But, sometimes when dining out you get that desire for something a bit more fancy. You know the sort of place with a glam feel, somewhere you can get dressed up for and feel it’s been worth the effort.
Every now and again you want a touch of extra special - a touch of glitz even, yet you can often be stuck for somewhere to go, unless you want to travel into the bright lights of Birmingham.
Luckily for those living in the Stourbridge area, the Lyttelton Arms has gone and had a revamp. And it’s back with a bang.
The traditional country-feel pub in the pleasant village of Hagley has got itself all dressed up and is rather fancy.
It’s been 10 years since the pub had a makeover - and that came about after a severe fire.
But this revamp was certainly worth the wait.
This pub shouts the wow factor from the minute you pull onto the car park.
Its spacious outdoor area has always been a plus point, especially for the summer months, but now the patio area has stepped up a notch, with new comfy seating, flourishing greenery and a pretty foliage arch giving a somewhat tropical feel. And it’s no doubt the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail on a warm summer night.
The transformation carries on inside the pub.
The bar area is plush with velvet fabrics in peacock blues and greens with attractive dimmed lighting, which gets my vote. Who wants to wine and dine in bright lighting? Subtle is good.
The feature bar takes centre stage with a green ceramic and jewel-finish while the sitting areas have a luxury lounge feel, featuring curved seating, upholstered booths and marble topped tables.
The drinks menu features cocktails galore and it would have seemed rude not to start our evening off with one before we moved into the dining area.
The plush decor continues from bar to restaurant, offering more glamour with fancy lighting, luxurious drapes, feature wallpaper and quirky artwork.
Small plates for sharing
So, what about the food? Is it as impressive as the decor myself and my friends wondered as we pondered the menu - which has also been given a makeover?
I’m a big fan of tapas-style dishes - not because I want to share my food (I’m not that generous!) but because I love to try as many dishes as possible. So I was pleased to see the menu features a range of small plates - yes, designed for sharing - and to be honest it was a perfect start to the dining experience.
There’s a mouth-watering selection to choose from, and after asking our helpful waitress for recommendations the three of us agreed on a serving of seared, wild Atlantic scallops with lobster and crab bonbons; chargrilled octopus and chorizo; tempura squid and also a serving of chicken skewers. Our eyes lit up when they arrived and I’m pleased to report they tasted as good as they looked.
As a seafood lover the dish of scallops caught my eye and proved a splendid choice.
The plump nuggets of salty sweetness were cooked to just the right side of firm - with a springy but tender texture without any rubbery quality which can come from overcooking. The subtle taste was complemented by a flavoursome, but not overpowering, garnish of lobster and crab bonbons with a silky pea and truffle oil sauce. We all agreed this was our favourite (and joked that perhaps we should not have shared this particular dish).
The tempura squid was a perfect sharing dish, although I would have preferred more squid and less batter. The octopus and chorizo dish was a hit (although not for my friend with a fear of tentacles) with its surf and turf taste offering a great mix of flavours, served in a pico de gallo salsa and smoked paprika.
For our main course we each plumped for a dish on the rotisserie and grill section of the menu. Again there are an adequate number of choices for main, and I opted for the rotisserie sticky glazed pork belly - which came with the option of being served with a portion of scallops. And yes it was greedy of me, but I just couldn’t resist having another serving, and I had shared the starter after all!
When the dish arrived, my immediate thought was that we should have only opted for one or two sharing dishes. For this was a very generous sized dish. An impressive sized piece of pork sat on top of tender and buttery mashed potato, along with roasted butternut squash, creamed corn - and even a slice of crispy crackling. The dish was a delicious hug on a plate. The pork was tender and succulent - but I had to admit defeat about two thirds of the way into the feast. My eyes were definitely bigger than my belly and I was keen to leave room for dessert!
Steak and lamb were the main course choices for my dining partners. My friend opted for fillet steak, served with chunky chips, caramelised onion and confit tomato. Her ‘mmmms’ matched her description of tender and tasty.
The four-bone lamb rack was the other main course, which made an impressive, glossy centre-piece served atop a firm chunk of garlicky dauphinoise potatoes with buttered green beans. A tangy minted jus added a traditional finishing touch.
Our helpful waitress advised us that the lamb was usually served pink, but even so my friend said she found it a little too rare for her liking. Despite, risking the crime of overcooking, she felt it would have better suited her taste prepared medium.
Room for dessert?
After our two-course feast we agreed we had a little room for desert, so what better to do than share one. Our eyes were drawn to the icon dessert platter on the menu. Three tiers featuring such sweet treats as passionfruit and caramelised fig, honeycomb ice cream, bruleed banana and fresh berries, blackcurrant mousse, almond macaroon and pecan praline ice cream.
It arrived not just on any bog standard cake stand, but a bird cage cake stand. It had the wow factor before we’d even savoured the first bite.
And I’m pleased to report the dish lived up to its expectations. The stand out favourites for me were the blackcurrant mousse with a biscuit base and mango puree, so light and so melt-in-your-mouth, and the passionfruit and caramalised fig, which was pure gooey fruity sweetness. The brownie and pecan praline ice cream also had the thumbs up from us. We agreed the dessert platter was heaven on a plate, well three plates to be precise.
A sumptuous evening was had by all. Great service, glam surroundings and delicious food. The Lyttelton’s makeover is a real treat for all the senses.
So get your gladrags on, it’s got to be cocktail hour somewhere in the world.