Half local boozer, half sophisticated restaurant, few gastropubs manage the yin and yang of pints and plates quite as well as The Pelican. The bar is abuzz with merriment when we arrive, but down a little flight of stairs is a tranquil and rather beautiful dining room. The decor is minimal, but little touches bring it to life - dried flowers hang from the skylight, wooden furnishings are pleasantly worn and as the sun goes down, candles on the tables cast little flickering shadows across the room. A mirror on the back wall broadcasts the specials - big sharing steaks, seasonal delights, and an outrageous lobster and monkfish pie with lobster head gravy (more on that later).
Head chef Owen Kenworthy brings a wealth of experience from the likes of Brawn, Primeur and Western’s Laundry, and The Pelican brims with the joyful spirit of all those restaurants. The cooking is robust, intelligent and brilliantly executed. Case in point, the aforementioned pie - a huge, burnished, flaky puff pastry pie, with big chunks of lobster tail and meaty monkfish, bound with a rich, lobster head bisque. It’s advertised for two but easily feeds three or four, and at £60, that’s a pretty accessible way to enjoy lobster.
A Tamworth pork chop is similarly well-cooked - just shading on rosy-pink in the middle, and paired with a soothing parsley sauce and a caramelised apple. Sweet, juicy marinated tomatoes join the fray with a rebuttal of salty Lancashire cheese, and then there’s the mince on toast - griddled sourdough, generously topped with a heft of braised mince and cheese. Lest we forget, the smoked new potatoes, which we would order three times over.
A compact cocktail list does a great job with classics, whilst the wine list leans towards the new world and is admirably priced.
Desserts, by comparison, feel like a bit of an afterthought - a slice of cheesecake with strawberries was totally acceptable, but didn’t quite live up to earlier standards. No-one is expecting patisserie here, but a little more invention in the sweet department would push The Pelican into top tier territory. Or, just don’t leave room for dessert.