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A behemoth of a butty at this Broadgate food, drink and arts pub

The Conti’s conservatory looking out on to the beer garden

Next up in Preston’s Blog review series of eateries with outside seating is The Continental in South Meadow Lane in Broadgate.

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Now the only pub left in Broadgate, it’s survived by being the Doctor Who of Preston venues. From its fancy beginnings in 1911 as a parkside hotel and boathouse, it moved through such regenerations as a shabby boozer that mainly served surprisingly good French onion soup and unsurprisingly bad beer. Then as a bog-standard local with a children’s play hall that had the same welcoming vibe as The Overlook Hotel and featured a ball pool that smelt like a lonely school plimsole squatting in a dirty hamster cage.

It died a well-deserved death a few years after that, like Colin Baker’s dreadful version of The Doctor. Then it returned David Tennant style, as a roaring success and arts, craft beer and gastro pub. The beer garden was tastefully updated with hard landscaping and partitioned seating, the quality and price of beer went up and t-shirts went on, meaning customers dining al-fresco could enjoy their meals without an endless parade of male nipples lurching past their tables.

I took my mother Yvonne to have a go at some real ale and a meal on a Tuesday afternoon, and there were quite a few tables already occupied by 1.30pm. We decided to try two of their fruity offerings, and the bartender spent some time helpfully advising us on what they had to offer and letting us try some that were on tap. Yvonne chose a lemon and lime beer and I went for apple and ginger cider, both served with a stack of ice cubes because it was sweltering outside.

We ordered at the bar, and after an acceptable wait our food arrived. A starter of deep fried soft shell crab with spicy old bay sauce at £6.95 came first. It was hanging out on top of some crispy deep fried leaves and belatedly trying to hide under some crispy ‘seaweed’ and a wedge of lemon. There were only a few mouthfuls of crab and it was a little oily, but it tasted fine.

The Continental deep fried soft shell crab
“They’ll never find me under here”

The unusual sauce had a strong taste of nutmeg which, unfortunately, neither of us like, so the crab wasn’t lived up for us. However, anyone partial to that spice would enjoy the starter, and it was good to see a restaurant being adventurous by putting crab on the menu.

Yvonne ordered a hot Mediterranean seafood cocktail of prawns, mussels, salmon, squid rings and tentacles with a creamy cheese sauce, served in a warm crusty bread bowl at £7.95.

The Continental seafood cocktail in bread bowl
Yvonne found Nemo and the rest of the cast

It was less a bread bowl and more half a cob loaf, hollowed out and stuffed with the cast of Finding Nemo. The addition of a thick, cheesy sauce made it taste similar to a home-made fish pie, but with bread instead of mash. It was so substantial that anyone avoiding carbs could have eaten the inside and used the loaf as a hat for a pug, or a crash helmet for one of those big, glossy ginger dogs with the dangly ears and pointed heads that are always running into trees .

For the main course I ordered a homemade spicy marinated chicken burger topped with onion bhaji and mango and mint yoghurt at £11.95. The fries were hot and crispy but both the chicken and the bhaji were extremely dry, and couldn’t be saved by the yogurt dip.

The Continental spicy marinated chicken burger
Chips were good

When a waiter – the friendly and helpful TJ – came to ask if our meals were okay, I told him the issue and he apologized and took it back to the kitchen. He returned a few minutes later to tell us that he’d tried it and he agreed with me, offering to bring a new one or refund my money. Instead I asked him if we could order desserts and pay the difference, so we had another look at the menu.

There were several interesting items on there, but we followed our waiters’ recommendations and ordered lemon and coconut trifle at £6 for Yvonne, and amaretto bread and butter pudding at £6.50 for me.

The trifle was light and surprisingly sharp with plenty of lemon. The flavor of coconut was more subtle, and Yvonne suspected that it was a coconut sponge base. We didn’t see any of the dessicated coconut used by the odd people of the seventies to self-sabotage their trifles, so that was a relief.

My bread and butter pudding with cream was excellent, and it wasn’t a skinny portion, either, but as I didn’t have a main course I managed it fine.

The Continental bread and butter pudding with cream
Bread and butter pudding and a pint of cream

Although one of the meals was sent back the issue was dealt with well, so it wouldn’t dissuade me from returning. However, next time I’d order the seafood sandwich to share between two of us with a portion of chips. That would need to be another afternoon visit as the sandwiches aren’t available in the evening.

The menu wasn’t cheap for lunchtime, especially as there aren’t any offers, but more reasonable for an evening meal on a warm summer night. That’s when the large, lively beer garden with its well spaced seating and twinkling fairy lights comes into its own.

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