WITH variety being the main criteria for a food reviewer when it comes to dining out each week, I don’t get the chance to revisit favourite haunts as often as I would like.

Unless an establishment has undergone a radical overhaul or has changed its chef, I operate a two-year-plus rule when it comes to these weekly reviews; and living in an area so stuffed to the gunwales with pubs, cafes, hotels and all manner of places to consume grub, I am confident I’ll never run out of places to go.

But it’s always useful to get in a biennial visit to a favourite - revamp or not; so last week I headed to Levens with a friend to introduce her (and to reintroduce myself) to the Strickland Arms.

I discovered the Stricklands Arms many years ago, visiting regularly in my pre-reviewer-hat days with friends and family, and always being impressed with its style and atmosphere. Ironically, the first time I reviewed it was the only time I was served a disappointing meal; and it pained me to write about a dreadful chicken dish.

Time flies and, checking my records, it’s heading towards three years since I last called in. As my friend Hazel and I pulled up outside one evening last week, I have to confess to a slight feeling of trepidation.

There weren’t many cars outside and I silently prayed that the Strick hadn’t fallen out of favour. Or undergone a misjudged revamp.

I needn’t have worried. Despite the seeming dearth of cars, the bar and restaurant area were both busy - and everything looked the same as it had on my last visit in January 2016. The Brexit vote has been and gone since then - but the threatened economic Armageddon clearly hasn’t hit Levens. Phew.

Inside it’s lofty and airy, with flagged and wooden floors, sporting and scenic prints and lithographs on the walls, understated Farrow and Ball green paint on the walls and pleasingly mismatched traditional brown furniture. Unpretentious but stylish - and, like a proud parent, I was delighted that my friend was impressed.

We nabbed the only spare table in the bar area, acquired drinks and went straight to the mains for our choices as it was getting quite late.

The menu is extensive. Nibbles and starters range from £4.50 (soup) to sharing platters for £10; sandwiches (served noon to 2.30pm) are between £6 and £9.50; and mains range from £12.50 for a Lancashire hotpot, to a wallet-busting and gut-busting mixed grill at £23.95. Daily specials are available, there’s a pleasingly comprehensive children’s menu, and some of the mains come in small portions. Special dietary requirements are also catered for and there are loads of gluten free options.

We went for mid-priced mains, Hazel choosing Cumberland sausage with mash, caramelised onions, onion rings and gravy (£12.95) and me going for lasagne with garlic bread and salad at £14.95.

There was a fair wait for the food but the place was busy, it’s reassuring that everything is clearly freshly cooked, and we were perfectly happy at our window table to while away the time chatting over drinks.

When the food eventually arrived it lived up to my expectations and impressed Hazel. Piping hot, well-presented but not pretentious, and plentiful - there was nothing to complain about.

The Cumberland sausage was perfectly cooked and huge - a sizeable part of it got wrapped up and taken home by me for my dogs. I forgot all about it until the following evening, when one of the dogs, Hamish, could resist the aromas emanating from my handbag no longer and dragged it under the kitchen table to retrieve the sausage from its depths.

My lasagne was delicious, meaty, plenty of pasta and a rich tomato and bechamel sauce. The garlic bread accompaniment was lovely and moist, positively dripping wth garlic butter. So much meat in the lasagne made it quite a challenge to get through - and I felt bad leaving a fair bit of it uneaten. Sadly, lasagne isn’t as easy to wrap in a paper napkin as a sausage, so this element of the meal didn’t make it into my handbag for later.

The large portions also left our pudding plans in tatters. But seeing a steaming bowl of sticky toffee pudding being rapturously consumed by the diners at the next table, I can confirm by proxy that the desserts at the Strickland Arms are clearly as good as they ever were.

I hope it isn’t another two-plus years until I get back to the Strickland Arms. It’s a lovely pub with a really friendly feel (it’s dog friendly, too). Great to see this favourite still going strong.

The Strickland Arms, Levels

Food 4

Service 4

Atmosphere 4.5

Value 4


Varied menu

Dog friendly

Relaxed atmosphere


Very busy in high season

Quite a wait for the food