Taking the full by the Horns

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The Horns Country Inn, The Avenue, Churchtown, Garstang, PR3 0HR. Web: www.hornsinnchurchtown.co.uk e-mail: hello@hornsinnchurchtown.co.uk. Phone: 01995 603351 or 0782 5140159. Plentiful free parking

The Horns Inn, like many another village hostelry, has been having its dilemmas of late.

Even its prominent roadside location on a main route that skirts the village of Churchtown, just near 
Garstang, could not stop it being neglected and closed up for a year or two.

Now though its new owners have grabbed the place by, well, the horns – to create a stylish and attractive inn.

For once you can see where several hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on its refurbishment.

The restaurant colour scheme is all teal, grey and cream which is more pleasant on the eye than it might sound.

But in the middle of all this modernity, and lots of exposed brickwork, is a shiny polished wood bar that looks like it might have landed, Tardis-like, from another age.

The contrast in surroundings works well and there are other attractive features such as a double-sided glass cabinet of champagne bottles that acts as a room divider and an eye-catching piece of décor.

Naturally there are still a lot of antlers hanging about . . .

The restaurant’s tables are arranged through several rooms, and on two levels, to create quiet and intimately-lit corners.

And on an early week night there was enough of a buzz about the place to suggest the Horns Inn was already proving popular again, after a grand opening just last month.

We were directed towards a free table and told that orders were placed at the bar.

Had we been shown to it then it might have been spotted there were no menus.

But no problem, we picked up a pair from a nearby table.

It’s a printed piece of A4 paper, which with just eight starters and as many mains aboard, suggests the restaurant is maybe still assessing what’s popular and what’s not, or just limiting its offer early week.

Either way there was quite enough choice from amongst a traditional range of dishes.

We decided to share a starter of warm goats’ cheese on olive bread (£4.95) and it proved to be a shrewd move with a very large portion of creamy cheese on a crispy base and with a beetroot and balsamic salad.

The latter may have benefitted from a little more dressing, but the whole was a tasty, not-to-say filling start to the meal.

A bottle of well-chilled Pinot Grigio (£12.95) was a suitably sharp accompaniment.

Main courses were a roast salmon fillet with sugar snaps and a delicious mango and lemon oil dressing (£11.95) and a dish of three plump port and apple sausages, from Pughs in Garstang, with plenty of creamy mashed potato and rich oniony gravy (£9.45).

I’d asked for some mustard to go with them, but it wasn’t needed, with such strong flavours already abundant.

A dish of vegetables of the day included more sugar snaps, new potatoes and baby carrots – all suitably al dente.

This was voted a good meal both sides of the table.

We might have tried a dessert – there were three sticky temptations chalked on a blackboard on the wall, but by this time the bar was busying up and it’s fair to say any follow-up table service had its attention diverted there.

There’s an added incentive to do so before the end of May – with 25% off the bill (through their website) to mark a 
welcome re-brandishing of the Horns.