It was one of those evenings where it felt as though driving down Caerwys’ country lanes was a reenactment of a biblical flood, but in a Yaris rather than an ark.
The Piccadilly Inn stood like a luminous gateway between the windscreen wipers, boasting warm faces and the jovial clinking of glasses through its windows.
I silently praised myself for picking the only pub in the area where it’s possible to park no more than three steps from the door, I’ll be bringing my elderly grandmother for sure.
Perhaps our appreciation of the comforting interior was heightened by the storm outside, but one of if not the most noteworthy aspect of visiting this old inn is its authentic and rustic country style.
Although the centrepiece of the bar, a large log burner, was unfortunately unlit, the time it took my dad to drink his birthday Guinness he’d ordered on draught - kudos from a male perspective, I’m told - was enough for me to wander round the bar and restaurant and peek at the old hunting boots on the windowsill, the deer artwork on the high walls and the stuffed game and deer heads hanging like country gargoyles.
We were then asked - if not slightly rushed - to the eating area, but in fairness I had booked an impromptu meal at 8.30pm on a week night, so I thanked the waitress for accommodating us at such short notice.
My eclectic choice of ginger-beer to drink and seared swordfish as a main was oddly enjoyable and frankly I didn’t get a chance to sample my dad’s braised feather blade of beef because his porcelain plate was cleared shortly after I’d finished seasoning my own vegetables. A good sign, I take it, as was his satiated smile and nod of approval at the swordfish he’d tried from my plate.
This is where my tendency to compartmentalise my food proved annoying - starting with the peppers, mangetout and potatoes to ‘get rid of the boring ones was a mistake, as the tender swordfish was slightly cooled by the time I reached the ‘best bit’.
Nonetheless, the vegetable sauce resembled sweet chili, my favourite relish, and diverged from the ordinarily bland garden vegetable side dish. As a keen pescetarian, I’m glad something other than salmon and mash was on the menu.
The team of staff had the ‘I’m here but I won’t get in your way’ vibe, and after we politely declined desserts, I resorted to hovering outside the staff area for no more than a minute, out of my dad’s view, holding a chocolate cake in a box with candles.
“No problem,” beamed the waitress and fair play, she came in five minutes later holding the fire hazard – I’ll omit the number of candles for my dad’s modesty – and led the nearly empty restaurant into a modest chorus of Happy Birthday.
If the biggest fault of the evening was that I asked for lemonade with my orange, not water, then there is much to be said about this little countryside gem. The food was perfectly homey yet oozed standard, and as a local, I know during game season, they certainly get their ‘game’ on.
To avoid the minor drink error, next time I’ll order a glass of their specialty Boo’s Mulberry Gin rather than an orange, to help digest their upcoming four course Christmas menu.
No doubt we’ll be back again soon this winter, where the log burner will hopefully be blazing, the ambience of Christmas in the countryside floating across the beams, and the roomy bar filled with happy punters as it’s known to be of a weekend.
Oh, and with no change nor the card machine’s ability to add a tip, the serving staff were more than happy to recompense with birthday cake.
The Piccadilly Inn, Caerwys. Tel: 01352 720284
Food quality: 8/10
Children welcome: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
See full story in the Chester Leader