Few of us have to go far to find a Wetherspoons pub these days.
Blackpool has several, St Annes, Lytham and other Fylde coast towns have one each and even the small east Lancashire mill town where I grew up has seen an old church converted into one of the chain’s hostelries.
The recipe for success clearly works – a wide range of drinks at reasonable prices with food served all day, from breakfast right through to meals served long into the evening.
It’s a commendably Continental approach offering the people what they want when they want it which many other outlets could do to emulate,
With our increasingly busy lives, it can be frustrating having to check what is open and available when – there is little more frustrating than to head off somewhere for a feed only to find the kitchens closed five minutes before your arrival.
Wetherspoons are also always eager to acknowledge local heritage, as in giving new life to abandoned old buildings such as banks and churches and in the names they give their pubs.
The Railway in Lytham, for instance, acknowledges the town’s transport history, decades after the train station was relocated across town, while the Trawl Boat in St Annes saw the name of an old fisherman’s favourite pub demolished long before revived when it opened in Wood Street 17 years ago.
That’s where we headed on Monday when the family schedule became just too hectic to contemplate preparing an evening meal for the three of us – or the washing-up to follow.
We hadn’t eaten at the Trawl Boat for years but had been impressed by the extensive menu when we called in for a quick drink recently.
It offers great value, with something to suit all tastes – and a number of dishes are available with deals which offer certain drinks at an all-inclusive price.
With the World Cup on, I was also eager to keep tabs on the Belgium v Japan match while we enjoyed our meal and I was impressed that the Trawl Boat offered the best of both worlds – just a single TV showing the football action for those who wanted to follow it, but certainly not dominant enough to be a distraction to those who weren’t interested.
Through much of the week, Wetherspoons offer theme nights, such as curries on Thursday and fish and chips on Friday - but this being a Monday, our choices were restricted to the normal menu, along the always-available vegetarian and vegan range.
But we all quickly found something which appealed and were impressed that each dish had alongside it an indication of its calorie count.
The service was also very good - right from the outset.
I’m not the greatest fan of having to go to the bar to order food but the process here was smooth and our server was very pleasant and helpful.
We decided to start by sharing a portion of garlic bread (£2.35), which arrived as two generous pieces of ciabatta, then eagerly sliced and devoured.
For mains, I went for chilli con carne (£6.25) served with rice, nachos and sour cream.
It certainly lived up to its spicy billing as being ‘chipotle hot’, was a little different from the norm in including diced as well as minced beef and also contained Shipyard American Pale Ale. Very tasty, very filling and great value.
Mrs D meanwhile opted for the scampi, chips and peas, priced at £7.09 but also available in a smaller portion at less than a fiver.
It was a very generous serving and the plate was eagerly cleared.
Having joined us straight from dance class, our teenager daughter was especially hungry and delighted to see her choice of a tuna mayo panini come with a generous portion of chips, all for £4.65, including a drink.
She declared it very enjoyable and followed up with a warm chocolate brownie and ice cream (£3.49) from the dessert range.
I rounded off with an espresso and was delighted to find the £1.45 price included free refills.
Our bill came to a great value £30.71.