With Yuletide shopping in full swing nothing beats taking the weight off legs aching from navigating the throng-bound malls and sitting down to tuck in to an early Christmas lunch.
There can be no better setting for a festive feast than a good old fashioned pub steeped in history. So look no further than Wrexham’s renowned Horse and Jockey.
For the visitor to North Wales, the sight of a thatched roof pub on the high street scene, or Hope Street to be precise, may seem incongruous.
But Wrexhamites are well versed in the Jockey’s cosy interior.
You can smell the past beneath some splendid timber roof beams and the maze of bar, lounge and snugs is very sociable.
The Horse and Jockey takes the honour of being the only surviving thatched property left in Wrexham and dates back to the 16th century, when it was probably built as a hall house – a residence based on a large room without a ceiling.
It was named in honour of a champion jockey Fred Archer, who sadly killed himself aged 29, grief-stricken over the death of his child and wife.
But the atmosphere in this busy town centre pub is far from gloomy and the service is speedy, just like Fred was on the saddle, no doubt, when notching up more than 2,700 wins during his short life.
You can’t go wrong with Christmas dinner you might think but you would be wrong there.
There are many who have pre-booked meals at far more glitzier venues than this one, only to be left hugely disappointed by the fare on offer, nay even angry enough to vent their spleen on TripAdvisor.
It was only last week that a good neighbour of the family was contemplating a seasonal savaging of a swanky local eaterie.
But why even bother booking for Christmas dinner when you can pop into somewhere as convivial and traditional as the Horse and Jockey at a moment’s notice?
Everyone is catered for on the festive menu and with my growing stomach line in mind I opted for the two-course option, although I could have kicked things off with a choice of soup of the day, pate with hot toast or prawn cocktail.
My turkey roast proved to be a very heaped offering, with plenty of vegetables and some pigs in blankets.
It may have been already coated in gravy, but just to be on the safe side a gravy boat was delivered alongside some cranberry relish.
I was not alone enjoying my Christmas meal; all the tables were full and the happy chatter of festive plans mingled with the day-time TV, while regular drinkers took stock in the bar.
In many ways pubs like the Horse and Jockey are time warped in the 1970s and 1980s, but that is no bad thing in these uncertain modern times.
They do quite admirably what they say on the tin and I didn’t expect any dramas from my Christmas pud and brandy sauce either.
There was caramel apple pie, cheese and fudge cake to choose from too, but you can’t beat a succulent pudding and it didn’t disappoint.
It is great value too, with two courses setting you back just £9.50 and the three courses at £12.50.
Washed down with a guest ale the whole experience is sheer perfection and well worth racing a few furlongs away from the shops for.
How it rated:
Horse and Jockey, Hope Street, Wrexham. Tel: 01978 351083
Ambience – 10/10
Service – 9/10
Food quality – 9/10
Children welcome – yes
Disabled access – yes