Merchants Bar & Grill, Preston

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Merchants Bar & Grill, Preston

European Restaurant - Address: Samlesbury Hotel, Preston New Road, Preston PR5 0UU

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Review of "Merchants Bar & Grill, Preston"

published 16/12/2017 | RICHADA
Member since : 20/06/2004
Reviews : 379
Members who trust : 611
About me :
++ "RICHADA" possibly looking for a new outlet - suggestions in a GB please! ++ Looks like the operation is to go ahead on Tuesday, I'll be away for a spell then. ++
Pro Accessable. Classless Spacious. Service. Value.
Cons Ambiance.
Value for Money
Standard of Menu
Standard of Service


Branding is modest to say the least.

Branding is modest to say the least.


As usual a pre-Christmas business trip finds us in the industrial north west of England, staying at the Samlesbury hotel located midway between Preston and Blackburn on the A59. Over the years we have stayed in several hotels in the area and sampled a fair few eateries too.

We had previously eaten quite well in this very same location, that being the best part of a decade ago when, terribly run down in appearance as it had become, both food and service had been excellent.


In truth we were a bit of a captive audience; having set out early from our home in Brighton, breakfasted in style in Stratford on Avon, spent the best part of the day with friends at a National Trust property in the Midlands, it was now 6.30 and our travels for the day were at an end – oh and it was a Sunday evening!

Thanks to having read a pile of recent Tripadvisor and reviews it would appear that we were on safe ground eating at the Samlesbury Hotel’s “in house” restaurant, the reviews were universally complimentary, the consensus of opinion being that the food was fine value for money.


There are some good local pubs within the locality, although the passing traveller is much more likely to spot Merchants – effectively Samlesbury Hotel’s dining room. All the convenience of the hotel is obviously extended to the casual diner, the large car park to start with.

Once inside the hotel, access for disabled visitors is more tricky as there are about four stairs up from the reception to the bar area. This can be easily enough circumvented by arranging to access the restaurant via the Canberra Suite entrance from the car park.


The run down shabbiness of old has been swept away, replaced by chic, modern décor, even if perhaps coffee and cream colour schemes are not really to my taste. The restaurant, bar and lounge areas make up one enormous open plan space, although the restaurant is in effect an internal room at the back of this area and lacks any natural daylight.

Along the rear wall is an autumnal woodland mural, apart from that you are looking at a great deal of sparse, cream plastered walls, some with glass sections inset, as Mrs R commented they could do with some artwork on the walls here – as it is the ambiance could really only be described as cold and rather sparse.

Whilst the tables are bare wood, proper linen serviettes add a touch of class otherwise rather missing.

THE MENU: 12 / 15

We “lifted” a menu on our way to our room from reception, and I have to comment that, on first sighting I was somewhat disappointed. Presented on a single, stiff, paper sheet, this is very much what you would expect to find in a local pub both in appearance and content.

This “pub grub” approach actually, we thought, did little justice to the meal that followed. A choice of seven “Tapas Style Appetisers”, is followed up by three “Sharing Platters” (vegetarian, meat or seafood), and then a choice of six more conventional starters from.

Main courses are split into five categories, including, usefully a very good “Pasta and Vegetarian” selection. Prominently highlighted in yellow, mid-menu, are a choice of four fish dishes, unusual in my experience to see these two given priority over both the “Meat”, “Burgers” and “Dish of the Day” sections. In practice you will not feel left short for choice, no matter what your culinary preferences.

Sweets and hot drinks appear on a separate sheet and were pretty much what one would expect bearing in mind the savoury courses on offer. Staples such as sticky toffee pudding and a choice of sundae dishes as well as a traditional cheeseboard are available.

THE PRICES: 14 / 15

Tapas dishes range range from £3.50 to £3.95, the sharing platters are all priced at £16.95 whilst the starters are £5.50 to £7.50. Main courses span a range from £8.95 for a vegetarian pasta to £19.95 for lamb rump. In line with the menu items, much as you would expect to find in a pub in this area. Sweets start at £5.50 and top out at £8.50 for a cheeseboard to share.

