West Tower Country House Hotel and Restaurant, Ormskirk, Lancashire restaurant review

West Tower Country House Hotel and Restaurant, Mill Lane, Ormskirk L39 7HJ. 01695 423328. www.westtower.co.uk

West Tower Country House Hotel and Restaurant, Mill Lane, Ormskirk L39 7HJ. 01695 423328.


As you hurtle along the A59 between Ormskirk and Maghull, look out for a tower across the dual carriageway from Aughton village. That's West Tower, apparently built in the 1870s as a country residence for shipping magnate Lord Alfred Holt, who made his money from the Blue Funnel Line, sending cargo liners to China powered by a steam engine he invented himself. He had the tower built so that he could see his ships coming and going in the Mersey estuary.

This elegant country house was also the home of another distinguished gent, Alfred Chapman, a designer of sugar factories all over the world and a friend of the American painter Whistler (you might know of his mother). Chapman entertained musical and theatre stars of his day at West Tower, including Edward Elgar and the actor and impresario Henry Irving.

And now it's a popular hotel and restaurant which does a cracking Sunday lunch, three courses for �17.95 or two for �14.95. Through the unassuming entrance off the narrow lane there is plenty of parking in the grounds of the house, a ramp to the front door ensures accessibility, and inside the Victorian gothic entrance hall the atmosphere is calm and assured.

The split level restaurant is elegant, the tone set by white table cloths and plenty of period mirrors and chandeliers. Full length windows fill the room with light and provide views across the lawn to the fields beyond.

The fixed price Sunday lunch menu is reassuringly short, with five or six choices per course, including vegetarian, and a children's menu that would please Jamie Oliver (and most children). We started with saut�ed button mushrooms with garlic and basil cream (exquisite); pork and pistachio terrine with smoked tomato chutney (posh Spam, a compliment from the Spam lover), and melon balls and pineapple chunks (tingly on the tongue, according to the three-year-old).

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Main courses were roast loin of pork, with the perfect ratio of crackling to meat and a dollop of apple sauce in an edible pastry pot, showing the attention to detail that sets West Tower apart; I had roast rib of beef (great flavour and texture), and Rosa had salmon and broccoli fishcakes, which were perhaps a bit subtle for a three-yearold, especially with the amount of tomato sauce she demanded.

The puddings, autumn berry gateau, caramelised apricot tart and ice cream, were all light, fresh and tasty, the service was swift and assured, and the whole experience was a pleasure. The bill was �55.85 for two adults and a child, including pre-dinner drinks, bottled water and coffees, not bad for such confident cuisine in an elegant setting.

West Tower seems to be popular with family parties, but there were couples there too, and they have a programme of evening events in the coming months that includes music, comedy and a sportsman's dinner with Jan Molby. Something for everyone.

Andrew Hobbs

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