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The (Wrea) Green Grapes
The Grapes (Wrea Green)
Member Name: zoe_page_1
The Grapes (Wrea Green)
Advantages: Exciting menu, interesting veggie options
Disadvantages: Not cheap, silly car park, a bit old-men's-pub
Wrea Green is a pretty if slightly pretentious village not far from Kirkham in Lancashire. It's not the sort of place I'd tend to choose for a meal out but The Grapes is a Chef and Brewer pub, and as such you can currently use Tesco Clubcard Deals tokens there. With nothing else to do this weekend, we planned to head over there for lunch and a walk around the duck pond. That was until we woke up to low lying mist and very icy paths. In the end we eschewed the walk and just went for the food.
The Grapes is a long-established pub that was once known as the slightly less enticing "The Dumplings". Wrea Green might be the largest village in England (apparently) but it's still not a large place, and the pub is easy to find, sitting right on the village green. It has a reasonably sized but badly designed car park: the entrance is very narrow and drivers in larger cars would instinctively breathe in while trying to manoeuvre. My chauffeur is not one for nasty narrow car parks, so we parked across the grass, over outside the nearby Spar. There is free on-street parking there, but for a maximum of 1 hour at a time up until 7pm when it goes unlimited.
I love reading menus, either outside restaurants or online and the Grapes menu grabbed me immediately. It has a clear 'Gastro pub' feel to it and is full of tempting things, so I had to cross my fingers and hope the website was showing the most recent version. It was.
The starters range in price from £2.99 to £4.99 and include soups and pate but also more exciting things like bruschetta, grilled mushrooms on toast and chicken tikka skewers. Like the rest of the menu, the dishes in this section come with complete descriptions of what you'll get, so there are no surprises.
The mains (£6 -£12) are split into sections, though a little randomly. The 'Classics' for example includes the distinctly unclassic Feta-and-courgette lasagne and a chicken, leek and mushroom linguine alongside the more traditional pies and gammon-and-egg. The fish section features salmon, cod and scampi done all fancy, as well as fish and chips and fish pie, while the 'Chef Recommends' section seems to feature things they couldn't find a better place for. It always amuses me when they have a bit like this - does the chef not recommend his or her other dishes? In this case the cook wants you to have sea bass, red snapper, duck or risotto, just not all at the same time. The final section is 'Grills', from burgers to steak but being a posh kinda of place, it's things like Moroccan lamb burger, or Teriyaki surf and turf. The menu is aimed at carnivores but there are 4 or 5 vegetarian options among the main, and, for once, they're all unusual and interesting sounding.
The menu also has lighter options: sandwiches and jacket potatoes available at lunch time only. The toppings are similar to the fillings, though I'm not sure Sicilian Mozzarella, Tomato & Pesto would work as well on a jacket as it would on a baguette. The prices here are higher than average for pub grub, but the same dishes go for a lot less at lunchtime: the Butterbean and vegetable pie is over £7 in the evening, but under a fiver if you order it before 5pm, for example.
We went in and found a table in one of the many alcoves. The table had a bucket holding the knives and forks, and the main menu, drinks menu and promotional leaflet (currently listing the Burns Night and Valentines specials). The daily specials were interestingly printed out and left on a clipboard on each table, as well as being written up on a chalkboard.
Once we knew what we wanted, I went to the bar to order and pay. I explained that we were using vouchers, so she suggested ringing the food and drink up separately (as with other Tesco deals, they cannot be used on beverages). She then said she would bring over the drinks for us, so I went back.
The drinks came quickly - a diet coke for me but a fancier option for my mother who had ordered from their full page of non-alcoholic cocktails and mixes. Shortly afterwards a member of staff came over to double check the order, and then about 10 minutes later the food arrived. It was beautifully and artistically presented, the flatbread with my lasagne arranged stacked at right angles, and with a small salad garnish. My mother had gone for the butterbean pie which also looked nice, but quickly proved itself to be more a butterbean and vegetable stew with a pastry rim: the pastry didn't go all the way across like a proper lid, and was also stuck on to the clearly under-greased dish which was a shame as though it looked nice, it didn't want to come off and be eaten.
Both dishes were delish. The lasagne was wonderfully soft and creamy, though it seemed a little disappointingly generically cheesy rather than specifically feta-filled. The garlic flatbread was unusual (not boring baguette slices) and tasty, without there being too much. The pie had a wonderfully flavoured sauce and the accompanying rosemary potatoes were apparently very nice though when asked to describe why she liked them so much my mother came out with "unusual because they're not chips" and "lots of them" which is why I do the writing, and she does the reading :o
Both dishes were served piping hot, and though logic suggests they were probably not whipped up fresh for us then and there, they did taste home made. Both the meals were a good size for lunch, but there were plenty of sides available if you were eating later in the day and wanted to make it a bigger meal. Alternatively, the starters and puddings sounded appetizing.
Throughout the meal we were checked on once directly and several times indirectly as a member of staff peeked into our section to see how we were getting on and if we were finished. Any more and it could have got a little annoying, but instead it just seemed sweet, if a little over eager, especially the speed with which they whipped the plates away.
We went to investigate the loos which were in keeping with the rest of the building, i.e. clean enough but not swish and modern. Each one had an open basket of potpourri on the ledge behind and in the ladies all the seats were up - I assume because no one had used them since they were cleaned in the morning before opening. There were mirrors above the sinks and on the wall behind, but these were too high for us to see in, and therefore fairly pointless, though there was also a lower, full length mirror at the side.
The website tells me this pub has been recently refurbished, which begs the question of what it was like before. It's not an unpleasant place, it's just very classically northern. The chairs don't match (deliberately or otherwise), the different carpets clash (but are all suitably patterned to hide spills) and the walls are covered in local pictures - of Lytham Windmill, Fairhaven Lake and so on. The wooden beams and exposed brickwork add a rustic charm to the place, as do the open fires. My overriding opinion as we left was that it was a mixed up kind of place. The menu and prices are both restaurant standard, but the ambience is a lot more local and less high brow, even in this somewhat pretentious location.
The restaurant was quiet but not empty when we were there. The background music was easy listening style, and not too loud. I think this is the sort of place that probably has a different feel depending on when you go: it's a watering hole as well as a place to eat, and I guess it could get livelier / rowdier in the evenings, especially at weekends.
Food is served Monday - Saturday 12noon - 10pm and Sunday 12noon - 9.30pm. We chose to go on a Saturday because I wasn't 100% sure they'd be serving their full menu alongside Sunday lunch, and having checked it out online I was keen to eat from the a la carte.
The total spend came to about £20 for two mains and two soft drinks, of which £15 was covered with my vouchers. It's not especially cheap for pub grub, but the food was very nice and the service friendly and appropriate. That said, if I was spending that much of my own money I'd rather have a more cosmopolitan setting I think. It's a personal view, and some might like the surroundings more, but for me it was a bit old fashioned (and simply old), and I like to think I'm neither of those things.
Summary: A confused pub with lovely food but dodgy decor
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