Restaurant review: Macdonald Tickled Trout & Scottish Steakhouse, Preston

Adam Lowe

The Macdonald Tickled Trout is a four-star hotel near the River Ribble, just on the outskirts of Preston. Ours was a stylish, understated room with plenty of space. Positioned just a couple of minutes from Junction 31 of the M6, it’s well placed for Blackpool, Manchester, the Trafford Centre and the Lake District. The ground floor of the hotel has recently undergone a £500,000 refurbishment, and it shows. When you enter, you’re greeted by understated style and grace: a polished tile floor, neat tartan carpet and two swooping leather booths either side of the door. Beyond: a trendy Costa Coffee lounge, leading into the restaurant.

The reception staff were superb and welcomed us with a minimum of fuss. This set the tone for the whole trip, with excellent service throughout. All the staff were well presented, very polite and always helpful.

Our hotel room was more than capacious enough for two. We had a writing desk, coffee facilities and a huge wardrobe. While our view of the motorway wasn’t anything special, you could always ask for a room facing the other way. We were especially impressed with the massive bathroom, which had a separate shower and bathtub (a hotel room with a bath is always a winner in my book). The suit seems perfect for couples and the beds were fantastically comfortable to boot.

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I’m fed up of sub-standard breakfasts, so you’ll be glad to hear the Tickled Trout doesn’t skimp (we can’t all live off coffee and pastries). Breakfast includes a range of cooked and continental options, which were very filling. We tried the full cooked breakfast and the omelette with cheese and ham, and these were great. There’s not much in the way of hot or cold veg at the breakfast bar, but the chef was more than happy to serve up some tomato on the side (a great way to inch closer to my macro goals for the day).

Food and drink

The in-house grill, Scottish Steakhouse, has a bovine motif and a spacious restaurant with tables and booths. Dappled cowhide walls and leather upholstery, set against the tartan carpets, present a very British, very smart restaurant with no doubt as to what’s on the menu. And although the 28-day aged beef is, of course, a mainstay, there are some great fish dishes and some Scottish sass added to the mix for something distinctive.

We started with rich, meaty haggis bonbons. These were described as nibbles, but they were large enough to have as a starter on their own. Nevertheless, we mulled over the menu while slipping these tasty morsels into our mouths, a nice glass of wine at the ready. Other nibbles include gluten-free rolls (win!), paprika and parmesan popcorn and a trio of stone-baked (gluten-rich) breads.

And what a menu it is! Though there are just a few well selected items for each part of the menu (steak, fish, nibbles, starters), I was keen to try everything. But, filling up on the bonbons, I decided I would have to show some restraint.

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The huge portions continued to arrive with the delicious fish platter. Gorgeous slivers of oak smoked salmon, hot kiln roasted salmon, pickled cucumber, capers, citrus creme fraiche and a tasty sourdough bread – it was a great serve. The mackerel pate was the winner here, and probably would work even on its own as a smaller starter.

At the other end of the scale, flavour-wise, was the fabulously sticky, gooey black pudding and mustard seed Scotch egg. A real comfort food, this and the haggis bonbons would probably satiate most people without need for a main – so consider sharing if you’re not a massive eater or order these with drinks if you just want to graze. The black pudding melted on the tongue, turning to darkly fabulous decadence in the mouth.

Other starters that stood out on the menu included a crip-crumbed goat’s cheese with pickled heritage beetroot (served with candied walnuts and compressed watermelon), hickory smoked baby back ribs with coleslaw (a main course option is available with skinny chips), Shetland mussels with a Thai-style coconut sauce, and the Scottish Steakhouse salad.

It was time to let our belts out a couple of notches and prepare ourselves for the mains. This was dining of epic proportions.

We tried the free-range pork cutlet with whiskey and maple syrup glaze, colcannon mash and wafer-thin crispy dry-cured bacon – which was superb. The blend of textures and flavours was great. Again, the portion size was magnificent, so there’s no doubt it’ll fill you up. The pork was a very tasty cut, with just enough of the slightly sweet fat to contrast the tender meat.

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We also tried the 200g fillet steak with grilled beef tomato and hand-cut chips, served with our choice of sauce on the side (bearnaise). The steak was well seasoned and succulent, and definitely worth a try. You could taste every one of those 28 days of maturity and it was another decent portion. The bearnaise was buttery and wholesome. Strangely, though, it still was edged out – ever so slightly – by the pork in the evening’s rankings.

Other mains inclue a seasonable vegetable, chickpea and almond tagine with lemon and herb couscous; pumpkin and parmesan tortellini with citrus butter, crisp safe leaves and toasted pine nuts; beer-battered haddock and hand-cut chips with garden peas and tartar sauce; and a free-range corn-fed chicken Kiev.

By this point we were so stuffed we didn’t have room for dessert. But fear not, we tried the Scottish Steakhouse in Manchester later in the week, which offered the same desserts, so you can read all about those there before the week’s out (spoiler alert: they were magnificent, and even outshone the mains).

With sizeable rooms, equally sizeable meals, and great connections across the North, Macdonald Tickled Trout is a fine choice for business travellers and holidaying couples alike.

For more information, visit the Macdonald Tickled Trout website.

Macdonald Tickled Trout, Preston New Rd, Samlesbury, Preston PR5 0UJ

About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people. He sometimes performs as Beyonce Holes.