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? The Cock O'Barton.

Byline: Thalia Thompson

WE decided to sneak across the border from Wrexham into Cheshire for a birthday meal at the black and white timbered Cock O'Barton pub, Though it dates back to the 1300s, the interior today is a lively bar and smart restaurant, thanks to a revamp by the present owners.

It's a place wreathed in history - the inn's website says the name is thought to have come not from cockerel fighting, but instead the "cock horses" hired out to pull carriages. Oliver Cromwell supposedly took shelter during a Civil War battle nearby. PAST The evening we visited there was a good buzz in the bar. I knew as soon as I settled into the squishy sofa I was going to like this place and reading the menu confirmed my initial good impression. TESTS 5 Y MORFA, Good quality, nights (810267) CORN Stunning (01978 brunningandprice.56 HIGH excellent (01352 BLUE Style and There's just the right amount of choice on the menu, with six starters at around pounds 7, six puds at about pounds 6 and 12 mains (fish, five meat and two veggie) costing between pounds 13 and pounds 20. blueskybangor, THE mouth-castlewales.582800) There's a page of cocktails on the wine list, then a dozen or so wines available by the glass plus a good range of half and full bottles. As well as the usual beers, the pub offers a changing selection of local guest beers.

Starters were all very tempting and we chose the tasting plate, small portions of five of the starters to share.

This is a wonderful - and generously sized - showcase of what the kitchen can do. We enjoyed a meaty rabbit terrine, mussels in a smoky chorizo spiced broth, tangy goats cheese baked in a brioche crust, grilled vegetables with Parma ham and in-house oak smoked salmon.

The bread served with the starter was extraordinary - densely textured and delicious.

The waitress told us it was made by one of their chefs, the son of a Romanian baker, to his own country recipe. If your meal doesn't come with bread, it's definitely worth asking for it as a side order.

For main course my husband chose the lamb, pink and tender, with a creamily smooth celeriac puree, roast shallots and mustard sauce.

The roast shallots could have done with longer in the oven - they were still a little too firm but otherwise this was a flawless dish.

I had a juicy steak of baked cod with a punchy Welsh rarebit topping served with crushed potatoes flecked with parsley and sauted peppers.

I'd hoped I'd be hungry enough to finish with the plate of regional cheeses, chosen by Peter Papprill, the "cheese detective" from Gary Rhodes' TV programme.

But in the end we could only manage to order one chocolate fondant and two spoons. This was darkly delicious, with caramelised pistachios and rum and raisin ice cream contrasting well with the hot molten chocolate.

I never thought I'd end up writing about men's loos, but these do deserve a mention. The ladies are all very glam with oversized handbasins and ornate mirrors.

But - I'm reliably informed by my husband - the men's really play up to the rustic theme with strategically placed metal buckets, a trough for handwashing and pictures of cows on the walls A meal at the Cock O'Barton doesn't come cheap. But the standard of cooking means it's worth it for a special night out.

There's a good contrast between the buzz of the bar and the calm of the restaurant where it's all muted warm tones, exposed beams and soft lights. It's the sort of place where you can either wear jeans or get dressed up and be sure of an excellent meal.

We'll be back next time we've got a special occasion, and we might investigate the monthly 1234 night, where a set three course menu costs just pounds 12.34.

the bill sharing starter plate for 2 pounds 12.95 cod pounds 16.95 lamb pounds 17.25 chocolate fondant pounds 5.75 drinks pounds 9.25 total pounds 62.15 the facts open tuesday-saturday noon-9pm sunday noon-8pm. closed mondays. online booking available parking large free car park disabled access very good service enthusiastic and very friendly staff overall top choice for a stylish night out ? The Cock O'Barton, Barton Road, Barton, nr Farndon SY14 7HU (01829 782277 thecockobarton.co.uk) PAST TASTE TESTS TO TRY 5 Y MORFA, RHOSNEIGR Good quality, great comedy nights (ymorfa.co.uk, 01407 810267) CORN MILL, LLANGOLLEN Stunning setting (01978 869555, brunningandprice.co.uk) 56 HIGH STREET, MOLD excellent night out (01352 759225, 56highst.com) BLUE SKY, BANGOR Style and panache (blueskybangor, 01248 355444) THE CASTLE, CONWY mouth-watering menu (castlewales.co.uk, 01492 582800)

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The historic Cock O'Barton is a great choice for a stylish night out Pictures: STACEY ROBERTS
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 16, 2011
Words:809
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