Time was when a dish arriving sizzling to your table was a rare feature reserved for a special treat, perhaps during a visit to a big city.
But as Mexican and other ethnic restaurant chains expanded, it became a more common sight and in recent years the growth has rapidly extended to more local venues,
Pub chains spotted the potential as food sales became ever more important following the smoking ban and there is now even a brand which proudly includes ‘sizzling’ in its title.
You don’t have to go far on the Fylde cost to find a Sizzling Pub.
Styled as ‘your local friendly pub’ by chain owners Mitchells and Butlers, they have added a very welcome extra ingredient to the likes of the Devonshire Arms at North Shore, The Highfield at South Shore and the Blossoms at Ansdell.
But our stop for Saturday lunch was at the Newton Arms at Normoss, handily located just a few minutes from Blackpool town centre.
It’s in Wyre but just a few strides from the Blackpool and Fylde boundaries and set against a delighted rural backdrop with a large car park.
The latter was very welcome as we had a busy morning visiting college open days and were looking for a leisurely bite to eat before tackling the extra traffic autumn always brings to the town centre.
As we strolled inside, we were struck by the vast size of the place - a central bar with a room behind it as well as looking out onto a main area, with tables also set into the impressive bay windows which dominate the frontage of the building.
We decided to take a spot in the section which entailed us turning sharp left from the front door, up a couple of steps to an area which contained seven or eight tables.
A couple of them were set in the window but we were put off from venturing to those by the fact that they still contained dirty plates and glasses.
The one we chose was well-appointed enough and across the way from us, a family party of six were clearly having a good time as they chatted merrily while tucking into their food.
There are a variety of menus on offer at a Sizzling Pub, including a children’s selection and choices tailored to the older generation as well as ‘two for’ deals and breakfast options, as the food factor continues to banish the memory of such establishments being dominated by drink alone.
These days, the aim is to appeal to as wide a range of customers as possible and, along with those specialist options, the main menu offers something for everyone.
Among the starters, we were tempted by the likes of potato skins and battered mushrooms, both served with a choice of toppings or dips respectively.
But we opted to share a plate of nachos, served with cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream.
There being three of us, we thought the sharing plate looked a good deal at £5.49 but although we clearly asked for that and were satisfied enough with it as an appetiser, our bill showed that we were actually brought a single portion, at £2.99.
For mains, I chose the sizzling rump steak fajitas, a bargain at just £7.99, featuring delightfully tender meat and served with a generous portion of tortillas and dips - and yes, tantalisingly sizzling all the way from kitchen to table.
It’s refreshing that the fajitas also offer a veggie version - halloumi cheese (£7.79) – and our daughter opted for those and declared them delicious, while her mum was equally pleased with her halloumi and chips (£5.79).
The food and service were satisfying enough - if the tables around us had been cleared sooner, we would have been even more impressed.
But it’s certainly a good option for a good value family meal and we vowed to call again.
With soft drinks, our bill came to £30.51.