It’s a rather strange feeling to be looking out from the inside of a hostelry you pass at least a couple of times every day.
As well as being on the way to the office, The Shovels is also on our route to and from the motorway and we have perhaps been guilty of disregarding it too often on our way to eateries further afield for weekend meals.
Every detail of that stretch of Common Edge Road is certainly very familiar after all these years – perhaps too familiar, considering the regular rush hour traffic jams.
The Shovels has been a landmark feature since long before any of us were born and its location just off the direct route from South Shore to the M55 as well as in what is now a busy – and still growing – residential area makes it an ideal destination for visitors in the know as well as locals.
We had been meaning for some time to give a try for a family meal for the first time and were glad we weren’t venturing any further afield as the temperature outside hovered around zero and the rain lashed down.
A window table offered us a prime view as the horrific weather conditions lashed the road with which we are so well-acquainted.
Food is served throughout The Shovels but we found what we felt was a prime spot in what looked to us like the restaurant section to the front of the building.
We had chosen it ourselves as, despite booking ahead, it was a quiet time and the one member of staff we could see as we arrived was busy serving drinks at the bar.
The fact that some tables around us were marked as reserved had slightly confused us but it seems that didn’t apply to our online booking and we settled down to peruse the extensive menu.
The Shovels is a Flaming Grill-branded pub, as proclaimed on bright orange signage, and as such prides itself on a wide range of steaks, with detailed information on the menu of exactly what the cooking variations from ‘rare’ to ‘well done’ mean.
But there are many other options, too, from chicken, burgers and pies to pub classics and various vegetarian options as well as an extensive range of sandwiches, available as either batons or wraps.
We decided to start by sharing a plate of nachos (£4.89), topped with a cheese sauce so orange it was reminiscent of the Flaming Grill signage, and a garlic ciabatta bread (£2.49).
Both were plentiful and satisfying and set us up nicely for the main courses to come.
I’m a big fan of fajitas and have eaten a fair few variations over the years, including meatball as well as the more familiar steak, chicken and even halloumi.
The latter three were all on the menu here but I was instantly tempted by the opportunity to try the salmon variety for the first time.
At £8.69, they were a great value treat, with the salmon fillet on a bed of tender onions and peppers arriving tantalisingly sizzling at the table.
Accompaniments included salsa and sour cream dips along with cheese and salad and the essential tortillas.
The only quibble I had was that the tortillas were two of the larger variety rather than the smaller ones we have been served elsewhere, but I quickly sorted that by tearing each in half and it was a very satisfying feed indeed.
My wife was happy with her choice of a veggie burger (£5.49), which consisted of grilled halloumi in a sweet chilli sauce with mayo, topped with fried onions and tomato salsa and served with seasoned fries .
Our daughter opted to accompany her tuna mayo baton with a portion of fries (£1.99), but the baton, at a bargain £4.99, was a meal in itelf, filling the plate and oozing with filling which left her well satisfied.
After we had ordered at the bar, the service was swift, efficient and friendly and it was a great value feed which left us too full to even consider a dessert.
With soft drinks, our bill came to a very reasonable £34.39 - and a bonus was that the worst vagaries of the weather had passed over as we reluctantly left our prime viewing spot.