It’s a sunny Sunday in September and slaving over a hot roast is out of the question. What better way to bask in the last vestiges of summer than a walk by the River Dee, followed by a slap-up lunch that you haven’t had to cook.
The walk from Eccleston to the iron bridge at Aldford is a path well worn by my family – when our children were younger it could take hours but now that the girls have longer legs than me, we are done and dusted in under an hour.
Tales en route included the myth, or otherwise, that the Duke of Westminster keeps lions behind one of the barbed wire fences spotted on the way but we didn’t encounter any animals, wild or otherwise.
To be honest, we arrived so quickly I wish we had taken the longer route, from the town centre, via the Meadows, and then I would have felt that I had definitely earned my grub.
An earlier call to the Grosvenor Arms was unsuccessful in securing a table so we took pot luck that the sun would hold out and we could grab a table in the expansive gardens.
We were in luck and picked a place in the sun.
Anyone familiar with a Brunning & Price pub (also in the chain are the Architect, overlooking Chester Racecourse , The Old Harkers Arms, on the edge of the canal, the Glasfryn at Mold and the Pant-yr-Ochain, near Gresford) will know that you pick up your menu and order at the bar.
A helpful sign indicated a 45-minute wait for food, and the queue to give orders was long but we ordered some drinks and went back to our table.
Thirsty from the walk, I plumped for a soft drink and my husband chose a beer from the huge selection of cask ales.
There is no playground at the Grosvenor Arms but a tractor parked in the corner of the garden is a magnet for anyone under the age of about 10 and there were many squeals of delight coming from the gang piling on to the farm machinery.
We had ordered some warm bread (a mixture of foccacia and ciabatta) and olives to stave off the hunger. The olive oil and balsamic was a little sweet and gooey (I guess it was the dressing rather than just balsamic vinegar) and, as predicted, 60 seconds before the 45-minute deadline, our roasts arrived.
Alas the sun had gone behind a large cloud and was not likely to make an appearance for a while, so I regretted the summer wardrobe. Fear not, the pub supplies blankets (and reading glasses) should you need them.
What an appropriate time to order a glass of wine from the extensive list, if only to warm you up.
It is probably worth noting that the menu has much more on offer than roast beef, lamb or chicken and you can expect dishes like Malaysian fish curry, deep fried haddock, David Joinson’s pork sausages and sea bream.
There are also light bites and the woman in front of me ordered a steak sandwich with a side of chips.
I chose the beef (although being a coeliac I had to forgo the Yorkshire and hand that over to daughter number one who had ordered the lamb shank). Plenty of roasties and a huge portion of vegetables to share and we all tucked in.
Luckily for me, the gravy is gluten free, and although the menu is not that easy to manoeuvre if you have an dietary requirements, you can usually find something to suit.
The beef wasn’t that tasty but was tender enough and I am sure that the portion sizes have reduced over the years but on the whole I was satisfied. The broccoli was crisp, the butternut squash creamy and the pickled cabbage quite tart, ticking all my vegetable boxes.
Back to the portion sizes, we never used to be able to fit in a pudding, but all four of us were up for at least sharing.
But by now we were cold!
Luckily enough, I spotted an old friend, who had also walked from Eccleston, who had just finished her meal with friends and was vacating a table just outside the conservatory.
We legged it over there to enjoy a sticky toffee pudding with sauce and vanilla ice cream and a HUGE pavlova (gluten free again) with a delicious raspberry sorbet and lemon curd sauce – a perfect combination which would have been so much better if I had it to myself. I have to admit that the meringue was a little on the chewy side (and I had to use a knife!) but it tasted divine.
Other desserts on offer include Belgian waffle, sour cherry bakewell and Oreo and chocolate brownie cheescake, served with white chocolate chunk ice cream.
Sadly for the reader, so taken were we with our puds, that we forget to take photographs!
We didn’t have time for a coffee, as packing for university and homework took precedence, but I could have stayed in that sunny spot for the rest of the afternoon.
I have been coming to the Grosvenor Arms for 20 years and can’t see any customs being changed.
Scores on the doors:
Quality of food: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Food brag rating (how good it looks): 4/5
Food hygiene rating: 5/5 (from www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk)
What does TripAdvisor say? Average score is 4.5 out of 5 based on 234 reviews. “Good pub food at reasonable price, dog-friendly, worth a visit”
Where is it? Chester Road, Alford, Chester CH3 6HJ