Eating Out: Testing a Goosnargh inn's family-friendly award . . . with two 95-year-olds.

The Stags Head has won a national award for being family-friendly. So we tried that out with two ravenous 95-year-olds.
The Stags Head has won a national award for being family-friendly. So we tried that out with two ravenous 95-year-olds.

Families come in all shapes and sizes - and in most cases all ages too.

So when we heard the Stag’s Head at Goosnargh had won a national award for being family-friendly, we just had to check it out. But not, as you might imagine, with a couple of mischievous kids.

When in Goosnargh you really have to sample the Goosnargh duck.

When in Goosnargh you really have to sample the Goosnargh duck.

No, put away the chicken nuggets and mini-meatballs and make way for two hungry 95-year-olds.

Our companions for Sunday lunch were both born two years before Her Majesty the Queen. At the time, Ramsay MacDonald was Prime Minister and John Logie Baird had just sent his first rudimentary TV pictures over a short distance.

Yet despite their advancing years, this sprightly pair still have appetites and standards that would test any restaurant kitchen in the UK.

The youngest, by just four months, was celebrating reaching 95 that day. So wherever we ate would need to cut the mustard – or in her case the horseradish. Fortunately, the Stag’s Head did. In fact, it exceeded her expectations, much to the relief of Mrs E, who chose the venue.

The boss had visited this gastropub a few weeks earlier and returned home with tales of a comfortable and friendly hostelry serving scrumptious food and decent wine.

As for me, the last time I recall being in the Stag’s Head was back in the eighties when Whittingham Hospital was still caring for patients and, on occasions, I played cricket on its picturesque ground before paying a visit to the pub at its front gate.

Walking in after so long I was staggered (no pun intended) to see the transformation. It is simply unrecognisable from the boozer it was back then.

Our ravenous nonagenarians seemed to like it, although hunger was their chief concern. Both took a cursory look around, smiled, sat down and reached for the menus.

Now this being Sunday lunch there were three – the regular menu, the specials and the Sunday roast – so dish selection could take a while. Not with these two. “Pate and roast beef” they chirped up in unison, even before I had chance to put my specs on.

At this point, I have to confess today’s Eating Out column is not for the adventurous diner. We are staying fairly conservative, due to the age of our guests. Mrs E was only slightly more daring – pepper mushrooms and roast beef.

So it was up to me, I thought, to try something a little different. Which was a shame, because I quite fancied the roast beef and Yorkshire pud as well.

Note to self: Pull rank next time when you’re the one writing a review and your company is paying the bill.

On the next table was a family with two children happily colouring in pictures. If our charges had been handed a sheet and crayons they would doubtless have eaten them.

So five stars to the staff who, sensing starving pensioners are not to be messed with, served our meals in double-quick time.

The chicken liver pate, with toast and onion chutney, satisfied them both. Mrs E’s mushrooms, which came served in a creamy pepper sauce and on a slice of garlic ciabatta, were devoured with the same enthusiasm.

While all three had chosen from the Sunday lunch menu – one course £12.95, two for £16.95 and all three for £20.95 – I felt compelled to go to the main restaurant menu for my meal.

I began with a “mushroom pepper pot” (£5.75) which comprised button mushrooms cooked in a creamy brandy and peppercorn sauce and finished with blue cheese and garlic ciabatta. It could perhaps have benefited from a touch more seasoning, but it was delicious all the same.

Soon after three plates of roast beef, with giant Yorkshire puds, arrived for my companions. They all agreed the roast was perfectly done and tender and the accompanying trimmings were spot on.

For my main course, well, when in Rome... And seeing as we were in Goosnargh, there was really only one choice for me – breast of Goosnargh duck from the Johnson and Swarbrick farm just down the road.

Top chefs have cooked with this world famous duck for decades and, even though poultry legend Reg Johnson sadly passed away four years ago, the birds are still as outstanding.

Mine came with rosemary roasted new potatoes, creamed cabbage with bacon and a red wine jus (£16.95). As always it was exquisite.

Top marks to any restaurant which can feed up our two 95-year-olds to the point where they decline a dessert. But the Stag’s Head did.

All that was left for the couple to do was thank the owner in person for his “wonderful” food and head back home for their afternoon nap. All-in-all a really happy birthday.