The Brownlow Arms, Hough on the Hill
Caroline Bingham visited The Brownlow Arms, Hough on the Hill, which has recently begun to open at lunchtime as well as in the evening.
I was rather sorry that the day wasn’t suitable for us to sit out in the spring sunshine for our lunch, but I hope by the time this is read and you decide to pay a visit the temperature will be more seasonal. That way you will be able to enjoy the smart new furniture and handsome umbrellas, which are in the pretty garden to the side of the pub.
The Brownlow Arms sits in the charming square which is at the centre of the village, occupying the opposite corner to the church. There is plenty of on-street parking as well as a car park.
Paul and Lorraine Willoughby have been the very hospitable proprietors here for more than thirty years and this year is the first in which they have opened their doors at lunchtime, responding to demand and a growing market for more leisurely lunches.
The lunch menus offer an excellent range of light options through to more substantial main meals, which reflect some of the choices of the evening menu. There is a selection of hot and cold sandwiches on white or brown bread or toasted ciabatta, including a tempting home cooked honey roast ham and wholegrain mustard, or a Cornish brie and cranberry compote all served with homemade vegetable crisps and salad garnish. Children under 12 are also welcome to dine at lunchtime (evenings are still age 12 and over) and a special menu has been created for them with four cooked to order choices.
We had a table overlooking the garden and ordered drinks while we looked through the menus. The starters are offered either as a traditional entrée or as a light lunch option with a dual price structure; a great idea which extends the choices to customers even more.
My daughter began with the Brownlow fishcake served with wholegrain mustard beurre blanc and dressed leaves, while I chose a goat’s cheese and red pepper filo tart, pistachio pesto and sautéed courgette. The fishcake had a delightfully crisp coating while inside were bitesized pieces of salmon and white fish with what my daughter called a quite delicious sauce. My filo tart had beautiful textures and bite with the soft, sweet peppers perfectly complementing the tang of the cheese.
Other choices included classic moules marinière with homemade crusty bread; Parma ham and roast fig salad, raspberry coulis, rocket and toasted pine nuts or definitely a lunch in itself – a British picnic for two: Melton pork pie, honey roast ham, Lincolnshire Poacher, Websters blue, house chutney, vegetable crisps and homemade bread.
There was a choice of eight main courses. Equally difficult to decide but I went for the seafood linguine (crayfish, prawns, salmon and mussels) with chilli, lemon and parsley while my daughter stuck with the fish theme and chose the classic Brownlow beer battered haddock and chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce and homemade tomato ketchup. Other dishes on the menu included slow roast belly of pork stuffed with chorizo, mashed potato, green beans, apple sauce, red wine jus and crackling or 6oz rump steak, French fries, garlic butter and mixed leaves.
Sometimes a pub classic can be an excellent way to gauge a kitchen’s abilities and both our dishes were beautifully presented and very delicious.
We finished our lunch with two outstanding desserts. I tucked into mascarpone cheesecake, served with roast rhubarb and rhubarb sorbet while my fellow ‘lady who lunches’ had warm triple chocolate brownie, with rich chocolate sauce and white chocolate ice cream. Other puddings were Brownlow baked vanilla rice pudding with raspberry compote; Frangelico panna cotta, with chocolate doughnuts and hazelnut brittle or a selection of homemade ice creams and sorbets. There was also a board of local and artisan cheeses served with celery, grapes, Brownlow biscuits and house chutney.
Tables around us were enjoying birthday celebrations and an even more leisurely lunch than us, in the wonderfully relaxed yet elegant dining room. I certainly did not want to eat again at night and for many people lunchtime is when they prefer their main meal of the day.
Whether you have a special celebration looming or a catch up with old friends planned, a trip to Hough on the Hill should be in your diary this summer.