In a previous post, I may have mentioned (once or twice) that it was my Mum’s birthday a couple of weeks ago – and in case you didn’t read that post, you can conveniently find it on the Boozy Bunch website! So in celebration of this I decided to pop back up to my hometown and visit the family for a good old fashioned birthday tea. All those that come from up North will be more than aware of the birthday tea – mismatching crockery, emergency chairs and mums running round like headless chickens making sure you’re eating enough green veg.
But this time was different. This time was a special occasion, which means… going out for tea! Dad putting his hands in his pockets! Sister pre-warning the children to be on their best behaviour! Mum fretting over which scarf is the more fancy one to wear! Me sat in a corner nursing several drinks and pretending I was somewhere far, far away! Well, that’s the usual formula for a family meal out. But to make that special effort, we all put on our best attire and popped along to the newly refurbished gastropub nearby.
The Red Fox in Thornton Hough, The Wirral, is one of those beautiful looking country pubs that seems warm and inviting, almost beckoning you in with an open fire and welcoming smile. We happened to go on a cold, windy, crisp evening, which for me conjures up all those images of British winter – going for a bracing walk before returning home to cosy up with a hot chocolate or mulled wine.
We were welcomed inside with all the typical Xmas festive cheer that you can find in British countryside – the staff with Xmas hats on, locals sitting there laughing and joking – even the kids in our family were in a good mood (this does not happen often, they are moody teenage boys after all!). So we all sat to celebrate the birthday of the Perks family matriarch. You can tell that the Red Fox has been fairly recently renovated, it still has that crisp and sharp feeling that so many country pubs often lack – they get a bit familiar & a bit run-down. Now don’t get me wrong, more often than not this adds character and a real essence of the great British traditional heritage that we cling on to so fervently. But for a special occasion, you want somewhere that feels a bit more special and the Red Fox is that next level up in pub fayre.
The menu was fairly typical in British pub grub – my northern family looked at the prices and inhaled slightly, I have to admit. Main courses ranged from £11 – £17, which for us Londoners is pretty standard in pub grub but in the North is a special occasion. Speaking of special occasions, the birthday treat meant that Dad was even willing to pay for 3 courses! Well we weren’t gonna miss out on this rare opportunity. For starters, I plumped for a smoked venison with beetroot, orange and pickled mooli salad and a sloe gin jelly. The venison was earthy and rich, perfect as a winter starter (my criticism will always be give me more, even in a starter!). The salad had (as expected) some refreshing citrus touches, frankly the mooli wasn’t needed and was a bit pompous for the venue in my opinion. The sloe gin jelly did not deliver, again another attempt at being fancy for no true value (style over substance in food is a pet peeve of mine). The rest of the family went for a sharing charcuterie board, which was a good size for 4 people. As you’d expect, some cured meats and chutneys, with some lovely pickles in the salad to add tartness. For me, the more pickles the better, so of course I had to help myself to a couple – well it’s called a sharing board!
Onto mains, which as you’d expect from a Northern pub were meat heavy. Fine with me. Now I’m normally happy with my meal choices, but I got some serious food envy here. I was planning on going with lamb shoulder, which is probably my favourite meat for a roast. But I also have this compulsive need to not get the same food as anyone else (then you can try bits of everyone’s food) and when Mum starting salivating onto the menu upon spotting the lamb, I quickly altered my food choice. Panic choosing, I went for chicken – celeriac puree and tarrgon jus. Shame, a jus in a pub is just not as appetising as a thick Northern gravy. Poor choice Daniel.
The lamb did look very succulent, so naturally I had a taste. I prefer my lamb a bit pink, but for mum and the family it was perfect – fell off the bone, melt in your mouth with a lovely layer of fat to add to that warm, fuzzy feeling that you get from a really pleasing roast (and also a lot of wine).
2 courses down, what next? Dessert of course! Strangely for me I wasn’t in a chocolate mood (this does NOT happen) so plumped for a cheese board to share with dad. Now cheese is a very subjective thing I find. Personally, I don’t want to eat cheese that is growing other organisms, so blue cheese and similarly mouldy alternatives are a no-no for me. Give me soft, give me strong but don’t give me mould. Dad on the other hand is completely the opposite, which makes us perfect cheese partners. Give me the Appleby’s Cheshire (crumbly and strong) and throw the Blacksticks Blue to Dad, split the chutney and Bob is your uncle (even though he’s actually my brother-in-law’s dad). The ladies were of course refusing desserts (“it’s too much, I couldn’t possibly eat anymore!”) but were more than happy to dig into chocolate birthday cake when that came along (the other reason for me not ordering chocolate for pudding, it helps to be in the know!).
All in all, we laughed, we ate, we drank and we behaved like a relatively normal family. Did Mum enjoy her birthday meal? I’ll leave you with this last photo and you can make up your own mind.
The Red Fox
Liverpool Rd, Thornton Hough, Wirral, Merseyside, CH64 7TL
0151 353 2920