Gill Paltridge eats out
On the evidence of the number of diners at ‘The Skylark’ on a wet Thursday evening and again on a Friday lunchtime, this is a place lots of local people choose to eat. Its location just off the motorway, across the road from the busy Chelston Business Park, adjacent to Westpark and not far from the new Cades Farm housing development is obviously in its favour. And the huge sign advertising Two for One meals probably has an impact!
The menu is wide-ranging. In addition to all the usual fare – steaks, scampi, battered cod and pasta dishes – there are the ‘specials’ – meat, fish, veggie and salad dishes on chalk boards. There are also ‘Mighty Meals’ for those with huge appetites and a considerable children’s menu which worthily boasts healthy eating options such as Crunchy Salad Sticks and a generous range of vegetables. Dishes are labelled if they are free from artificial colours and flavourings which could appeal to additive-conscious parents. As an additional bonus there is ‘Genius Bread’ on the menu – whatever that means?
In terms of its quality the food is sound. It is not haute cuisine – but then it doesn’t pretend to be. What is missing is the use made of local produce. The menu does include ‘West Country seafood lasagne’ which may well mean fish is delivered straight from Looe. What is also missing is the sense that the kitchen staff are planning and preparing their own dishes rather than those determined at Head Office, 150 miles away.
The Skylark is user-friendly for everyone including wheelchair users and buggy-pushers, so families of three or even four generations can dine together. Tables are well-spaced to allow some degree of privacy and easy traffic between them, which is not necessarily the case in older, more traditional pubs. Children can find a small play zone in the section specially designated as a family area.
The décor is unremarkable, although Marstons as a chain claims to create ‘distinctive inns with individual character and appeal’. The muted colour scheme and soft gold lighting seem to want to draw us back to the 1950s – or earlier – without making a definitive impact. The walls, though, display prints of old photographs of Wellington.
The drinks menu is limited in range but there’s something there to suit most drinkers’ tastes and, commendably, wine is available by the glass in three different quantities as well as by the bottle. Prices of wines are less eye-watering than in many restaurants. Sadly, in an area teeming with independent breweries, there are no local beers on offer.
It is, of course, the well-advertised ‘Two for One’ deal that makes The Skylark such good value. £20 will cover the average two course meal for two – including drinks. So, if you are looking for a reasonable plate of food that doesn’t stretch either your wallet or your palate uncomfortably, then it’s for you.