Though the ‘gastro-pub’ concept has been successful in Sydney for many years, for me this particular kind of dining only feels right when in England. Having travelled to England numerous times throughout childhood to visit family, there are a number of strangely nostalgic things I particularly associate with and only really love when in England – biscuit jars, supermarket coleslaw, football games and pub restaurants among them. Having been awarded Marstons North West Food Pub of the Year and Wigan Food Festivals Restaurant of the Year 2011, plus the fact that they strive to use locally sourced produce, The Dicconson Arms was a must during my latest visit.
Low ceilings with dark wooden beams, mullioned windows and padded leather chairs give an Olde English feel, further reflected in the menu which focuses on traditional pub fare, though including enough modern twists to stay interesting.
Garlic bread is served on thick white chiabatta rubbed with dried mixed Italian herbs, and topped with a generous heap of semi dried tomatoes. This item is usually served with ‘melting brie’ too, though we ordered it without.
I try some of my Aunties chicken livers and though these aren’t really my thing, they are cooked tender and swamped in a rich, flavorsome gravy atop a thick square of soft wholemeal bread. The wilted baby spinach gives a slight reprieve from the richness of the other components.
The rather un-fabulous pub lighting didn’t do this dish much justice, and the slow cooked veal was a little chewy rather than meltingly soft as I’d hoped, but the mild moroccan spiced flavor pairs well with the sweet stewed fruit and fluffy herbed cous cous.
The lamb was excellent, pink and super tender. The cabbage, served warm but retaining crunch, tasted strangely like Brie – maybe due to the butter?
Normally I’m hesitant to order chicken at a restaurant as I feel like it’s something I can easily just eat at home, though here I had no regrets – this was truly amazing. The Dicconson Arms is in an area called Appley Bridge, and my Auntie and Uncle inform me that Goosnargh is an area a mere 20 minutes away, so this dish is a fine example of their emphasis on local produce. A few dishes on the menu use Goosnargh chicken and I can see why, as it is delicious. The tender, meaty chicken breast was perfectly cooked and oh so morish with a peppery seasoning and sweet, almost syrupy red wine reduction, thickened with orange tinted oil from the smoky chorizo – a wonderful accompaniment and very generous serve. The one downfall of the dish was the sweet potato, which was slightly undercooked and therefore left behind.
I try a corner of coriander naan and it’s a little dry and tough, and Skye reports that the curry itself is also dry, with the same undercooked sweet potato issue as my dish. I was impressed by the varied range of veg options on the menu for a pub, but this one was a miss.
The sticky toffee pudding is as a towering chunk of dense sponge with a distinct butterscotch flavor, though for me this dessert is never complete without dates, and both Skye and Uncle Phil feel that it is a touch dry and in need of more sauce. The berries didn’t really add anything and were quite uneccessary, but the essential vanilla ice-cream was forgotten by the waitress, though we quickly remind her and it is brought out;).
This dessert was much more my scene – a warm, dense treacle tart filling with slight grainy texture from the breadcrumbs is enhanced by the addition of dried figs with their already treacly undertones and buttery nuttiness from the chopped walnuts, all lining a thin, biscuity shortbread case. Again I found the berries redundant, and the scoop of ice-cream was chocolate flavored which was strange – vanilla or caramel ice-cream would have been much better suited.
My cousin Daniel is 26, though he enjoys his childlike ice-cream sundae.
The Dicconson Arms was a very fitting destination for dinner with the fam one night in Wigan, satisfying my sense of nostaligia and, more importantly, my tastebuds;).