Certainly the Blundell Arms in Horwich, part of the Chef and Brewer chain, delivers on that front. It's close to the moors, has a roaring fire and there's plenty of exposed wood and warm colours to cosset you from the bleak expanses of heather and rocks that splay out from the back of the pub and there's always a good selections of traditional ales on tap that change often. They're not always local, but they're always pretty good.
Blundell Arms with thanks to Chef and Brewer
Great? No, not great. With a brand name including 'chef' in the title, the comfiness of the surroundings and the high standard of drink available, it would be a logical step to assume that the food would also be produced at an equally high standard.
Rocking up following a wet, after work walk, we chose hearty, warm food to chase away the chills; and indeed it was very warm. The food came out from the kitchen at such an extreme temperature that I can only guess it came from the electronic oven that goes ping, rather than being heated up conventionally/cooked fresh. The result was that we couldn't approach our food for a full five minutes. Ho hum.
Salty pieThe pie was more pastry than meat and what meat could be found in the middle had been heavily salted; which at least gave it more flavour, even if it was just one dominant, salty high note, than any of my dish put together. What lead me to order a curry in a pub I'm not sure, but it certainly was a mistake. On first impressions it did look good; two bowls of different curries, nann, rice and what looked like home made bharjis.
The meal is summarised thus - chickpea curry; thin, watery and tasted like a tomato cup-a-soup. Bharjis; oily, overcooked, stale tasting. Chicken curry; hotish, that’s about it – no layers of flavours, no fragrance. Nann: packet, cold. Mango chutney; famous green labelled brand name, at best. It's a travesty that this is being served up when the North has such a rich culinary heritage when it comes to Asian food and Spice Valley is churning out constantly good fare for less money only half a mile down the road.
Packet nann and rice
As our bellies still rumbled after this disaster of a meal, we took a chance and ordered something else off the menu. I wasn’t in the frame of mind that we should give this establishment any more money for food; however we were starving and it was included in a meal deal with the boy’s pie.
Never in my life has there been such a disparity in cooking between courses. The crumble was a bubbling dish of hot, cinnamony plums topped in a delicious, buttery crumble accompanied by very creamy, vanilla ice cream AND custard. A treat indeed!
Looking over The Blundell Arm’s menu there’s the general feel that they’re trying to operate outside the usual pub realms, introduce people to new foods and offer over and above standard pub grub. There’s a highlight on seasonal ingredients; dishes using these are on a separate specials menu. There’s Fish Night and Game Night; the pub’s version of a tasting menu, five smaller courses for £20 introducing punters to wild boar and guinea fowl. All of which is to be applauded; however there’s no point trying out the clever stuff if you can’t get your basics right.
Cost for two mains, one pudding and two drink – £27.48
Food – 4/10
Service – 6/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Value for money – 6/10
Total – 23/40
Go again? Yes for a pint after a walk as it really does suit it, plus there's a good view of the sunset; but we'd give the food a miss.
The Blundell Arms, Chorley Old Road, Horwich, Bolton BL6 6PY – 01204 898662