You can use the internet to shop, book flights and even find old school friends from years ago – but can you use it to find directions to your evening meal?
Don’t bank on it.
Set in the Cheshire countryside, The Shady Oak seemed the perfect location for a relaxing drive out and a bite to eat.
Directions seemed pretty straight forward, not far off the A49 near Tarporley, but just in case I printed them off the internet.
My fiancé, John, glanced at the directions and seemed to know where we were headed so I sat back, relaxed and took in the beautiful country views, bathed in the glow of the summer evening sun.
According to the directions, it should have taken about 40 minutes to reach The Shady Oak.
However, I began to get concerned when John started muttering ‘we should be there by now’ and the hungry growl in my stomach began to get louder.
We pulled over and checked the directions but were still none the wiser.
So we were lost and hungry – quite a volatile combination for us.
I tried to focus on the countryside, striking as it was, but its appeal was diminishing as my hunger was growing.
We’d passed several pubs along the way, just not The Shady Oak.
Dinner was just around the corner, or maybe not…
Frustrated, we asked two walkers for help.
They instructed us the pub was on a road just off the one we were on.
Overjoyed, we turned around and found the said road (which we had driven past twice previously) and eventually rolled up outside The Shady Oak.
Menus in hand, we sat down and silently studied the dishes, focused on ordering as quickly as possible to satisfy our hunger.
The day’s specials included pan-fried king crab cakes with honey and orange drizzle and salad (£8.50) and a pork and onion burger (£7.50), among others.
The main menu was made up of traditional pub grub, including dishes such as gammon steak and breaded Whitby scampi tails (both £9.95), but had a distinctly local feel to the food, with many of the meat dishes being Cheshire- farmed.
It was nice to see a local restaurant supporting local produce.
John, the more hungry of the pair of us, quickly chose the Tian of Anglesey white crab meat with ginger and spring onion to start (£7), while I ordered toasted goat’s cheese salad with honey dressing at £5.50.
For our main courses, John ordered the 10oz sirloin steak (£14.50) with stilton sauce on the side (£2.50 extra), while I went for the medley of local butchers’ sausages with buttered mash and onion gravy (£8.95).
Frazzled by the problematic journey, I needed comfort food – and you can’t get much better than sausage and mash.
Assured now, food was on its way, we took in our surroundings.
The interior of the pub was quite traditional, dark wood furniture with one of those busy carpets that makes your eyes hurt if you look at it for too long. We sat in the conservatory area and, without meaning to sound like a presenter of a property programme, it is the location that makes this pub different.
Situated at the foot of Beeston Castle and just four feet from the Shropshire Union Canal, The Shady Oak has great views across Peckforton Castle and the Sandstone Trail.
The canal was visible from our table and a couple of narrow boats were moored up for the night. We indulged in a spot of people-watching while waiting for our starters – a man fishing off a narrow boat caught an eel, much to the delight of children playing nearby.
The pub was busy and we gazed longingly at every plate that came out of the kitchen. We didn’t wait too long though and, as the menu explained, all food is cooked from fresh so we didn’t mind.
Rather greedily, we didn’t waste too much time with our starters, pausing only to sample a taste of each other’s dish. John’s crab tasted really fresh and was complemented by the ginger and spring onion dressing. My goat’s cheese was warm and gooey, just as it should be, while walnut pieces added extra crunch and flavour to the salad.
A mix-up, probably due to the many orders going through the kitchen, meant John’s steak arrived without the stilton sauce. However, as the steak took up half his plate and came with home-made chips and mushrooms, he had plenty to keep him busy.
I managed to grab a quick taste of the steak; it was cooked perfectly – tinged pink in the centre and tender and juicy.
The sauce arrived as John was about half-way through. He would have preferred it to be a bit thicker and cheesier, being blue cheese-based, but it was still enjoyable. The manager apologised for the delay and didn’t charge us for the sauce, which we thought was fair.
I was pleased with my sausage and mash – you could tell the sausages were real butcher’s sausages and not the mass-produced type I’ve encountered in the past. The mash was thick, soft and buttery – perfect to soak up the onion gravy generously poured over the top. Carrot batons and green beans came on the side.
This was simple, fresh pub cuisine done well.
After more people-watching, to which canal life lends itself well, we decided to treat ourselves to dessert.
I fancied the Cheshire cheese board at £6.50 but really wanted something sweet.
There were several options, all priced £5, including Cheshire ice cream, apple lattice and lemon cheesecake, but John and I both went for the traditional chocolate fudge cake with ice cream. Two generous wedges of warm, sticky chocolate cake arrived quickly, garnished with raspberries and strawberries, and we eagerly tucked in.
The journey home took half the time of the journey there and, despite nearly not making it, we plan to visit again.
Next time though, if we need reminding of the directions, we won’t be using the internet.
The Shady Oak, Bates Mill, Bates Mill Lane, Tiverton, Nr Tarporley CW6 9UE
Tel: 01829 730718
Total cost: £52.40. Food – £45.95 for three courses for two people, drinks – one large soft drink (£2.50) and a regular glass of wine (£3.95).
Best things: Countryside location, fresh, local food.
Worst thing: Address not fully recognised by internet direction sites.
Would suit: Those looking for good, honest pub grub in beautiful surroundings.
Wouldn’t suit: City slickers looking for posh nosh.