By hotel standards the prices appear very reasonable, in fact we have paid more for similar quality meals in pubs in the Preston / Blackburn area in years gone by.

THE SERVICE: 15 / 15

No complaints here at all, all the restaurant staff encountered at Merchants were friendly, professional and efficient, they also took a genuine interest in what we thought of the food.

THE DRINKS: 9 / 10

I am currently strictly teetotal (medicinal sadly) but an excellent zero alcohol beer was offered up upon request, Mrs R stuck to coffee and after the meal we both indulged in espresso, the very first time that I have experienced a de-caffeinated one. Served by the Italian head waiter over the bar, this was an excellent experience.

THE FOOD: 13 / 15

In view of the prices, it could be regarded as somewhat churlish to deduct two points here, especially bearing in mind our enjoyment of our shared starter – the fish platter, but my “top of the range” main course lamb rump was decidedly inferior to similar dishes served elsewhere over the last month.

We were tempted into the fish platter by the smell as we entered the restaurant, a family at the next table were tucking into the same dish. In hindsight I rather wish that I had chosen one to myself as a main course, served on a large, trendy, slate platter; four triangles of wholemeal bread, four battered Tempura king prawns, a couple of slices of hot mackerel, four squid rings and a side salad. All of this accompanied by ramekins containing Marie Rose and tartare sauces, but best of all was the superb mackerel pate; I would quite happily have eaten this as a starter on its own with the bread.

All of that lead to a slight ant-climax with the main course, expectations built, whilst Mrs R’s “Superfood Salad” with goat’s cheese was excellent and beautifully presented on the plate. My lamb – partly chosen for the dauphinoise potato, braised cabbage and redcurrant and rosemary jus accompanying it, was attractively enough presented, but unfortunately the whole dish was on the dry side – particularly my favourite potato dish which looked as though it had been calved from a solid block. The lamb was tasty, but hardly of the melt in the mouth variety.

We passed on the sweets so I am unable to comment on those.


Whilst Merchants is not a restaurant that I would go out of my way to visit again, if staying at the Samlesbury Hotel you are going to get a perfectly acceptable meal at a fair price.

Putting that score in perspective, here is a comparison with other eating places rated on the same scoring system:

Benedicts of Belfast – 96% (Dinner x 2)
Carpathia – Liverpool – 96% (Dinner x2 + Breakfast)
Marrocco’s – Hove – 95% (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Tea & Ice Cream!)
Boston Tea Party – Honiton – 95% (Breakfast, Lunch, Tea)
Bettys – Harrogate – 94% (Tea and Lunch)
Osso Buco – Weybridge – 94% (Dinner)
Cote Brasserie – Bluewater – 90% (Breakfast Only)
The Grand – Eastbourne – 90% (Tea Only)
Merchants Bar & Grill – Samlesbury, Lancs. – 88% (Dinner)

Donatello – Brighton – 88% (Lunch and Dinner)
The Tea Cosy – Brighton – 86% (Tea Only)
Breakfast Club – Brighton – 70% (Breakfast)
Boston Tea Party – Stratford Upon Avon – 69% (Breakfast)
P&O Brasserie – Spirit of Britain – Dover to Calais Ferry – 50% (Dinner x 3)
Stanmer House – Brighton – 44% (Lunch Only – never again!)


The Samlesbury Hotel
Preston New Road

Tel: 01772 868000
© RICHADA / CIAO 16.12.2017

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Comments on this review

  • LiveMusicLoverLyn published 25/12/2017
    Fab review anyway
  • Essexgirl2006 published 19/12/2017
    Great review, sounds like an extensive menu, shame about your lamb.
  • Secre published 18/12/2017
    Excellently reviewed as per usual... that fish platter sounds right up my street!
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Product Information : Merchants Bar & Grill, Preston

Manufacturer's product description

European Restaurant - Address: Samlesbury Hotel, Preston New Road, Preston PR5 0UU

Product Details

Address: Samlesbury Hotel, Preston New Road, Preston PR5 0UU

Type: European Restaurant

City: Preston

Country: England

Continent: Europe


Listed on Ciao since: 29/11/2017