Eating out for a Sunday roast can, at least in my limited experience, be something of a gamble.
One can never be quite sure whether ‘home cooked’ really means 'taken out of a tin and warmed up' or whether you will be served the last, depressing remnants of an overdone joint.
So it’s extremely pleasing to report any trepidation I felt about our unplanned visit to The Piper proved completely unfounded.
The food was delicious, fresh and cooked to perfection, the portions were huge, perhaps too big – even for me – but that’s not a complaint, and both the service and atmosphere were on point.
Looking out over the A41 on the edge of Hoole, The Piper is a spacious and modern pub with a traditional feel on the inside.
On the right as you enter is a good-sized bar area with stools and tables for regulars to perch at and watch the afternoon’s football, flick through the papers or sup on a selection of lagers and award-winning real ales.
The restaurant sits to the left of the pub and again is well spread out with a mix of tables on different levels and a games library to keep young guests entertained.
It was bustling without being crowded when we arrived at about 3pm and we were invited to choose our own table, which we did and menus were quickly brought to us once we had settled into our seats.
The waitress informed us of the soup, fish and pie options, and left us to weigh up the rest of the menu, which is laid out in a straightforward and sensible format.
There are six starters to pick from, including crispy fried goats cheese, flat breads and chicken goujons, and a choice of five meats for the mains: beef, ham, lamb, pork and turkey.
For those not in the mood for something else, the reverse of the menu offers dishes such as fish and chips, sausage and mash along with the fish and pie specials.
The pricing structure is simple too: £9.95 for one course, £12.95 for two and £15.95 for three courses.
After much pondering, my partner and I reached a decision: pepper mushrooms on garlic ciabatta to start with, loin of pork to follow for her and chicken liver pate followed with leg of lamb for me.
For an extra £1 each we were invited to add on a side order of Yorkshire pudding, extra roasters and a stuffing ball, which we did.
The starters were brought to us promptly, presented with style and begging to be devoured.
The pate was smooth, rich and moist, served in a terrine jar with a small salad, chutney in a hollowed out tomato and a fresh baked miniature loaf with butter, while the mushrooms came bathed in a mild, creamy pepper sauce with two slices of crusty ciabatta on the side.
Both were soon polished off and our table was cleared ready for the main event, which arrived at our table around 10 minutes later.
Along with our plates pre-loaded with meat, mashed potato and cauliflower cheese came a side plate containing two substantial Yorkshire puddings, stuffing balls and crisp roast potatoes and a wooden tray holding a jug of gravy, a bowl of mixed vegetables and an extra dish of cauliflower cheese.
It was a mountain of food and as we began to fill our plates with roasters, broccoli, carrots, leeks and cabbage we soon realised the task ahead of us.
The lamb was delicious, maybe a little less rare than I would normally like, but I can appreciate most diners would prefer it cooked to the edge of pink, and my partner’s pork, stuffed with a sausage and black pudding forcemeat, was full of flavour.
There was no mistaking the authenticity of the homemade Yorkshire pudding, fluffy and crispy, or the creamy mash while the roast potatoes were flecked with rosemary and dangerously moreish and the vegetables firm to the bite, just as they should be.
We worked our way through the stack of food slowly and steadily but in the end had to wave the white flag and throw down our knives and forks.
We were full to bursting and our earlier plans to round off the afternoon with a pudding had to be shelved.
For someone with such a healthy – unhealthy might be the better description – appetite this was new ground but there was no doubt I had been defeated and that was a great disappointment because the sweets on offer included a brownie, cheesecake and a chocolate mille feuille.
On this occasion the dessert proved too much and with hindsight the £1 extras we added to our main courses was a step too far.
This was not our first visit to The Piper but it was the first time we had eaten there and I am confident it will not be the last, primarily because that chocolate mille feuille sounds too appealing not to return and also because this is a pub that is everything a modern pub should be.
Scores on the doors:
Quality of food: 9/10
Value for money: 9/10
Food brag rating (how good it looks): 4/5
Food hygiene rating: 3/5 (from www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk, last inspected June, 2015)
What does TripAdvisor say? 'Definitely not your average pub grub' and 'homely wholesome food'
Where is it? Pipers Lane, Hoole, CH2 3LS. Call 01244 322093
Chester Chronicle reviewers always pay for their own meal and we don’t tell them in advance that we’re coming to visit.