RESTAURANT REVIEW: Delve into Lancashire's new home of pie, peas and proper ale at The Otter's Pocket

Shepherds Pie with all the sides (Photos: JPIMedia)Shepherds Pie with all the sides (Photos: JPIMedia)
Shepherds Pie with all the sides (Photos: JPIMedia)
If you have read any of my previous restaurant reviews, you will know that I enjoy hearty food.

It’s why I visited The Shireburn Arms, near Longridge, towards the end of 2018, with their countryside pub feel bringing home all things rustic and homely.

But sometimes you simply don’t have the time or energy to drive 20 minutes outside of town to find these nuggets of restaurant gold.

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With that in mind, I chose the convenient option and took the short drive from the Post’s headquarters in Fulwood to the centre of Preston to sample one of the city’s newest eateries; The Otter’s Pocket.

The Otter's PocketThe Otter's Pocket
The Otter's Pocket

I first heard about this new restaurant in October last year when a colleague of mine broke the news of its impending opening in Winckley Street.

The man behind the business is Mark O’Rourke, already known throughout Preston for his two other restaurants; burger joint We Don’t Give a Fork and tapas house Fino Tapas.

With The Otter’s Pocket, Mark has gone for something most stereotypical Prestonians and Lancastrians will have a soft spot for – pie.

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I met my other half down Fishergate before taking the short walk in the city’s typical winter rain to see which dishes we fancied.

Pile it all onPile it all on
Pile it all on

The menu is varied with each pie uniquely named. Take The P*ssed Cow (£8.88) for example (Steak and Real Ale). There’s also The Garstang Blue (£8.88), complete with steak and – yes, you guessed it – Garstang blue cheese.

And this is Preston after all, so no pie menu would be complete without a butter pie – on the menu as Alreet Cha (£7.77).

My pie of choice was Mary Lost Her Lamb (£9.99) aka Shepherds Pie, with what the menu describes as ‘proper chunks of lamb’.

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My fiancée Rebecca chose The P*ssed Cow and we also ordered some sides of mushy peas (80p), green vegetables (£1.80) and red cabbage (50p) to share.

The P*ssed Cow pie - aka Steak and Real Ale - complete with sidesThe P*ssed Cow pie - aka Steak and Real Ale - complete with sides
The P*ssed Cow pie - aka Steak and Real Ale - complete with sides

Being an honorary Lancastrian I can’t eat pie dishes without red cabbage thanks to the copious amounts of hotpot I’ve consumed since knowing my other half’s family. They’re all Wiganers.

Anyway – both pies came with gravy and mash; something Rebecca upgraded to colcanon mash (£1), something Google tells me is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage.

Whatever it is, it was really nice. I can’t believe I’d never heard it especially after having lived with three Irishmen during my university years!

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The Shepherds Pie was divine. The lamb was so soft and the mash on top was light and velvety with just the right amount of creaminess.

Just two of the tipples available from the beer fridgeJust two of the tipples available from the beer fridge
Just two of the tipples available from the beer fridge

The sides were exactly what sides should be like with pie – powerful, complimenting flavours in limited portions. You don’t want to overpower the taste of the main attraction.

We also ordered sticky sausages (£3.33), one of the small plates. They were, I think, small chipolata sausages (I’m not a sausage expert, believe it or not) coated in a sweet honey-based sauce. Like the rest of the sides, they held their own as an appetising accompaniment.

I had previously tried the steak and ale pie at The Otter’s Pocket’s soft launch in November. The steak was perfectly cooked then and it was just as good a second time around.

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Rebecca agreed; something I knew by her reluctance to let me try the dish. Don’t come between Wiganers and their pies!

We wanted dessert and went to the bar to order Key Lime Pie (£4.44) and Bakewell Tart (£4.44) but were told there were currently no desserts on.

Disappointing, sure, as I do enjoy a sweet treat. But I also enjoy beer; and my eyes quickly went to the wall of refrigerated craft beers.

I chose a can of PR1 from Preston-based brewery Beer Brothers as well as a Bigmouth Session IPA by the greatest named brewery I’ve come across – New Zealand-based Yeastie Boys.

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As the designated driver they were more than enjoyed once we got home. Nothing beats the nectar of the Gods after a long day at work – especially when you’ve a stomach full of pie, peas, gravy and red cabbage.

Us northerners get stereotyped for having an obsession with pie – but when it’s done as well as The Otter’s Pocket does them, can you blame us for wanting more?