It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to describe St Annes Fish Restaurant as an institution in the town.
For all the 30 years we have been living here now, it has been a fixture - and it turns out it actually dates back three times as long as that, having been founded by Maude Hughes in 1929.
It’s still in the Hughes family, with Maude’s great grandson Richard now running the business, and still at the same location in St Andrew’s Road South where it was established.
The fact it is a little off the beaten track in terms of tourist footfall has earned it the mantle of “locals’ best-kept secret” over the years and it’s not unusual to see queues extending into the street from its take-away counter at peak times, notably on the ever-popular ‘chippy tea’ evening of Friday.
That was the day we headed there after being frustrated at being unable to find a table at a newly-opened pub/restaurant just up the road.
On this particular evening, after a busy week at work and college, we didn’t fancy a long wait for a table followed probably by a similar interlude for food to arrive.
We just needed some good quality, good value sustenance in reasonable time and where better, we thought, than this old dependable on the way home?
Along with its very busy takeout counter, the St Annes Fish Restaurant has a cosy, neatly-appointed ‘eat-in’ facility entered through a separate door to the left and it was here we headed after a short drive from our original destination.
Friday being traditional ‘fish and chips day’, we knew it might be busier than another part of the week and it was certainly buzzing with customers as we arrived, but we found a ‘booth’ table to comfortably accommodate the three of us and proceeded to check out the menu placed there.
Along with a full range of fish options - haddock of varying sizes, cod, hake, scampi and plaice, plus home-made fishcake and an intriguing-sounding ‘combo’ – there are home-made or Hollands’ pies, plus burgers, sausage and vegetarian options, all offered with a choice of small or regular portions of chips.
Bread and butter is among the side orders, along with peas (garden or mushy), baked beans, curry sauce, scallop potatoes and even haggis, while wine by the glass or bottle is available, as is beer, along with tea, coffee and a wide range of cold soft drinks.
Blackboard specials, including a deal for pensioners available any time but Friday tea, and a dessert menu adorn the walls, as do an eye-catching range of monochrome images of scenes from around Lytham and St Annes.
It’s table service and our order was swiftly taken by a friendly waitress.
Being spoilt for choice as to which fish to opt for, I plumped for the combo - goujons of hake, cod and haddock, with regular chips (£6.85), with what I have always regarded as the essential accompaniment of mushy peas (£1.15).
It was a tasty plateful, with all the fish well cooked and the chips generously sized.
My wife decided to go for the home-made cheese and onion pie, actually priced the same as the Hollands’ version, with regular fries at £6.35 plus a side order of baked beans (£1.15).
She was satisfied enough, although she felt the cheese and onion filling was rather more creamy than she had been expecting. The portion of chips defeated her.
Our teenage daughter opted for the fishcake - it says ‘fishcakes’ on the menu but the waitress pointed out the portion was a single one (£4.00) – swapping her chips for potato scallops.
She was rather disappointed to see the fishcake in batter rather than the breadcrumbs she is more used to, but was happy enough with the filling.
Having finished eating, we waited for our server to return to clear the plates and might even have given one of the desserts on offer at just £2.95 a go.
But strangely, as can happen in other places, the quieter the restaurant became, the more the service slowed down and we decided to pay up and depart.
With a tea and two soft drinks, our bill came to an absolute bargain £22.40.