DINING OUT: The Plough, Freckleton
We were only talking at home a few days ago about how much pubs have evolved over the last decade or so.
Emmerdale was on the TV and as a character took her primary school age son and toddler daughter to the soap’s local The Woolpack for a meal, I said to Mrs D to imagine that happening 15 years ago, when our daughter was a toddler.
The smoking ban introduced in 2007 changed the family dining scene forever and while a good number of the perhaps less adventurous hostelries have fallen by the wayside since, many of the more enterprising owners, managers and landlords have seen business flourish, with even new builds emerging.
While the pub remains the ideal location to enjoy a good drink, good company and the opportunity to watch sporting events on big screens, family dining was an understandably largely untapped market until the shrouds of smoke cleared 12 years ago.
For the pub that gets the mix right, however, there is money to be made - not just present-day profits from multiple food orders, but the thought that the junior diner of today has the potential to be the adult customer of the future.
The Plough, at the heart of Freckleton, has certainly set its stall out to have the broadest possible appeal.
The day before we called, it had done brisk morning business as sports fans followed England’s fortunes in the Rugby World Cup final and it is open every weekend from 9am for a tempting breakfast menu at top value prices.
For us though, it was a Sunday afternoon visit and we were hungry as we returned home from an appointment in Preston.
We had heard that The Plough had earned a glowing reputation for its food, particularly pizzas, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a try.
We booked online and the welcome was certainly warm and efficient as we were pointed to our reserved table.
At first, having seen it was close to the big screen TV as a mixed array of clients followed live Premier League football action, we wondered if it was the ideal setting for a family meal.
But as Jamie Vardy helped steer Leicester to victory at Crystal Palace and Everton warmed up to take on Spurs, the atmosphere was enjoyable throughout, while the food in particular, along with the service and value, were all really impressive.
The menu is limited to pizzas, burgers and salads along with a few starters, while Italian-style pizza-dough sandwiches are available lunchtimes only - but what they do they do very well.
Our order was swiftly and efficiently taken at the bar - including having it read back to us to make sure it was correct – and we were soon eagerly tucking into a trio of shared starters – garlic flatbread, six doughballs, and seasoned potato wedges, with a garlic dip, at £2.95 each.
The Plough’s pizza menu offers a wide array of interesting choices, available either as a full 12in serving, half and half with a second topping or as a half pizza with a salad to the side.
I opted for the chicken and meatball variety (£8.95), with peppers and olives, and it was a treat.
The base and crust were nicely thin and crispy, the topping was generous and there was just the right amount of cheese.
My wife was initially a little disappointed that there were no burgers available when we visited, but was similarly delighted with her choice of tuna and onion (£8.95) as we made it a hat-trick of pizzas, completed by a margherita (£7.95) thoroughly enjoyed by our teenage daughter.
While Mrs D and I were too full to consider dessert, the teen fancied rounding off her meal with something sweet and made light work of her chocolate ‘ice cream of the moment’ (£3.59).
With soft drinks, our bill was £44.29.