LET’S be honest, the Sparrowhawk at Fence has got a head start over many establishments given its idyllic location and attractive exterior.

Nestling in the Pendle countryside it has always been a dining pub well worth making the effort to go to.

But given the rise of gastro pubs all over East Lancashire and the plethora of dining options, I was intrigued to see if the Sparrowhawk could still hold its own.

We took a chance of going on a Friday night without booking ahead but, as it turned out, we didn’t need to worry.

There was a good natured crowd of locals enjoying a drink at the bar but the eagle-eyed staff were quick to spot us and find us a table.

The interior matches the exterior with solid furniture and major open fireplaces adding to the country pub feel. It was a warm evening so the fireplaces were merely decorative rather than practical.

There are choices aplenty a number of daily specials plus a separate two-course menu as well as the regular fare.

After much deliberation I went for the creamy chicken, ham and leek pie from the main menu (£12) while the better half was delighted to see one of her favourites, grilled lamb chops (£14).

There’s a nice relaxing atmosphere with a buzz of conversation from the bar competing with the background music.

Our mains certainly looked the part when they arrived. My pie was served with a wire basket of thick cut chips and a variety of veg. It was also swimming in a sea of gravy which actually turned out to be fine but I do have a thing about getting gravy and sauces in a separate jug so that I can control what goes where.

But that’s my only gripe. The pie had that pleasing handmade look to it with crimped edges and a proper top to it. And it was absolutely packed with tender meat - the ham and chicken working perfectly together and the pastry was light and well cooked.

It was a good job the better half was hungry, the two lamb chops must have both been about an inch thick, each served on crushed minted potatoes (or lumpy mash as I call it). I’m not a lamb lover but I’m told they were excellent by she who knows these things.

So far so good. The question was, should we have a pudding?

Now purely in the interests of research you understand, I forced myself to try the interesting sounding chocolate and raspberry brulée with honeycomb ice cream, (£5.50) while the better half opted for the plum fool.

Chocolate and raspberry is always a fine taste combination but I’d never sampled them as part of a brulée. The flavours worked well and it’s always fun to crack the top of a brulée to reveal the treats underneath.

An additional sprinkling of ginger cake lifted the dish even further although it may well prove too rich for some.

The plum fool was a delightful mixture of fruit, ice cream, cream and crushed meringue.

The sign of a good meal is that you are left with that pleasantly full feeling and that was certainly the case with us - to be honest I wasn’t overly hungry until well into the next day.

So from this visit it would seem the Sparrowhawk has still got what it takes. It’s relaxed and friendly and there’s a fine array of choices all reasonably priced. And the food tastes great which is really what it’s all about.