Looking for decent place to eat in the Preston area is not a stretch. Okay, the city centre has perhaps just a few notable quality establishments but stray just a mile or two beyond the city limits (still in the PR postcode area) and there are gourmet treasures just waiting to be discovered.
I’ve past the The Sparling in Barton, located just across from the old Barton Grange on the A6, many times always thinking to stop and pop in for a look. After reading the tempting menu for Grill Night Wednesday, thought I’d give it a go. Very glad I did.
Award winning gastropub owners Neal and Gillian Tripp took over the Sparling a few years ago and the place has gone from strength to strength.
Blog Preston last visited the restaurant in 2009 when we awarded a fantastic 19.5 out of 25. We thought it time for an update following the new ownership.
Went in the front street facing entrance by accident and non-nonplussed the waiters. The main entrance is around the side by the bar. Not well signed.
Found the interior warm with very stylish modern décor and surprisingly spacious. We sat next to the window by a ‘fake flame’ fire and a radiator it did get a bit warm but not unpleasantly so. Ice-cold water brought to the table without asking was a good start.
It was no contest looking at the grill menu. The Surf & Turf for two to share jumped out (with Sautéed Tiger Prawns, Char-Grilled Sirloin Steak, Prawn Salad, Mussels Mariniere and Beer Battered Fish). Not thinking a sharing platter would be all that substantial (wrong) we plumbed for a couple of appetizers.
Sticky Chipolata Sausages & Sautéed Chorizo, both in small ramekins with cocktail sticks. Although larger than I expected an appetizer to be (no bad thing), they were truly succulent morsels. The chorizo top quality, the taste extenuated by the smokey grill. Had to ask where they sourced it from. The sticky sausages were good too.
The main meal was brought to the table in a huge white ceramic oval bowl, piping hot, stuffed with great smelling grub.
The centrepiece of the bowl, a good-sized pot of mussels in a delicious garlic and cream broth. Surrounded by a generous helping of prawn salad, chunky (and I mean CHUNKY) chips in a stack, char-grilled proper big prawns on a skewer, battered fish, grilled steak, mushroom and tomato. Included were two slabs of moist garlic bread ideal to mop up the mussel juices. All seasoned well. All locally sourced were told.
As the platter was to share (worst luck), we divvied everything up between us.
I tend to judge restaurants on how they cook a steak. This was really well done. Not well done as in ‘well done’ if you know what I mean. It was medium but still with a good ‘bounce’ and a nice red glow in the centre. Grilled to perfection and tasted great. Came with a mini-jug of steak gravy as well. Nice touch.
The mussels were tasty and meaty. Loved the sauce. Delicious battered fish and the Tiger Prawns nicely done (shame there wasn’t more of them).
Well-made tartar and tomato sauce accompaniments topped it off. Excellent Surf & Turf and the theater of bringing to the table, seeing it for the first time equally satisfying.
Two glasses of house wine accompanied the meal as part of the deal. The wine glasses on the table were the large almost half bottle size and filled a quarter of a way up. As the other was driving, I had hers – seemingly half a bottle of wine to myself. And what a great house wine. I must congratulate Sparling for the choice. Excellent, deep dark red, musky but delicate with a lingering almost oaky flavour. I would buy this myself but they say it’s only available in select wine shops and online.
Although I was bursting, the other favoured a pud and went for not one but three! A Trio of Crème Brulee with Biscotti Biscuits. Fruity (I think was raspberry), Vanilla and Lemon flavoured cream, each in a little pot. I couldn’t eat any more but did have a little try, for professional reasons. Very smooth and very lovely. Classic crunchy sugary top with a light creamy filling. If you are still hungry a great way to finish of a meal.
The service was smart and very attentive. Both the manager and waitress making several visits to our table during the evening. Although they couldn’t immediately answer our questions about the provenance of the house wine and chorizo, they did make time to find out for us. The menu mentioned possible delays while they prepared the food but we didn’t notice.
A well recommended gastropub serving modern British, affordable great quality food. Flawless on this visit for food, drink and service. The only niggle was the price of the Surf & Turf on the website menu being about £7 less than in the actual restaurant itself. But, hey, if I didn’t want the meal I didn’t have to order it. But I’m glad I did.
Surprised how busy it got on a midweek night so booking is strongly advised.
807 Garstang Road
Tel: 01772 860 830
Value for money 5/5
If you have visited The Sparing at Barton let us know your thoughts below