I do love a good, family-friendly dining pub. Having been thoroughly impressed with my previous visit to the Freemasons at Wiswell a good three years ago (minus the kids), it seemed an ideal time to take a trip up to Lancashire on a drizzly April Saturday to celebrate my birthday, and hopefully indulge in a repeat of what was some pretty outstanding food.
Wiswell is still a pretty little village but unsurprisingly they've not built a car park in the past three years; we managed to find some on road parking though without any issue. The welcome on arrival was fine, there's no issue with children here and they'd paid attention to my reservation notes and provided a highchair for our baby son as requested. I still like the venue, it's had a lick of paint on the outside since our last visit and the inside still has that smart restaurant-pub feel which is ideal for a place like this.
The hand-written birthday card on the table was a nice touch. Yes, it wasn't personalised in any way and yes, that was the only mention of my birthday during the entire visit, but at the same time, with so many restaurants nowadays taking the "we'll do absolutely nothing" route to mark special occasions (a real shame in my view), I appreciated the gesture, however small it was.
There was the full choice of lunch, carte or tasting menus on our Saturday lunch visit; I always find it a good indicator of cooking competency when a kitchen can serve all its menus at both lunch and dinner. There's also a pretty decent wine list, although the non-alcoholic offering was poor. They couldn't even muster a still apple juice so my wife and daughter were reduced to drinking cordial.
Much as I enjoyed the tasting menu here last time, I'd never expect the kids to sit through that, so I opted for the carte whilst my wife ate from the lunch menu. They do also offer a number of not-on-the-menu kids options including sausages and chips which my young daughter thoroughly enjoyed. After some very decent bread, first up for me was the wood pigeon. It was a vibrant dish with a cacophony of various flavours, many of which didn't quite work together. There was a lot going on and the wood pigeon was a tad over also which didn't help. It was perfectly edible plate however. My wife enjoyed her chicken livers on toast considerably more and the small bite she let me have was indeed, delicious.
Things improved markedly with my main of Herwick lamb which was very good; cooked well with some great flavours. Yes, you could argue again there was one sauce/gel too many on the plate, but I'd happily eat that dish again any time. This time unfortunately it was my wife's turn to not get a great plate; her salmon main wasn't cooked particularly well and the wild sorrel sauce disappointing.
For dessert, both my wife and young daughter opted for the lemon meringue pie (a deconstruction of sorts, of course) which was a pretty dish with several tasty elements. The lemon curd like main slice packed a reasonable punch and the accompany mango sorbet was enjoyable too. For some reason, my chocolate mousse dessert took several more minutes to arrive, which was a bit strange. When it did eventually arrive (with no apology) it was a great looking dish, the little chocolate cone of mousse rising smartly from the plate. The accompanying sherry-caramel soaked pineapple was a bit solid (could have done with a knife to get through it) but packed some punching flavours, matched well by the peach sorbet. Sadly though, the main event, the beautifully constructed chocolate mousse, was a bit of a wash out. Clearly there's a great deal of skill in the construction but the actual flavours in the mousse were really lacking, a bit of a disappointment in truth.
Service throughout was OK, not exactly top rate but no major complaints. Aside from the aforementioned long wait for a dessert, a drinks order did also go missing and you couldn't really describe the staff as particularly attentive. But let's focus on the food as the standard of cooking is still very good here; in truth though I wasn't anywhere near as blown away as I was last time with what I ate. I don't think it's a case of complacency, but it does feel a little bit too much like cooking for the guides rather than cooking for the customer in certain aspects. That said, the place was pretty full on a Saturday lunch time so they must be doing something right, and it deserves to be as regardless of the niggles I had, I enjoyed my meal overall.
|Ratings||Michelin Guide||AA Guide||Good Food Guide|
|At time of review||Listed||7|