35 Valley Road, Barlow S18 7SL. Tel: 0114 289 1111. Closed Mon. Open Tues-Sun from 12pm. Closes 9pm weekdays, 10pm weekends, 4pm Sun. Children’s menu. Early bird menus Tues-Fri. Music. Credit cards. Car park. Web: www.tickledtroutbarlow.com
Gosh, is someone in a hurry? Milliseconds after taking our table at the new Tickled Trout in Barlow a waiter arrives bearing plates.
Goody, nibbles we thought but they were the starters.
Then we were asked twice in four minutes if we were enjoying the food and after eight a waiter advanced stealthily to clear away.
Not ready chum. When I pay a ballistic £9.50 for six arancini (risotto fritters) I want to savour every mouthful.
Afterwards I tell owner-chef Chris Mapp I am mad about his food but not so crazy about his prices.
As arancini goes they were wonderful: crisp cubes of deep-fried rice oozing with mascarpone and parmesan. If I were a mouse I’d have died and gone to heaven.
Then, to add to the luxury, you could dunk them in a truffle mayonnaise.
Chris, a former occupant of high end kitchens such as the Greenhouse, Marcus Wareing’s Petrus and Paul Ainsworth’s Number 6 at Padstow, puts up a stout defence of his pricing.
He uses the best canaroli rice, lots of cheese and that’s real truffle in the mayo as well as oil.
To be fair, you are likely to remember your meal here as much for the loud and clear flavours as the giddy prices.
We paid, with drinks and coffee, £78.80, rather a lot for a village pub.
But it isn’t your typical rural boozer any more.
Chris, aged 39, who has always cooked away from home territory, has thrown a lot of money at the old Trout but then his dad is Derek Mapp, businessman and founder of the former Tom Cobleigh pub chain.
There’s a sleek bar with windows through to the kitchen (the view is of the less than glamorous sink and pizza station) and at one end there is a new conservatory restaurant seating 50.
A staircase with lit treads leads to an upstairs glass-walled private dining room and extremely swish toilets.
I had almost as much fun using the space-age Dyson Air Blade Tap Hand Drier as eating the food.
There’s an amusing cartoon trout motif everywhere – seen riding a scooter or lounging in a rowing boat – but, curiously, there’s no trout dish on the menu itself.
The menu has an Italian theme and when I first read it I groaned. This country is so awash with pizza and pasta it’s as if the Romans never left.
But these are posh pizzas, made from sourdough (anything above a Margherita starts at £11) and equally posh burgers (from £14) with pulled beef instead of pulled pork.
And, of course, there’s garlic bread.
“The Best Tomato Bread” says the menu modestly but then it is £5.25. My wife cancels her first choice of aubergine caviar for one because we should at least try what the pizzas are like, if in a roundabout way.
In fact, it’s about the only thing not sourdough. It arrives as a thick roundel which looks heavy and chunky but is in fact light and airy. There is plenty of tomato, garlic and chilli but for the money it needs prettying up.
Our mains arrive pronto. When customers are spending decent spondulicks waiting staff should realise they like to linger over their meal. At least this one does.
My blackboard special of chicken with pesto and farfalle, that butterfly pasta, sounds routine but isn’t.
The meat tastes cluckingly good because the bird has been brined and confited before the flesh is picked and shredded.
The pasta is cooked to the right point, soft but not mushy, and pieces of tomato add bursts of sweetness. It’s a bargain at £9.50.
My wife’s main course is twice that and then some.
It’s a very precisely cooked piece of turbot with mussels in a mussel and lemon broth with tiny macaroni. She loves the flavours.
Now even if we hadn’t been told Chris has this fisherman mate in Cornwall who delivers fish caught that day to high-end restaurants such as Michelin man Sat Bains in Nottingham we’d have thought it excellent. It is £18.95.
Chris, who is back in the restaurant trade after a career break as an osteopath, is a pastry chef by profession and, on the strength of a splendid tart tatin, a very good one.
It has to be ordered for two, unless you have a very large appetite and a very sweet tooth. It is gorgeous, the softest of fruit on crisp pastry bathed in a toffee apple sauce and served with ice cream and clotted cream.
It’s £10 and goodness knows how many calories.
Our bill for food came to £53.20 and I could not fault the quality or the care so evidently taken.
A 500ml carafe of house white was £13, pre-dinner G&T £5.30, orange juice £1.95 and coffees made it nearly £80.
If they must charge £2.85 for an Americano it really ought to be a proper one and have a crema.
Slow down the service, chip away some of the prices and this place is thoroughly recommended.