Jolly Farmer in Moulton Chapel ticks boxes for portions, presentation, price and taste
Over the past couple of decades many pubs have had to expand their services to include food as supermarket prices see more and more people drinking at home.
And we've progressed from the simple basket meal to much more cultured cuisine as the 21st Century has progressed - but the problem can sometimes be that we are essentially eating in a pub.
If you're a regular that can be a pleasant thing, but if you're out for a family meal, hearing what Trevor got up to at the nightclub or what Malcolm thinks of Brexit has the potential to really spoil the atmosphere.
So I was delighted straight away when we visited the Jolly Farmer in Moulton Chapel and were taken through to a separate, enclosed restaurant. I'd driven past it many a time and thought what a lovely little place it looked and, on entering discovered it was a thriving, busy village pub.
Chef Jamie Howard has been at the helm 18 months, having previously spent time at a hotel in the Yorkshire Dales and locally at The Baskervilles in Baston and Spalding's Woodlands Hotel. That experience has served him well for the Jolly Farmer where he describes his popular food as "modern, classic pub grub".
Having been seated by the pleasant, attentive waitress, we ordered our drinks and got stuck into the menu. There was a tempting list of starters at £4.95 and £5.95 and, cheese lover that I am, I quickly went for the brie wedges served on a bed of salad with a side of sweet chilli. The brie was in a light batter and absolutely gorgeous...much lighter than it looked too. And the salad was fresh and crunchy.
My wife Josi went for the breaded and lightly seasoned whole whitebait served with tartar sauce and lemon. The portion was impressive to say the least and she found it really tasty. My 13-year-old daughter Joanna is at that stage where adult meals can sometimes be a bit much but the children's menu is unappealing, and she was straight away drawn to the two chicken breast skewers with barbecue sauce. She found the chicken beautifully tender and the sauce really tasty.
There are also sharing starters priced between £6.95 and £8.95.
Now, before I move on to the mains, I must make an observation about the different ideals of those who eat out. Some want great taste, some want large portions, some are looking for reasonable prices and some like their food to be immaculately presented.The Jolly Farmer ticks all four boxes and is also unpretentious, which is another plus for me.
Main courses range from £7.50 to £13.95, apart from the £18.95 massive mixed grill, and incorporate steak and burger menus too. I'd been fancying a steak all day and straight away ordered the 5oz rump, served with hand-cut chips, two grilled field mushrooms, peas and a baked tomato. I chose Diane sauce and it complemeted a really tasty meal. I couldn't eat all of it as I needed to leave room for dessert, but made sure it was the chips I didn't finish rather than the succulent steak and lovely sides.
Josi went for one of her favourites - hunters chicken, which comprised of a butterfly chicken fillet topped with barbecue sauce, bacon and mature cheddar cheese, served with hand-cut chips and salad. She found the chicken moist, the sauce well flavoured and the chips chunky but light. Perfect.
Joanna was never going to finish a whole main course but certainly gave her home-made lasagne a good shot. She loved the succulent minced beef and béchamel sauce, the garlic bread and fresh salad, saying the meal knocked spots off the oven-ready lasagnes she'd often had before and always thought of as gorgeous.
It's amazing how you can leave some main course but still have room for a bit of dessert. There was a great selection here and all priced at a modest £4.95. My chocolate torte with salted caramel ice cream was heavenly, Josi adored her huge chunk of strawberry, white chocolate and prosecco roulade and Joanna somehow made room for her apple and blackberry crumble with custard... and loved it so much she was still talking about it to her envious sister the next day.
There's also a selection of sandwiches at £5.95, side dishes and one-, two- and three-course children's meals.
The restaurant is open for lunchtime and evening meals Tuesday to Saturday and for Sunday lunch at £8.95, running alongside the normal menu. Bookings for Mother's Day are still being taken with one course £9.95, two courses £14.95 and three £19.95. There are lunchtime specials too at two for £10.
Co-owner Elaine Thorpe said: "I would like to thank the family and all the staff for their hard work and all the customers for their support. We have achieved such a lot since last year and are proud to say we are looking forward to another good year."
* The Jolly Farmer is holding a race night on Friday at 8.30pm with horse, pig and dog racing. Free entry and proceeds to Breast Cancer Care - just turn up on the night.