Where better to retire to on a cold, drizzly March evening after a stout walk and plod around the shops than a country pub?
That was the scenario facing the Grahams who rediscovered The Eagle and Child at Bispham Green. A focal point of this small community near Parbold for many a moon, this tavern is a haunt for both locals and those prepared to make a longer journey.
The setting couldn’t be much more idyllic. It is an attractive building from the outside and homely on the inside, despite marvellous old bare stone flags being one of its more noticeable features.
Strangers should be aware of a very good farm shop next door which supplies much of the kitchen’s produce. But for an evening when you want to leave the cooking to someone else, you could do a whole lot worse than this pub-restaurant.
Cozy, with a good choice of fine wines and well-kept ales - I sampled pints of the popular Wainwright and a less familiar and stronger Jaipur and found neither wanting - it also has a menu to lure you back many times over.
We were presented with two menus: one a regular bill of fare containing most of the usual pub grub favourites, the other an impressive array of specials. I like specials written down: they save diners those Kim’s Game antics of trying to memorise a whole blackboardful of details to take back to their table.
And so to the mains. I opted for pork belly, with piri-piri sausages, barbecue sauce, a red wine jus with sweetcorn
The specials included an abundance of starters and mains, many with novel little twists and luxuriances to tempt the pickiest of palates.
It was with some regret that wife, daughter and self all decided to skip the delicious starters, not because they didn’t appeal - they were winning much praise from other diners, I noted - but because of current slimming and appetite restrictions. However, we did lapse a little by sharing a lovely dish of hummus with hot slices of pitta bread which was among the nibbles on the day-to-day menu.
And so to the mains. I opted for pork belly, with piri-piri sausages, barbecue sauce, a red wine jus with sweetcorn. The menu actually stated baby sweetcorn and what arrived was corn on the cob but I wasn’t complaining and I doubt few others would either.
The pork melted in the mouth and the crackling had plenty of chewy bite. For me though the sensational highlight was the sausages, of whom I quickly established were available for purchase from the adjacent shop.
My wife opted for pan-fried halibut steak with a cassoulet that included little cubes of black pudding and chorizo. The fish was very tasty indeed, beautifully flaking, and the French bean stew was as rich and flavoursome as you might expect, especially with those extra ingredients. But for the skin, the plate was cleared.
My daughter ordered a grilled Homefarm beefburger, with the ubiquitous Mrs Kirkham’s cheese, brioche roll, baby gem lettuce, beef tomato, sweet dill pickle, tomato salsa and bacon jam.
Her foray into her main didn’t start auspiciously as the onion rings planted atop the bun were cold. But thereafter it proved a burger to rank among the best. The meat was some of the most tender I have ever tasted (she struggled to finish the generous portions and received willing assistance.)
I should say that at this point that all the food was beautifully presented, a decent trade-off for the pound or more extra you pay there than for meals at several other pubs in the area.
There was yours truly with room for a dessert. Among those on offer on the two menus were capuccino creme brulee, bread and butter pudding and a pecan tart.
But I went for treacle tart with clotted cream and raspberry ripple ice cream. Another work of art, it was the perfect end to the meal. As soon as it arrived it was obvious that my co-diners were regretting their restraint; even more so after I gave them a sample.
The pastry was crisp and the sticky filling surprisingly light as well as unctuous.
In all then an extremely good meal enjoyed in a convivial atmosphere and pleasant surroundings.
The bill ...
Hummus and pitta £4
Pork belly £15.50
Burger etc £12.50
Treacle tart: £7