Louise Allonby enjoys a relaxing meal at Hartley’s in Dalton...

After a glorious but hectic Easter weekend in the company of family and friends, my husband and I stole away to a cosy bistro this week for an early evening dinner for two.

Tired after all the social activities of the long bank holiday, we didn’t stray far from home in Askam, heading to Dalton to enjoy a meal at Hartley’s Bistro.

The weather was just about to break, so it was no surprise that the outdoor tables were empty – and Market Street is hardly the most peaceful spot in which to dine al fresco, even without rain clouds hovering overhead – so we headed indoors to the cosy, continental-style bistro. I like the atmosphere at Hartley’s very much; it does have that French feel about it, and the background music is both unobtrusive and enjoyable, which is no mean feat.

The menu is extensive. Very extensive, with specials galore and early bird deals, including on pizzas and pasta. One quibble with the menu: the typeface is too cluttered and the text badly spaced, which makes for a difficult read.

After no short amount of time, we were finally ready to order: French onion soup (that classic bistro staple) for Gordon and squid for me as starters (both £4.95), followed by chicken stroganoff at £9.55 on the early bird menu for me (beef was available) and tuna steak with Mediterranean vegetables, roast potatoes and a pesto cream sauce for Gordon (£14.95).

While many of the tables in the restaurant had reserved signs on them, at this early bird hour there were just us and another couple partaking of meals – but I guessed that, rather like us, many people would still be recovering from the long weekend.

My squid was lovely. Piping hot and plenty of it, with a piquant chilli sauce and a good, crunchy side salad. Gordon’s soup was less successful, being far too thick - it was almost the consistency of a hot chutney if you can imagine such a thing – and containing too much wholegrain mustard. While Gordon declared it OK but not the best he’d had by a long chalk, I much preferred my squid.

It was something of a reverse situation when it came to the mains: Gordon immensely enjoyed his tuna steak with Mediterranean vegetables (although I would have thought the fish should have been seared rather than cooked through); and although my stroganoff was delicious and creamy, the rice was seriously overcooked, which was a real shame. On the plus side, the chips which came with the meal were really good: great potatoes and beautifully cooked.

The staff throughout were excellent – friendly and welcoming and very much adding to the lovely ambience of the restaurant. A real credit to the business.

Despite the overcooking issues, we both thoroughly enjoyed our early evening sojourn at this most inviting of bistros. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, the staff lovely and while the chef that evening strayed a little bit too far into the realms of overcooking, the food on the whole was good – and there’s no question that Hartley’s are using quality ingredients.

Afternoon teas and Sunday roasts form part of the staple of the Hartley’s menu along with the bistro side and it is no wonder that this charming place at the heart of Dalton continues to thrive. We left as the heavens opened, just making it to the car before getting a thorough soaking. Hartley’s may have a continental feel to it, but as soon as you leave you know you’re in Furness, not France.

Food 3.5

Service 5

Atmosphere 5

Value 4


Town centre setting

Early bird deals

Charming atmosphere


Outside area is noisy

Some food overcooked