Review: In search of a Gary at ‘amazing’ The Hunters

Posted on - 12th August, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Food & Drink, Lostock Hall, Opinion, Preston News, Pubs, Restaurants in Preston, South Ribble News, Walton-le-Dale, What's On in Preston
The Hunters
The Hunters

Situated on Hennel Lane in Walton Park, The Hunters has been milling around in TripAdvisor’s top 20 best rated restaurants for quite a few years. In fact, there are so many online reviews praising the ‘amazing food’, ‘amazing decor’ and ‘amazing service’, that visitors might expect to have to clamber inside over a pile of gobsmacked patrons who had just collapsed sideways like fainting goats with the amazingness of it all. 

They also repeatedly mention someone called Gary, who I’d assume must be the owner or manager. Based on the rave reviews he sounds like a cross between Jim Carrey and Renfield so I was hoping for at least a glimpse.

Despite it being a gloomy Tuesday afternoon there was a surprising number of people having meals or drinks, which was a positive sign. We chose a table and had a look at the main menu and the lunchtime menu. 

The entire set-up is similar to those of chain brewery restaurants such as Greene King and Wetherspoons: an extensive menu filled with pub staples such as nachos, lasagne, scampi and chips, burgers and pies, with diners noting their table number to order and pay at the bar. However, unlike Greene King’s The Fleece Inn in Penwortham, there are no ‘buy one frozen, spectacularly overpriced meal, get another equally ghastly one free’ threats, or any other offers on The Hunter’s main menu.

Instead, the prices indicate a confidence by the proprietors that their food is worth paying a fair whack for.

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I did my usual faff about in an agony of indecision for half an hour before deciding on The Godfather: two patties with bacon, Dewlay cheese, a hash brown and onion rings at £18.50, which was at the pricier end of meals in local restaurants. If I’d chosen to swap the rosemary fries that came with the burger to sweet potato fries, the hopefully mouthwatering meal would have cost a slightly eye watering £21.50 as, despite sweet potato fries costing 50p more than regular fries when bought as a side, they cost an extra £3 when upgrading. 

When I stood at the bar I went blank and instead of the burger I panic-ordered a beer battered fish finger on focaccia sandwich from the lunchtime menu. Lord knows why. Priced at £12.95 it came with pea puree, tartare sauce and rosemary fries.

The Hunters fish finger sandwich
My sandwich of two fish fingers and a pea

The fries were crispy, well-seasoned and perfectly cooked, and the two fish fingers were more like battered fish goujons. I thought they’d forgotten the mushy peas but my companion spotted some green on my sandwich under the fish. I’d assumed that pea puree was just a fancier way of describing mushy peas, but there was such a small amount spread on the sandwich that the taste of them wasn’t discernible, which was a pity. However, I got exactly what was described, and they hadn’t exaggerated by putting an ‘s’ on the end of pea. 

Inside The Hunters fish finger sandwich
Approximately 48% batter, 49% fish, 2% tartare sauce 1% pea

The two strips of fish were quite small, making the ratio of fish to batter around 50:50. Not a bad thing for batter lovers as it was crispy and not overly greasy, but I’d have preferred less batter and more fish. The accompanying tartar sauce seemed homemade which was a nice touch, though needed far more of a pickle and lemon kick to fully separate itself from being just mayonnaise with an eyebrow piercing.  

My companion opted for Hunters chicken, a combination of foodstuffs that always kicks off a heated debate about whether barbecue sauce belongs on food instead of bubbling around in a deep hole in Hades with a bored demon dunking tortured souls back under it with a corn dog, another equally horrifying invention that should never have happened.

The chicken was tender, the portion was a good size, and it came loaded with barbecue sauce and melted cheese, so that any tortured souls could easily be fully immersed and corn-dogged to the bottom. The sauce was extremely sweet, with the characteristic smoky taste that people either love or hate. The person who ordered it judged it to be ‘alright’, and when pressed for a little more information added that it was what he expected but it wasn’t special enough to set it apart from the chain pubs. He only managed to eat half of it due to the heavy oiliness of the dish. 

Hunters chicken

The accompanying chips were excellent and, according to a staff member, homemade like everything else on the menu. 

The meals didn’t blow us away and for the price, especially at lunchtime, they should have. However, the multitude of consistently positive reviews that included praise for the food could indicate that we may have just visited on an off day and not had the opportunity to enjoy the other attributes for which The Hunters receives praise. All the front of house team were friendly and polite, and the venue had a warm and welcoming atmosphere. There’s a huge beer garden that would be lovely on a warm evening, but as it was raining we sat inside. There are also fun-looking private huts that can be rented for an evening, as well as regular quizzes and screens where punters can watch the football. 

Oh, and they also have A Gary.

Judging by the reviews and how packed The Hunters looks whenever I drive past it, it’s clearly getting far more things right than wrong, so perhaps an evening visit on a sunny day would be a different story.

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