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Restaurant review: the Eagle and Child (up Parbold way)

This pretty gastro pub, just the other side of Ormskirk, ticks all the boxes, not just the meat ones, says Andrew Hobbs

Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: the Eagle and Child (up Parbold way)


Facing a pretty village lawn in the hamlet of Bispham Green, Martin and Helen Ainscough's Eagle and Child pub is a creditable rival to the siblings' better known Liverpool city centre operation, the Racquet Club.

Gordon Ramsey’s cheap jibes at vegetarians have legitimised a backlash against meatless cuisine, and the number of veggie dishes on menus has actually gone down in recent years.

And at just 20 miles, due north east, as the eagle flies, and a two-mile taxi ride from the station at Rufford, it is hard to beat if you fancy escaping into the country.

The Eagle and Child is every bit the traditional English inn - whitewashed walls, low ceilings, stone-floored bar - with a good selection of real ales. On a Wednesday night in April it was busy, sadly unusual for most pubs these days.

The small, candle-lit restaurant felt cosy, with its dark red walls, hunting prints and dried herbs hanging from the roof beams. It was three-quarters full, but I had booked, just in case, and on the handwritten “Reserved” sign on our table, were the words “Mushroom Pie”.

This was because I had ordered that self-same pie when booking, after a member of staff revealed that the chef could make something to order if the vegetarian menu didn’t suit. More about this later.

There are two menus, a regular one and a changing list of specials. The regular menu is more traditional, while the specials on the night were gastro-pub fare.

Lynne had a starter version of the main-course frittata with courgettes (£5), although it looked like a mains-size portion, and I had seared scallops, encrusted with dried mushrooms, in a French tarragon and lime dressing (£7.50).

The frittata (an Italian Spanish omelette, if you know what I mean) was very filling, set off by a tangy and chunky tomato sauce. The scallops, well ... adding a mushroom crust to a scallop is like adding Heinz tomato sauce to caviar, like adding strings to Chuck Berry, like putting go-faster stripes on a Bentley, I could go on. Oh, I have, sorry.

The Eagle and Child is, in fact, part of a small chain of gastro-boozers and hotels owned by the Ainscough’s, the rest being the Wizard at Alderley Edge and Miller Howe on the shores of Windermere, and, of course, Ziba, in the aforementioned Racquet.

This might explain one of the best wine lists I’ve seen in any restaurant or gastro-pub – starting with named house wines at £10 a bottle, and moving on to a manageable selection of very good labels at reasonable prices, including unusual ones which ought to be available more widely.

We had a bottle of Turckheim Pinot Gris (£19), the Alsace version of Pinot Grigio, and it was exquisite. Almost as good as my chocolatey pint of Moorhouse’s Black Cat mild.

My main course, sautéed lamb rump (£14), was tender and full of flavour, and the sticky brandy, garlic, rosemary and cream sauce worked well with the meat. The veg were cooked properly

(i.e. not overdone) and I was content.

Lynne’s pre-ordered mushroom pie (£9) was a monster, served in a dish the size of a baby bath. Full marks to the kitchen for doing as they were asked, hence the five out of five for service.

And on the one hand I feel obliged to be nice to the Eagle and Child, but my obligation to you, dear readers, as you while away your boss’s time, is to tell you what it was like. The crust was perfectly short, but the mushrooms were undercooked, slightly antique, and their creamy sauce was a bit thin. I know I’m biting the hand that fed me here Lynne would have done it for me, but she doesn’t eat hands, she’s a vegetarian.

No problems with the puddings, though. Lynne was well pleased with her bread-and-butter pudding (£4.50), although I personally think that making a pudding out of bread is sacrilege it’s a savoury ingredient, and should be worshipped only with butter and Marmite, or made into toast.

My mixed spice and treacle sponge (£4.50) was superb, as good as my mum’s.

The bill came to £66.50 including pre-dinner drinks, a fair price for good-quality gastro-pub grub in a delightful setting. The food is well presented, and I’d recommend a visit now that summer is on its way (or did it end in April?). The pub garden is a sun trap, and there’s also a bowling green, games lawn and wildlife area.

Let’s be clear, the Eagle and Child is more veggie-friendly than most places, with three starters and two main courses, both of the latter actually including protein (the number of veggie main courses elsewhere consisting only of vegetables and carbohydrate is astounding don’t they teach nutrition in catering college?). They also kindly served Lynne’s starter minus goat’s cheese and minus quibble, since she – and lots of other vegetarians – hates the stuff.

Gordon Ramsey’s cheap jibes at vegetarians have legitimised a backlash against meatless cuisine, and the number of veggie dishes on menus has actually gone down in recent years.

Vegetarians tend to be better cooks than your average meat-eater, otherwise they would starve or – possibly worse - be forced to live on a diet of Linda McCartney ready-meals. This means that many veggies can cook tasty, nutritious, meat-free food better than a trained chef; and that might explain why so many of them choose to stay at home rather than eat out.

In consequence, too few diners order the veggie options, and restaurateurs decide it’s not worth their while to put them on the menu. It’s a vicious roulade.

Breakdown:6/10 food
5/5 service
4.5/5 ambience
Address:The Eagle and Child
Bispham GreenLancashire
L40 3SG
01257 46 22 97

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Don't be daft.

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zoltan the emperorApril 28th 2009.

The venue for lovers of microwaved food everywhere.The beer is not much better and the staff need one or many lessons in customer service.By the way, "take one for yourself" doesnt mean that the barperson takes a quid out of change - 20p is about right.Never again.

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