AFTER a summer where the joys of eating out were taken away from us, cafes, pubs and restaurants are slowly but surely returning to some semblance of normal.
Our local eateries have worked hard and swiftly to get things up and running to provide the best service they can while adhering to the ever-changing guidelines.
Last week, we finally took the plunge and decided to get back out and enjoy a meal at The Engine Room in Eighton Banks.
Okay, it’s not technically Washington but it’s close enough and well within walking distance for those living in the west of the town.
Still unsure how to go about eating out – do we book, can we just turn up, do we need masks?…the questions were endless – we looked for a website and found there isn’t one, while the pub’s Facebook page isn’t too active so we picked up the phone and managed to secure a table a few hours later.
The Engine Room is billed as a ‘gastropub’ but we weren’t sure if we’d be met with limited menu, or how any of it would work. But we needn’t have worried.
On arrival, there is a book to leave your contact details along with a hand sanitising station and inside the tables are well spaced. It was a Friday afternoon and pleasantly busy – enough to have a nice buzz about it but not enough for any concern about getting too close to anyone.
Shown to our table we were handed our menus and discovered the whole range was on offer. From light lunches and sandwiches to salads, big meals and a kids menu, it was all there.
We started with beef chilli-topped nachos with salsa and sour cream (£6.45) and the classic prawn cocktail (£5.95).
The food arrived quickly. The prawn cocktail looked every inch the classic with a thinly sliced lettuce, piles of prawns, Marie Rose sauce, a wedge of lettuce, slice of egg and a slice of buttered brown bread.
It was very good. The sauce was thick and tangy and there was a lot of prawns – it’s definitely one of the best I’ve had.
The nachos, however, were something else. Topped with loads of cheese, the chilli was gorgeous – not at all hot in flavour – while the salsa had a lovely crisp and sweet flavour.
It was so delicious that if it was made in a larger bowl and packaged as a main course, I’d be in there at least once a week for it.
We were quite full before we’d even tried the mains, which arrived within five minutes of our starter plates being taken away.
After much contemplation we’d opted for the mince with a leek and herb dumpling served with mashed potato, vegetables and gravy (9.95) and the chicken parmo with béchamel sauce, skinny fries and mixed leaf salad (£11.95).
Keen to try the hand cut chips (£2.95), we also added a side portion to our order just to see what they were like.
The plates arrived piled high with stunning home-cooked food – and it quickly became apparent we didn’t need those extra chips!
The mince and dumplings is served in a large bowl, the dumpling covering a huge stack of tasty mince and onions, with a nice slab of mash and big pile of mixed veg – carrots, cabbage and peas – served on a plate with a gravy boat on the side.
It was fantastic. The dumpling was lovely and tasty with a slightly crispy top and softer inside. The mash was gorgeous, the veg was perfectly cooked and very fresh and there was simply loads of it.
More like a breaded chicken breast than the kebab shop favourite was the house parmo, available with Napoli or bechamel sauce. We went bechamel and neither the topping, crunchy exterior nor side of skinny fries disappointed, but while the chicken breast was cooked to perfection the lack of seasoning left something to be desired.
The chips were also fantastic but sadly they were a bit neglected, only because we couldn’t even finish the mains put in front of us.
The Engine Room is most certainly worth a visit. If you enjoy large portions of great, home-cooked food in a friendly, homely pub environment, this is the place for you. The prices are good, the quality is brilliant and the portions are incredible value for money.
You certainly won’t leave hungry.
*This article originally appeared in Issue 5 of Washington Way magazine. Prices correct as of August 2020.