Nothing says spring quite like jewel-like crocus, bouncy castles popping up in beer gardens and turning the heating down a notch.
While the latter is still under debate in our house, it was a pleasant surprise to see the beer garden in use during our visit to The Horns Inn in Churchtown over the Easter weekend.
We’d enjoyed a family day out to a farm and decided to stop off at this charming country watering hole on our way home.
Being Good Friday, I rang up ahead to book a table just in case.
The staff member on the other end of the phone couldn’t have been more helpful, asking us if we had any special requirements.
We arrived an hour earlier than planned (there’s only so many hours you can spend in a petting farm when your child doesn’t actually want to touch, never mind pet, any of the animals.)
Although our table was ready, we headed outside to take advantage of the sunshine peeking out from behind the clouds in our first beer garden visit of the year.
Our four-year-old son was more than content with the bouncy castle and giant Connect Four – working up an appetite before we ventured inside for our early evening tea.
The decor is modern yet traditional with calming tones of grey and teal in the cosy dining areas.
We ordered drinks from the bar and while we settled down at our corner table, it soon became apparent the hubby’s pint of Tribute Pale Ale wasn’t for settling.
Back up to the bar he went.
Evidently a barrel needed changing and a fresh pint was swiftly served to our table.
It’s a good job we had arrived early as the pub’s menu offers such a huge range of dishes that it’s difficult to decide what to choose. A nice dilemma indeed.
There’s a comfort corner section offering winter warmers like puddings and pies, steaks from the grill, classic burgers and a range of other main courses from Thai curry to lamb shank tagine.
The hubby was delighted to see his favourite black pudding on the menu so to start he chose the Bury black pudding and apple with whole grain mustard cream sauce and a potato rosti (£6.50). Delicious!
I opted for the hog roast pate with green tomato chutney off the specials board.
The chunks of pate were bursting with flavour and the chutney had a brilliant sweet yet tangy balance.
Staff offered to serve our son’s main course at the same time as our starters which worked well. The generous portion of battered fish goujons came with skinny fries and, upon special request, a bowl of cucumber (normally £5.95 but children ate for £1 over the Bank Holiday).
I also opted for fish as my main course and tucked into the beer battered haddock and chips (£12.95).
The fish, mushy peas and chips were all perfectly cooked but the dish was let down by the batter’s unfortunate soggy bottom.
Over the table, the hubby’s lamb, red wine and mint suet pudding (£12.50 )was a real winner.
The steamed suet pastry was filled with slow braised chunks of tender lamb in a rich mint gravy.
Our bill, with drinks, came to just short of £50. It’s a top choice of venue whether the bouncy castle is up or not!
Gazette rating: 8.5 out of 10