It’s a hopeful sign for any town when one of its pubs is given a new lease of life, writes Louise Allonby. Slap bang in the centre of Barrow is the eponymous Barrow Arms, which has recently undergone a change of ownership and a considerable change of style.

Formerly something of a rough and ready type place, the pub, in Cavendish, is now very smart and fresh inside (there’s work still to be done on the exterior), and is building up a regular and, if social media activity is anything to go by, dedicated following.

I paid a visit this week with some pals, Roy and Emma, along with their poppet of a daughter, Mya, who was three months old that day – and as good as gold throughout.

We arrived for 12 noon to find the pub already very busy, with plenty of groups and couples tucking into an early lunch. The pub’s menu is comprehensive, even at lunchtime (more dishes are available from 5pm); and the friendly lady behind the bar had to pay two visits to our table before we had decided what to have.

The three of us chose a starter each: calamari with chorizo aioli (£4.95) for Roy, spicy fish cake with crushed peas (also £4.95) for Emma and leek and potato soup (£3.95) for me.

For mains, we went for a range: seafood tagliatelle (£6.95) for Emma; steak and ale pie with braised red cabbage (£10.90) for Roy; and a Cumbrian burger (£9.50) for me.

The starters arrived in good time, Emma’s fishcake being the star of the show: it was spicy, packed with fish and I wished I’d ordered it, too. Roy enjoyed his calamari, which was lightly tempura battered and well-accompanied by the chorizo aioli. My soup was the only disappointment. Home made and tasty though it was, it was simply far, far, too thick: the consistency of wallpaper paste. It came with some toasted white sliced bread, which was also a disappointment. This needed watering down and accompanying with some crusty fresh bread. To the great credit of the place, when the lady who served us asked what was wrong – and I told her – it was immediately taken off the bill. Big tick on the service front.

Mains also came in good time. My burger was in fact a double burger – and again clearly home made. Good quality bacon and cheese, a plain side salad and a bowl of chips finished the dish. Some relish would have been good; and to my surprise (and that of another couple at a nearby table) there was no vinegar on the premises. Balsamic vinegar was all they had. Sacrilege!

Roy’s steak pie was just packed with tender meat and rich gravy and was fantastic value, given the meat content. He couldn’t even attempt to eat the accompanying chips, after polishing off the pie. A slightly burnt crust was the only criticism to be made.

Emma’s seafood tagliatelle was a little too rich for a lunchtime meal; again, a dish that the chef might want to lighten up a bit, especially for the time of day.

After so much rich and hearty food, none of us had any room for a pudding; but I hear great things of the Barrow Arms sticky toffee pudding.

I’m full of admiration for the new owners of the Barrow Arms for taking on a town centre pub and breathing new life into it. If they tone down the richness of some of the dishes – and invest in some vinegar – they’ll do very well indeed.


Food 3.5

Service 4.5

Value 4

Atmosphere 4


Large menu

Good ingredients


Lacks kerb appeal