A cheese pie and a premature goodbye at this Longridge pub and restaurant

Posted on - 8th June, 2024 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Food & Drink, Longridge, Opinion, Preston News, Pubs, Restaurants in Preston, Ribble Valley News
 “I thought there weren’t enough chips until I got halfway into that pie.” 

This week my partner and I decided to visit the Ribble Valley for a couple of nights and have a meal out for our anniversary. We stayed in Ribchester and were spoiled for choice for places to eat out, but we decided to go to Fell Bistro in Longridge because of their fabulous steaks.

Unfortunately it was a Monday evening and Fell Bistro was closed, so I had a Google for somewhere else in Longridge and found an open restaurant that I’d never tried before: Alston Pub and Dining.

As it has quite a few positive reviews online that mention “beautiful homemade food” and the menu contained a good choice of hearty, traditional dishes, we thought we were on to a winner.

Read more: Preston burger takeaway bags full marks in food hygiene reinspection after voluntary closure

We received a warm welcome from the person behind the bar and were shown to our seats in an otherwise empty restaurant. The only other people in the vicinity were a group of several young men and a dog, standing near the bar.

The inside was decorated in the generic pub/restaurant style of greys, beiges, checked carpets and wooden, rustic furniture. The tables and chairs were a little beaten up, table tops were sticky and the carpet had a few stains but whilst that was slightly off-putting it can be the case with many independent venues since the costs of food and fuel skyrocketed, leaving little left over for cosmetic improvements.

Alson’s food hygiene rating is 3 out of 5 which means “generally satisfactory”, so I was happy to eat there and confident that I’d survive, but I asked the waiter if they’d give our table a wipe, which they did. As the table remained just as uniformly sticky as before I think that, rather than a lack of cleanliness, it was an issue with old varnish that can become tacky. I’d come across the same problem at Winkley Street Ale House and envisaged all sorts of hidden horrors in the kitchen until I learned that’s a thing.

There were the usual classics on the menu such as fish and chips, sausage and mash and burgers, as well as a choice of four platters:  “From the Sea, From the Garden, From the Bakers” and “From the Farm”.

I would have chosen “From The Garden” which consisted of “Baked Camembert, hummus, mixed olivers, onion bhaji, cherry vine tomato, garlic crostini, mixed salad, Halloumi fries, winter chowder, garlic aioli & warm flatbread.” I’d never had a Camembert from a garden, but I’m definitely sourcing some seeds and planting a harvest of them in mine next year. The Mixed Olivers also sounded intriguing, though perhaps not for an Anniversary celebration.

Read more: My long weekend celebrating ten years of The Moorbrook

Sadly, an interesting sharing platter was never a possibility as my partner is aghast at almost anything that isn’t “From a mammal”, “From Wheat” or “From a Potato,” so I had to pick something else.

In the quiet of the nearly empty restaurant we were unable to tune out the loud group of men at the bar whose conversation was peppered with a limited but well-utilised selection of swear words and who also had some dismaying views about female dogs. It wasn’t as unromantic as when a wedding DJ decided to play Nutbush City Limits for my friend’s first dance instead of the David Grey song she’d requested, but it came a close second. 

We’d ordered a garlic flatbread (£5.95) topped with cheese (£1.50) to share with our meals but were underwhelmed when it arrived and only ate one slice between us as it was pale, floppy and uninspiring. To be fair it may well have thought the same about me, but I didn’t cost £7.45, so it can shut up.

oh, heck

My partner opted for a “10oz gammon steak served with chips, peas, fried egg & pineapple,” for £13.95, but without the items from “The Garden.”

Things started to look up as it was a decent slab of tasty gammon topped with a runny egg. The accompanying chips were also excellent; crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. A success for my partner once he’d removed the thick edge of fat from the meat and hid it from his sight under a fold of garlic bread.

If the seventies were represented by a meal, this would be it

I had the “Cheese and Onion pie: Extra mature cheddar cheese cooked with onions & mustard encased in puff pastry. Served with chunky chips & baked beans” for £13.95.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find a cheese and onion pie with a filling that hasn’t been cut with potato, but this glorious creature was pure cheese, onion and mustard. Once the pie was cut open the hot cheese came flowing out like…well, like hot cheese. It had to have been home made because shops make their suppliers but the pastry was good- sturdy enough to hold molten cheese without caving in from the steam, but I didn’t eat much of it as I preferred to use my chips as the method of cheese transport.
The beans were beans.

Let me just try to keep the inevitable incoming handbagging to a minimum by prefacing the next paragraph with the assurance that I love dogs. All of them, even the drooling, stinky or honking ones.

Read more: See more of Karen’s foodie adventures in and around Preston

The dog in the pub was obviously a Good Boy/Girl but it could make a “pay attention to me” yelp that sounded like the battery running out of a  smoke alarm the size of the moon. It could split particles like the Large Hadron Collider, and is probably able to control the weather. Obviously, it’s no fault of the dog or its owner, I’m just mentioning it because it was extraordinary that such a loud noise could come out of an animal I couldn’t see over the bar. Combine that with Alston’s dedicated menu for dogs, and you have a venue that takes its dog-friendliness seriously.

When the two members of staff came to our table they were polite, but the visits were rare and fleeting before they went back to socialising with the sweary gang at the bar. Nobody asked us how our meal was. When they cleared away our almost untouched garlic bread we told them that our mains were lovely but the side wasn’t fully cooked, which was met by with disinterest. 

Our overwhelming impression from the staff was that we were intruding on their evening and that the sooner we were gone the better. We felt too uncomfortable to stay for a dessert, so we paid the bill and left.

The majority of our food was very good, and Alston Pub and Dining has some great reviews online that mention the friendliness of the management. They indicate that it’s a valuable and well-loved asset to the local community, so they’re clearly getting a great deal right and our experience could be a one-off rather than the norm.

However, it was the most awkward and unwelcome I’ve felt in a restaurant, so I won’t be going back.

Have you ever had a magical dog with a yelp that could jolt you into another dimension? Tell us how you clawed your way back, in the comments

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