The hustle and bustle of eating out in cities and towns is the last thing I want sometimes. Sometimes all you are after to end a stressful week is what most of us call ‘proper pub food’ away from the bright lights and loud music.
If you know what I mean, then you know just how good it can be.
So to mark the end of a long working week, my fiancée and I had a little drive into the Ribble Valley, down winding roads and idyllic countryside views.
It’s these moments that make you appreciate just where J R R Tolkien got his inspiration from for The Shire in his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings.
After the short drive from Preston and through Longridge we got to Hurst Green and to our restaurant of choice, The Shireburn Arms.
Now, for full disclosure, this isn’t your average restaurant review.
And that is because The Shireburn Arms is actually the venue my fiancée and I have chosen to get married at next year - and yes before you ask, I am very excited and also just about coming to terms with hard it is to organise!
It’s wedding facilities are, as you would expect me to say, brilliant, and the views from the venue are out of this world.
But one thing we didn’t do when booking was try the other side of its business; the restaurant and its food.
Considering its kitchen will be providing almost 100 meals for family and friends in just more than 12 months, we decided it was probably wise to have a taste of the quality of what we have to expect when the big day finally arrives.
We went for a fish-heavy starter, choosing the Pan Fried Scallops with black and white pudding, leek and smoked Lancashire cheese sauce and streak bacon (£8.95); and the Salt & Pepper Squid with a pineapple dipping sauce (£6.50).
The scallops were divine, cooked to perfection with the black and white pudding and other accompaniments providing a strong undertone of flavour to the lightness of the fish.
Regarding the squid, I love anything salt and pepper, and anything calamari-based, so it was a yes from me on both fronts.
The sauce was interesting and definitely worth trying, but not one I would go out of my way to have as a dipping sauce in the future.
After a nicely timed break, our mains arrived. I chose the Beef and Bowland Ale pie (£12.50) with chunk chips, mushy peas, and beer gravy.
My fiancée went for the Shireburn Beef Burger (£12.95), something I think was much needed after sitting her first exam in a new job.
As a Wigan resident and from working in Preston, I’ve become somewhat accustomed to pie – and what makes a good one.
This was top of the pops. The beef was beyond tender and the chips and gravy were hearty in their quality and quantity.
The peas were also lovely – but having come off the back of three days of pea and ham soup for my lunch at work, I think I can be forgiven for not polishing the bowl off.
The burger got great reviews from the future Mrs Earnshaw (that will take some getting used to), something entrenched by her usual ‘Do you want to try some?’ being absent in this situation.
One nice touch that I came across on the menu was that The Shireburn donates one pence from every pint to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to support hen harrier conservation in Bowland.
Anyone who knows anything about Bowland knows how much these birds matter to its nearby residents and the protection of greenbelt land and its inhabitants; so I was glad to know the two pints and a larger shandy we shared will see two and a half pence go to a good cause.
We signed off a good evening with a sweet treat. We went for the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream (£5) and chocolate brownie with honeycomb ice cream (£5), both of which were portioned well and, importantly, not too overwhelming in size to avoid feeling like you had turned into Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
The Shireburn Arms has exactly what you need if you are after a taste of tradition, or as I put it, proper pub food.
The atmosphere was homely, the food was worth its price tag, and the staff were approachable and caring.
And on a personal note, this has just added to the excitement of revisiting the venue next year for the small matter of my own wedding...