The next review in Blog Preston’s series of visits to our city’s dog-friendly cafes and restaurants is Winckley Street Ale House in the building formerly known as The Otter’s Pocket.Advertisement
To nobody’s surprise except the otter, Winckley Street Ale House is situated in Winckley Street in Preston city centre and sells a variety of ales. It’s always helpful when businesses make it clear what they’re pedalling in their name. 1260 Craft and Crust has cracked it, so has Wings and Beer Co. The Fleece in Penwortham, part of the Greene King chain, would also be in that club if the letter “D” hadn’t fallen off the end of their sign.
Literal names save an unwary punter from ending up eating Italian when they really wanted Chinese, or getting a taxi home by themselves after all the Lonely People in a city bar doggedly refused to make eye contact with them.
I called the Ale House ahead to ask if dogs were allowed and received an enthusiastic “definitely,” so I loaded my daughter Ground Zero and Archie my Chihuahua into my car and off we went.
Read more: Archie the Chihuahua has a grand day out in Penwortham
As we entered we were greeted by an effervescent member of staff who immediately offered Archie a treat, which he accepted with suspicion because he wasn’t required to degrade himself to get it and that only ever happens on Worming Day.
We took a table at the back and the server explained that the menu was reduced because they were just getting back into the swing of things. It didn’t matter because the ‘award-winning’ steak and stilton pie was on there for £10.50 and so was fish and chips for £7.77.
We were both real ale ignoramuses, but I can’t review an ale house without having ale so we asked the server what he recommended. He offered to bring three of his favourites to taste, and we surprised ourselves by liking all of them. I settled for a half of Beach House, a pale ale from Rivington Brewing Co, and Ground Zero chose my favourite, a sour ale which sounds awful but tasted lovely.
Our food arrived in good time considering I’d ordered a pie, as any pub that would cut corners and microwave it doesn’t belong in the North. Instead of the mashed potatoes on the menu I’d asked for chips, which were sturdy, fluffy and crispy. My pie had a good whiff of stilton and Ground Zero’s fish was a crunchy, skilfully-fried whopper.
Everything on our plates was homemade by the talented chef, and if we add the real ale, the knowledgeable, enthusiastic bar staff and the pro-dog environment a customer could almost be in Lancashire gastropub The Inn at Whitewell. The main differences being the affordable bill and a fighting chance of hailing a taxi home in ten minutes instead of getting lost in the Trough of Bowland and running feral with the badgers.
Before we’d had a chance to experience the excellent beer, food and service, Winckley Square Ale House nearly lost us as customers because the tables looked and felt like they hadn’t been cleaned for a week. Last year I visited The Otters Pocket with my 75-year-old menace of a mother Yvonne, and mentioned the gumminess of the tables in that review, yet here we were again, sticking to the surface to such an extent that if The Otter had sat on it before leaping off into the sunset it would have left its Pocket behind, and nobody wants that in their pie.
Review: Having a try of a Preston Otter’s Pocket pie
Fortunately, when I asked the server to clean the table he immediately knew what I was talking about and explained that it’s the dodgy varnish making it sticky and that the higher ups are already aware of the issue. He gave the table a good wipe but the entire surface remained as tacky as before. Still not great but at least it wasn’t just muck.
I’d give top marks to Winckley Street Ale House for the excellent homemade food and the bar staff who went above and beyond to make sure we had an enjoyable visit. Good staff are hard to find so it’s a pity that they’re having to deal with customers’ complaints about the off-puttingly sticky tables when it’s something that they can’t put right themselves.
Since my visit I’ve noticed online that the menu has become even cheaper, which proves that homemade comfort food made from local ingredients needn’t cost a fortune.
I’ll be bringing my mother next time and I’m warning the owner in advance that if Yvonne ends up sticking to the table they’re keeping her. No backsies.
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Are you an elderly woman stuck to a table? Let us know in the comments.