THE BBC probably spends millions on Dr Who and the Tardis but we got a ride in a time machine for just £55.
Sure, the food at the Hare and Hounds at Crowton was delightful, but we don't go to restaurants just to eat. It's the whole package that counts, the attractions you cannot easily measure - those mysterious, intangible words like ambience, atmosphere, feel-good factor.
The Hare and Hounds has got all of them. It is one of those rare places where you find the clock has not only stopped ticking but you become so unwound that it starts going backwards.
I went expecting nostalgia on my plate because I have fond memories of boyhood days more than 40 years ago cycling through the lanes from Cuddington to watch the Cheshire Hunt gather at the Hare and Hounds.
At that time the landlady was a fearsome woman said by many to be the inspiration for Annie Walker of the Rovers Return in Coronation Street. Requesting a lemonade and a packet of Smith's crisps felt as fraught as Oliver Twist asking for more in the work-house.
But perhaps I was too shy then. Otherwise, the sun was always shining and Crowton was a sleepy, pretty village which could have been Am-bridge or Akenfield.
What's changed? Not much, apart from the landlady, global warming and hunting with dogs being outlawed. Crowton is now a perennial winner in the Cheshire Best Kept Village Competition and the Hare and Hounds is still the hub of the community and the main attraction.
It has a lot going for it. As well as the small restaurant, which seats about 30, it is a traditional English country pub with friendly regulars, coal fires and fine beer - so fine that in 2001 it was rated by the Campaign for Real Ale as the best in England.
Pictures on the walls show that outside it has not altered much over the years while a scroll listing the former mein hosts reveals surprisingly few since it opened back into the 18th century. As we were to find, once you get there your are not in a hurry to leave.
Just as a diversion, for anyone who does not know it Crowtron is at the centre of a network of excellent rural footpaths with Delamere Forest nearby. An ideal spot, then, for a walk to work up an appetite.
Landlord and landlady Joe and Pam Nicholson run a very sound ship with Joe the chef and his wife the maitre d. Everything goes smoothly but in a beautifully relaxed, friendly manner.
My partner Val and I liked the intimate, cosy restaurant complete with fresh flowers and a romantic candle on the table. A stuffed hare smiled down from the top of the serving dresser.
The menu is one of the best I've seen. Allow plenty of time for a good read. As well as a nice description of the establishment it even contains a newspaper cutting - diplomatically from the Chronicle - detailing the CAMRA award.
Chef Joe obviously knows more than his onions. The choice is wide and enticing with a lot of sensible features such as a children's menu that invites the little dears to forget burgers and try more adventurous and nutritious dishes such as lobster tails.
From the impressive list of 17 starters we sidestepped snails in garlic and Bury black pudding. I opted for whitebait with salad and bread and butter while Val went for the smoked salmon with similar trimmings.
Bullseye straightaway. The whitebait tasted like, well, fish, which was a welcome surprise as most places murder it with an impenetrable crust of bread-crumbs instead of the light coating which this large shoal boasted. Fish aficionado Val pronounced her smoked salmon perfect.
For my main course I homed in on the venison in red wine sauce with mushrooms and Val netted the halibut with tartar sauce. A nice touch which is not offered in many places was the choice of boiled, chipped, baked or dauphinoise potatoes.
With it all were the seasonal vegetables which turned out to be carrots plus broccoli in cheese sauce. I've never known cheese to be a season vegetable before but then the only food capable of bringing me out in a cold sweat is melted cheese so I was bound to banish it to the far end of the table.
That apart, everything was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. The venison was tender, tasty and ideally complimented by the rich sauce. My fisherman-friendly other half again pronounced the halibut perfect, so fresh it had probably just swum up the Weaver.
The portions were so generous that Val had no room for a sweet. I had no such inhibitions and leapt on a lavish slice of mouth-watering lemon meringue tart from the wide selection on the sweet trolley. It was great value for just £3.50.
If we hadn't been eating, I would have sunk a few pints of the pub's IPA which is one of the aristocrats of bitter. Instead, we selected a bottle of Moreau Gloire Chablis which was outstanding. My palate will never be able tell whether it was as 'flinty' as it was described on the wine list but it certainly hit the right spot.
In the end time waiters for no man, or something like that. The clock did eventually win and we had to reluctantly go.
If you believe the past really is a place where they do things differently then go to the Hare and Hounds because the difference is they do it properly.
We departed with a unanimous decision to add it to the short list of places we will definitely return to if they'll have us.
Location: The Hare and Hounds, Station Road, Crowton, Cheshire; phone 01928 788851. It is halfway between Frodsham and Northwich on the B5153.
Price: Whitebait, smoked salmon, halibut with tartar sauce, venison in red wine sauce with mushrooms, lemon meringue tart, bottle of J Moreau & Fils Gloire Chablis, glass of coke, glass of dry white wine - £55.15.
Menu: A la carte with good, broad choice, and specials board. Children's menu and excellent choice for vegetarians.
Wine list: Wide range at reasonable prices with a 'Wine of the Week'.
Best thing: Superb food, relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and good service.
Worst thing: Not accessible by public transport and an expensive taxi ride to get there.
Would suit: Anyone looking to unwind; families who still like eating together.