A hot day and a decent Sunday lunch in Whiston evoke memories of another era.
1976 was the summer to beat all summers.
The one to which all others will be compared for that golden-fried generation and the one that comes to mind any time that Ambre Solaire-tainted set sits outside a pub in the sun.
So it was at the Golden Ball at Whiston on Sunday afternoon where memories of being baked alive for fun came shining back.
A large 1970s-style car park opposite the pub ie one with lots of cars in it, outside seats aplenty and a cool shady bar with low, beamed ceilings, whitewashed walls and good beer.
Life can be so damn good at times.
But being more enlightened than the 1970s sun-seekers of old we opted to eat inside – at least for the first two courses.
So what about the Golden Ball on this golden day?
Built in 1891, a traditional pub with a new-fashioned understanding that food and real ale are the way forward thanks to parent company the Vintage Inns chain.
It is set in the historic village of Whiston with it’s Domesday Book mention of 1086, and its 13th century Manorial Barn.
We were drawn by word of its village setting and good reputation locally.
First impressions are very good. It would be hard for it to look anything but great on a day like this.
We are given a choice of being waited on in the restaurant or ordering for ourselves at the bar, the menu is the same, explained our greeter. We go for the serviced option.
I had a pint of Black Sheep beer, solid and reliable, and my son had a Coca Cola.
For starter I went for the baked Somerset brie and red onion marmalade brulee with celery and crusty bread.
Joe chose the lamb koftas - spicy minced lamb chargrilled on a cucumber, tomato, onion and mint salad with garbanzo dip made from chick peas and olive oil flavoured with turmeric and cumin.
The lamb was the better choice.
Tasty, meaty skewers of spiced lamb with a substantial dip.
My Brie was OK, the onion marmalade very good - more of it would have helped and the bread good, but not exceptional.
For main course Joe went for traditional fish and chips - even when we were told there was no cod or haddock and that pollock was the ‘sustainably sourced’ fish of the day.
Pollock is fine in batter. It doesn’t have the creamy white flesh of the big two or the meatiness of cod but it generally tastes good.
The batter was super-crunchy which suits me but according to my dining partner the fish inside was a bit on the dry side.
He also asked for the triple cooked chips instead of regular but thought them less than exceptional.
I had the vintage Sunday roast platter, described as ‘prime rump of roast beef, roast breast of turkey and herb crusted loin of sweetcure pork, with stuffing and pigs in blankets’ - a fancy Sunday dinner to you and me.
It’s good hearty fare with Yorkshire pudding that could have done with some salt or meat juices to perk it up a bit, thick, tasty gravy and tender beef, succulent turkey and a couple of slices of melt-in-the-mouth but very salty pork.
Vegetables were served separately and included potatoes roasted in beef fat and roast parsnips which were nicely caramelised plus carrots, peas and cabbage and all enhanced by a decent glass of Casa Lejano Chilean merlot.
Behind us an old lady was regaling her granddaughter at volume with tales from her past but when she got to the good bits the girl kept shushing her hard-of-hearing granny so unfortunately we missed the juicy detail.
Manager of the Golden Ball is Janet Murphy, from Dublin, who has been in the job two weeks.
“I was here for a year two years ago so I know the place and I like it very much,” said Janet.
“Sunday is popular and so are Wednesday nights – pie night, especially for the beef rib pie we do and there are always three others to choose from.
“I have been living over here for 11 years now and I have to admit that Rotherham’s night life doesn’t compare to Dublin but I like it here.”
Janet also mentions that the most popular desserts are peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake and the cherry bakewell panna cotta – which was exactly what we ordered.
The cherry Bakewell panna cotta works well, the crunchy amaretti Bakewell crumb packs a good hit of almonds and the panna cotta’s cherry compote centre is excellent. You wouldn’t think the raspberry jam sauce would go with all that but somehow it does.
The cheesecake has toffee and peanut butter, is topped with chocolate and peanuts, cream and dulce de leche (thickened, sweetened milk).
It’s very good but whenever I have a peanut butter dessert I’m slightly disappointed it doesn’t taste more of peanut butter.
Maybe I should buy a jar and sit in the car park with a spoon and dream of summers past.
Didn’t we used to use peanut oil to tan with back in the day...?
For three courses, a pint of Black Sheep, a Coca-Cola and a large merlot our bill came to £46.72.
Star ratings out of five:
Category: Pub chain
* The Golden Ball Inn, Turner Lane Whiston, Rotherham, S604HY, Tel: 01709 726911
* Open noon to 11pm Monday to Saturday, noon to 10.30pm Sundays