WITH the festive period just two months away, Bents Garden and Home is already prepared for Christmas.

The garden centre's new Christmas section has officially opened, which signifies - to many, at least - that the festive countdown is on.

One of the many festive treats organised by Bents is the annual winter food market that is hosted within the award-winning garden centre.

Leigh Journal: The van is found outside the main garden centre areaThe van is found outside the main garden centre area (Image: Newsquest)

From mulled wine to apple crumble, from Bratwurst to macaroni cheese, the food market will have something that sounds appealing to anyone.

New for 2023 is the fish and chips van at the winter market, so I popped along to the popular garden centre to try out what was on offer.

The first thing that caught my eye when ordering from the new van was the price - it will set you back £9.99 for a portion of fish and chips at Bents.

Admittedly, if you are dining out at a pub or restaurant then you would be expecting to pay the same or more for fish chips.

However, this is not restaurant dining, it is 'street food' - picnic benches are laid out for you to enjoy your food, for example.

That being said, once I paid for the food I did find myself thinking: "Well, at least for £9.99 I'll get a decent-sized portion."

Leigh Journal: The fish and chips van is a new addition for 2023The fish and chips van is a new addition for 2023 (Image: Newsquest)

I can safely say that if you were to take £9.99 to any fish and chip shop in Warrington then you would be able to get a larger portion than from the van at Bents.

The portion wasn't what I would call value for money - an adequate size for a lunchtime bite, but you will not need to be rolled out of the garden centre.

Just before I was handed my tray of fresh food, it was clear that portions were being cooked to order, which is always a good sign, and perhaps the steep price was reflective of the freshness - and therefore quality, I assumed - of the food.

Everyone has a different palate, but I personally was left disappointed by the food.

Yes, the batter was crisp, and the food was piping hot.

On the other hand, the flavours were fairly bland, the chips were fairly solid, and I forked out an extra £1.29 for a side of gravy and was given around a thimbleful.

Leigh Journal: The food was cooked fresh to orderThe food was cooked fresh to order (Image: Newsquest)

To be fair to Bents, I feel as though they have been victims of their own success, on this one.

Whenever I venture to the garden centre, I expect them to hit it out of the park with everything they do - they're an award-winning, incredibly popular place, after all.

So of course when I visited to try their newest offering of food, I was expecting to have my socks knocked off.

Unfortunately, my whelm was very much under by the time I finished my portion of fish and chips.

Broadly speaking, I've had far, far worse fish and chips, but will that be of any consolation?

As I said above, if you take the same amount of money into a fish and chip shop in Warrington then you will be able to get more food for your money, and no doubt it will be more enjoyable.

Perhaps fish and chips should be left to those who know it best.

Giving Bents the benefit of the doubt, I headed deeper into the winter food market for something sweet, and stumbled across a stand that was selling fresh apple crumble and custard.

Leigh Journal: Perhaps I have been spoilt growing up with a grandmother who makes exceptional apple crumble?Perhaps I have been spoilt growing up with a grandmother who makes exceptional apple crumble? (Image: Newsquest)

Being charged £5.99 for a hot dessert with custard is fairly reasonable - it's probably slightly cheaper than a dessert at most restaurants, or pubs, at least.

The dessert, I'll admit, was significantly better than the fish and chips.

It was hot, sweet, and slightly tart - everything you could want from an apple crumble, at first bite.

However, what's an apple crumble without much crumble? Well that's just hot, mushy apple, really.

There was a meagre sprinkling of crumble on the dessert, and the custard was squeezed from a bottle onto the tray, too - I suspect it was made up earlier, but this was just for the sake of ease.

Leigh Journal: There is a host of different options within the winter food marketThere is a host of different options within the winter food market (Image: Newsquest)

I'll accept that it was tasty, but again, I was expecting to be blown away. This is Bents, after all - the hallmark of quality.

And yet, I left disappointed.

Perhaps I went to Bents on a bad day, perhaps I'm just miserable, or perhaps they are simply trying to do too much, please too many people, and offer too many things?

Want to prove me wrong? The Bents Garden and Home winter food market is open from 12pm on weekdays, and 11am on weekends.