Eating out: The Holts Arms, Billinge

The Holts Arms
The Holts Arms

There’s a feeling of responsibility on my shoulders when we have guests from outside the area.

The boss is not originally from round here, so I worry her family and friends might have misguided or preconceived ideas about our town when they come to visit.

Of course such worry is needless, but it also means plenty of effort goes in on my part to ensure friends from London or family from the Midlands leave with the best experiences of Wigan.

Last weekend was the turn of the boss’ mum to visit, along with two sisters and one of their boyfriends (a biker from Stoke and an ally) and the problem of where to eat happily had a simple solution.

Having grown up in Billinge, the Holts Arms, known simply as The Foot to locals (because of its position at ‘the foot’ of the hill on Crank Road) is very familiar to me.

Walkable, with a great menu and good drinks selection, it’s a common destination for us, and I booked a table for the evening without being asked knowing everyone would approve. A rare decision made on my part.

It’s probably an indication I eat there too much when the person taking my booking knows who is calling before I tell them my name, but there are reasons for this, including but not limited the garlic chicken and chilli kebab and sticky toffee pudding.

It’s not just the food at The Foot that makes it a great pub though.

A regularly rotated selection of real ales keep people like me happy when the mood strikes to nip out for a swift one, as well as wine good enough to keep me quiet if we opt to share a bottle.

There’s the ‘Billinge Ginstitute’ for the trendy, with an impressive selection of 45 gins to choose from, and the usual lagers and bottles if you feel that way inclined.

In the summer months there is ample space outside to sit with a glass of white or cider to watch the sun fade behind the trees of the nearby

Bispham Wood, while the tables by the fireplace offer a good place to warm up on a Saturday afternoon after a walk up the lump.

But a triumph for The Foot since Ian Mitty took over in 2015 is the food on offer.

I’ve always described it as ‘just really good pub food’ to newcomers as we make our way up Crank Road.

Without feeling like a pub trying to be a posh restaurant, the comforting atmosphere is enhanced by food which really feels like a treat.

Two of the aforementioned garlic chilli chicken kebabs landed on our table while others opted for pork belly, giving me fear of getting food envy when I saw the black pudding it came with.

Being one of the few things on the menu I was yet to try, I went for venison with the kind of mash you’d be proud of if you’d made it yourself and winter veg. The meat was juicy and nicely pink, though next time I’ll ask for it a little more on the rare side –but that’s my fault for not saying so this time.

And I can already say with authority the chicken kebab is wonderful, perfectly spicy and loaded with meat.

Steak is also a strong point at the pub, with a Tuesday offer of two and a bottle of wine for £24.95 or if you’re stumped, you won’t complain with the Foot’s burgers, which come with chips or fries and big, proper onion rings.

You can also add extra toppings including Stilton and jalapenos to complete a personal masterpiece.

As for puddings, you can judge a place by its sticky toffee, the most important of desserts, and here in Billinge it is perfectly agreeable.

They offer it with ice cream for people who don’t know better, and the proper way with custard for those who know how to treat a pudding with respect.

It’s at this point a food review usually drifts into meaningless descriptions of textures and flavours with words like ‘succulent’, ‘delectable’ and ‘cooked to perfection,’ but as well as being cringey, it would also miss a point.

We all know good food when we see it, smell it and taste it, and all you need to know about The Foot is that this is great food at a good price.

It goes well with a drink and will make you feel happy and a bit warmer when you go out into the cold to walk home.

A quick look at prices:

Venison: £14.95

Steak burger: £10.95

Garlic chilli chicken kebab: £11.95

Pork Belly: £14.95

Pint of real ale: £3.40
Bottle of wine: £13.95