This week GZ and I took a trip to the Tap and Vine for lunch on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. Situated in Liverpool Road in Higher Penwortham, they describe themselves on Facebook as ‘a micro-pub serving a variety of cask ales, specialist lagers, fine wines and a large selection of g’.Advertisement
I’m not well-up on real ale culture so I googled ‘what’s G?’ According to a helpful young man called Thug4life on a website called The Urban Dictionary, G stands for Gangsta, which was unexpected.
Liverpool Road isn’t the first area that would spring to mind as a Gangster’s Paradise, and I haven’t heard of much trouble around there. For such a large selection of them to be under one roof I concluded that there must be some kind of amnesty in place and decided to risk it.
This kind of pub often caters for the second of two transitional parts of a person’s social life. The first transition is when teenagers are too old and clunky to play at each other’s houses but too young to get into pubs, so they end up gathering en masse in parks or outside shops, menacing people by existing. The second transition is when we over 50s want to go somewhere to socialise that has nice food and where the music isn’t too loud.
Fortunately for many teenagers they’re heading towards the ‘fun times in pubs’ part of their lives, but unfortunately for the over 50s this period can be our last hurrah before one day suddenly finding ourselves all over a hot pot supper and a bingo card like white on rice.
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A few years ago real ale pubs suddenly enjoyed a stint of being considered cool by a branch of the younger generation that went mad for tweed and started calling each other Sir, or ‘my good man’ before losing it entirely and opening cereal cafes serving 10-year-aged single malted Shreddies and Kombucha chasers. Are they still knocking around?
It would seem not.
We knew that at 23 there was a good chance that my daughter would be the youngest person there, but at 52 I wasn’t expecting to be the second. I was just another wave in a sea of grey hair as I wheezed my way barwards to the rhythmically clicking Samba of my own hip, like the Girl From Emphysema.
Despite it being a Tuesday lunchtime there were only three free tables inside and out, and there were also quite a few people standing. Nobody else seemed to be there to eat, which can be a worrying sign.
GZ chose a steak pie with mushy peas, gravy and a slice of bread and butter for £6.75, with a side order of fries for an extra £2.50.
The fries were good old-fashioned chips that looked and tasted like they might be home-made, as did the mushy peas.
The pie had a satisfactory amount of minced steak filling and according to the menu it was locally sourced which, whilst not technically being made in-house, was of infinitely better quality than the food from the Greene King’s Ginster’s paradise just down the road. It was a little bland, but much improved by some salt and pepper.
There was no sign of the bread and butter, but the portion was big enough for it not to be missed so we didn’t ask where it was.
I ordered the local platter, described on the menu as local carved ham and cheeses from Dewlay’s of Garstang, pate, pork pie and Scotch egg served with piccalilli and real ale chutney, celery sticks, apple, grapes and salad accompanied by crackers and artisan bread. It is generally for two and costs £18.50 but there is an option to have an individual version for £8.95, so I went for that one.
When a young lady walked through the pub with our meals there was an audible ‘oooh’ of admiration, which I thought was horribly creepy until I realised that they had their eyes on the pies and not on the person carrying them.
The board was piled high with ham, two halves of a sturdy pork pie, three chunks of Dewlay’s cheese, salad, pickled baby onions, and seeded bread and crackers, with a little pot of real ale chutney on the side.
The bread and salad was fresh, the pork pie filled me with a mixture of happiness and dread as all proper pork pies should, and the English cheeses were safe classics such as Lancashire, Cheddar and a smoked number.
It was a great sized portion for the money and, unlike a lot of eateries, the kitchen avoided the crime of not giving diners enough bread and crackers to accompany the rest of the food to the end.
However, there was a fair bit of fun stuff absent from the single platter that was offered in the double one. The pate, scotch egg, piccalilli and apple were sorely missed, though I wasn’t bothered about the lack of celery sticks as they’ve got a weird, Jacob Rees-Mogg vibe about them.
Despite those omissions I’ll definitely visit again as it ticks all the boxes of a great local, and hopefully the kitchen/waiting staff will ensure that diners know if the platters will not carry all that’s listed on the menu.
The service was quick and the atmosphere was one of welcoming conviviality. With its rustic decor, hearty, reasonably priced food and well kept ales, it bridges the gap between swanky wine bars like Lime Bar Lounge and the more sport and lager based chain pubs like The Fleece, which was also swanky last time I visited for a meal, but with less ‘s’ at the beginning.
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Have you been to a cereal cafe and paid a tenner for some vintage Grape Nuts? Explain yourself in the comments.