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Food & drink: Saucy but nice; taste test Roland Hughes at The Boot Inn, Northop.

Byline: Roland Hughes

P

ATIENCE, as monks and Everton fans would tell you, is a virtue. Seasoned restaurant diners could take a leaf out of their book too, if only to cope with some eateries' annoying habit of serving you at their own leisurely pace.

That was not the case here in Northop on a busy Saturday night, as the boot was strictly on the other foot. Despite the three of us being booked in at the Boot Inn for 8pm, the need to catch up with old times saw us arrive nearly 25 minutes late, I am ashamed to say. 'Don't worry, they're not strict about that sort of thing,' I was told by Marcus before heading off.

Maybe not, but the waitress showed remarkable restraint when we arrived at the packed dining room late, biting her tongue where others - myself included - would have been tempted to give an earful.

Her hurry to take our order was understandable since she was making up for lost time. Marcus, a resident of this parish, was more than familiar with the food at the Boot, but was willing to run the risk of never being able to show his face here again if we, his guests, were disappointed.

The Boot is a quaint enough pub on the even quainter Northop High Street, and is known to sometimes be frequented by footballer and Northop resident Michael Owen.

The trio of friends was completed by Christian, up from London and set to cancel out all the good work done in a recent triathlon. Marcus too was coming into this meal on the back of a long-term diet and only I, as a reaffirmed glutton and exerciseophobe, could scan the menu without much guilt.

Marcus had warned me before coming that the reputation of the food was 'a bit Barbara Windsor' - saucy, but nice The starters proved him right. Christian's garlic button mushrooms came in an ocean of white wine and cream, leaving a good half-pint of sauce at the end, and my king prawns piri piri came with shells on - a challenge at the best of times.

The prawns themselves were liberally covered in garlic, meaning you tasted only that while the spicy sauce lay at the bottom of the dish.

It had as much of a kick as I hoped when I moped it up with the bread later, but I would have appreciated having a finger bowl to hand instead of having to order one.

As for our dieter, he opted for the pork and chicken liver pate with redcurrant jelly - very smooth apparently, but half of it had to be left after the small portion of toast was eaten early on.

At our table, it was easy to see what was coming for our next course as the other diners were crammed in barely a metre away from us - here's hoping they didn't get any of the splashes from my blind attempts at de-shelling my prawns.

The Barbara Windsor theme continued with Marcus' topside steak with onions, bacon, mushroom and Guinness (the diet had by now gone out of the window). It all looked, and apparently tasted, extremely rich, and those who aren't keen on their food saucy-style may want to opt out of the Boot.

One glance at the menu shows brandy sauce, Guinness sauce, red wine sauce, mushroom sauce, pepper sauce, Madeira sauce and a white wine and lobster sauce.

The latter was my choice, coming over a huge salmon steak. Accompanied by sliced roast veg and potatoes cooked to your choice, it worked really well and was less rich than the other two's. Shame the wine and lobster sauces were both far too salty.

As for Christian, he had what looked like half of Northop's lamb population piled onto his plate in chops with a red berry sauce, which he said was very filling but perhaps more appropriate for a winter's night rather than a balmy July evening.

All was washed down with a bottle of a South African white wine between us, even if we had to ask the put-upon waitress for the wine list twice.

A brief break followed, and we all headed for the puddings. All the desserts did their job well - summer fruit meringue for me, strawberries and cream for Chris and spotted dick (back to the Carry On jokes) for Marcus.

Typical pub grub puds, but all faultless and very filling, if a bit on the expensive side - pounds 13.35 for the three.

The Boot is the kind of pub where you can, thankfully, recuperate from the heavy stuff at the restaurant with a pint round the front afterwards. The next triathlon and diet may need to be put on hold for a while though

the bill

king prawns pounds 6.25 garlic mushrooms pounds 4.95 pate pounds 5.25 lamb chops pounds 8.55 salmon pounds 8.75 braised steak pounds 8.55 desserts pounds 13.35 coffee pounds 4.50 wine pounds 9 beers pounds 6.90 total pounds 76.05

the verdict

food hearty, wintery fare... in July surroundings cosy, if a bit too cramped disabled access narrow entrance and little room to manoeuvre service polite and patient openning hours Tuesday to Thursday, noon-2pm; Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm-9pm overall does the job

The Boot Inn Northop01352 840247

CAPTION(S):

The Boot Inn... a quaint pub on Northop's even quainter high street
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 9, 2005
Words:903
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