PLAYING sport really sets you up for a good meal — and even just watching sport can have the same effect in the right surroundings.
The Prairie Sports Village fits the bill in every way, living up to its name by being a wide open space for the sporty to enjoy, as well as looking after the sporty spectator with a rather splendid bistro and bar.
On the face of it, a golf driving range and short game area — even a bang up to date one with the latest technology and a good few other bells and whistles — doesn’t sound like a magnet for foodies, but a great bit of teamwork is making the Village in Burnley a breakfast and lunchtime dining destination in its own right.
Burnley Leisure, led by head of operations Neil Hutchinson, really thought things through when they launched the £2.5m centre in partnership with the local council.
Too often, sporting and other leisure venues try to set up their own in-house cafe/restaurant as an add-on, when their real expertise lies in their core pursuit. This can lead to ordinary food and service at best, but there was no way the Village was going to fall into that trap, so they hooked up with a local family business called Simply Classic — a name which pretty well sums up what is on offer at the bistro.
The top-notch catering business also has a popular bistro at the Grade II listed Burnley Mechanics entertainment complex in the centre of town, offering lunch and pre-theatre dining, so they have a well-honed system and experienced staff to look after all aspects of Village vittles.
Table duly booked, we took a tour to look at the featured 16-bay golf practice range with power tees and Quest Golf Academy coaching facility with the latest technology including a golf simulator and (for those in the know) a GC2 launch monitor and V1 swing analysis software so players can track their results and up their game.
The short game area features a putting green and chipping green with bunkers; and the latest addition is a landscaped nine-hole mini golf course, inspired by famous golf holes around the world, with twists and turns, slopes and bridges to keep you on your toes.
For watchers and players, there’s also an FA-accredited 3G football pitch and multi-use activity studio as well as a couple of flexible conference, meeting and celebration suites.Rooms can be used for dinners as well, which is where Simply Classic come back into the picture with their on-point experience.
But back to lunch and a selection of familiar sounding bistro favourites — a range of classics with a bit of class, like handmade pies, burgers and hot and cold sandwiches, daily specials and a good selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free items, plus other dishes with an extra twist of quality.
A great litmus test of any bistro-style eatery has to be a straightforward club sandwich, because if you get a decent one, it’s a fair bet that the kitchen will be on track with the rest of their offerings. It was no surprise that mine was better than just good, it was outstanding, with carved ‘real’ chicken and freshly-grilled bacon on my choice of toasted brown artisan bread.
One lunch companion tackled a substantial baked potato with marie rose prawns, while two other friends went the ‘hot wok’ route. First, they chose their protein (beef strips, king prawns, chicken or just veggies), then they chose their sauce (sweet chilli; mango, lime and chilli; sweet and sour; or soy, ginger and honey), then went for rice or medium egg noodles, all freshly cooked to order.
Happy, happy diners, with almost a round of applause when we finished, especially after the rather indulgent desserts chosen by the ladies of the party, who decided that the syrup sponge was too good to miss and the healthy option should be left to sports enthusiasts.
The package was rounded off with some very reasonably-priced and very drinkable wine by the glass for the non-drivers, and there wasn’t too much of a hole in the wallet — every main item was less than £9 and you could add a few sides and extras without feeling too guilty.
Service was spot-on, too, so the whole experience was a credit to both Simply Classic and Burnley Leisure.
The golf, with a bit of target plinking, does have an appeal, but the walk from the car park to the bistro is certainly an exercise worth repeating.