And just as most of them start to get up and running, comes a cost of living crisis meant to make people think twice about how they spend every penny.
So as we headed to Fat Italian on a blustery early Wednesday evening, we expected a leisurely meal with only a handful of other hardy souls venturing out.
The large car park behind the restaurant was the first clue – we had trouble finding a space – even at 6:15 p.m.
Then, as we walked towards the entrance, we saw two other groups of people heading in the same direction.
Opening the door we were greeted with that wonderful smell of garlic so synonymous with Italian restaurants, a smiling manager – and a restaurant packed with people of all ages enjoying themselves.
The Fat Italian turns out to have some fantastic lunch and early evening meal deals, including any pizza or pasta dish for £8.95 before 6pm – that’s a cost of the life the whole family can enjoy!
But it’s one thing to lure people into a deal and another thing to keep them coming back again and again the way they do, judging by the conversations people around us have.
All of a sudden we realized we were almost certainly in for a treat – and it turned out.
Despite the busy view in front of us, we were quickly shown to our table with a few menus and immediately offered drinks as we perused them and the nearby specials board.
Take a look inside Preston’s Geek Retreat cafe and game store, an exciting new addition…
The drinks came quickly too and the waitress came back within five minutes who promised to take our order.
We chose to start with a garlic bread and tomato to share with scallops and chorizo from the special menu for me and mussels with shallot, garlic, white wine and cream for my husband Bob.
The large scallops were cooked perfectly and melted in the mouth, with the chorizo adding spiciness and saltiness, but not overpowering the delicate shells.
Across the table, the mussels were a big hit and the creamy white wine sauce merged with the jus to provide a wonderfully fishy soup, perfect for dipping the crusty bread that had accompanied the dish.
The tomato and garlic bread was not necessary, but tasted good and was an indication of the quality of the pizzas served here.
So far so good and as we watched plate after plate of delicious treats make their way to the tables around us, we hoped we had chosen just as well for our main courses.
For me it was Mediterranean sea bass – two huge grilled fillets, served with sautéed cherry tomatoes, chorizo, red onions and spinach, a red pesto vinaigrette and a balsamic reduction. The fish was excellent and the red pesto and balsamic made a great sauce. A dish full of al dente vegetables and some potatoes with skin on the side made this a hearty dish and decent value at under £20.
For Bob, it was the chicken supreme on the specialty board. A braise, on the bone brisket and lamb stuffed with mascarpone, leeks and chives, served on a bed of broccoli and spicy carrot sauce. A portion of fries was requested but wasn’t really necessary – although he did his best with them as they were too tempting to leave!
We had no room for the free pudding or liquors provided by the excellent staff. They never missed a beat despite full tables and a steady stream of diners as soon as some left.
The food was excellent and there are great value options, making it the perfect place for everything from a meal for two to a party. We were a little too late for the early dinner offer so our bill came to £68 including drinks – still good value for two excellent courses each.
We will definitely be back to try again as Fat Italian is one of those special places that just might become a family favourite.
The Big Italian, Moss Lane, Burscough. L40 4AY