae.
Red currants, blackberries, strawberries, soft meringue and whipped double cream all arranged neatly in the tall glass.
A large, elegantly sliced fresh strawberry rests on top of a swirl of whipped cream, with two wafer biscuits. It’s an orderly mess.
The bill came to £32.50.
Name: Rivington Hall Barn, Rivington.
Contact: 01204 697738 or www.rivingtonhallbarn.co.uk
Opening hours: From 11am to 4pm every Sunday throughout the year, with homemade lunches served from noon to 3pm
Other details: Antiques fair with food first Wednesday of the month. Regular lunchtime music, food, bingo events, and night-time functions.
Assess for disabled diners: Good