EATING out over the Christmas period can be like entering a wasteland of dry sliced turkey, over-enthusiastically boiled vegetables and leaden puddings overloaded with suet or chocolate.

So the sight of a pub menu not weighed down by festive excess, but offering instead a better than average selection of dishes gladdens the heart and tickles the tastebuds.

Over recent years The Rock in Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth has built up a good reputation as a community hostelry with regular live music, popular quiz nights and unusual pub grub at sensible prices.

Great for an evening of fun – but how would it hold up on a cold, sodden Tuesday lunchtime 10 days before Christmas?

Initially the spacious pub seemed dull and quiet and we were the only patrons. There was a chill in the air and no music played but the sight of a lengthy menu board with columns of starters, snacks, main courses and steak options lifted the spirits.

After much deliberation, cogitation and heated discussion along the lines of ‘if you have that, I’ll have this and we can swap’ we settled on a garlicky plate of in-shell prawns, chicken tom-tom and cheesy garlic bread.

It was a close-run thing however – the pros and cons of sizzling chicken, steak and kidney pudding and a half rack of ribs, among others, were also weighed up before the final decision was taken.

The food took around 20 minutes to arrive. This may be inconsequential in an evening but watching lunch hour minutes tick away can make a diner a bit twitchy. However, when our meal did appear it was well worth the wait.

Piping hot, freshly prepared and beautifully presented, this looked above and beyond your average lunchtime fare. My companion said that her king prawns in garlic butter were delicious and fragrant and their smell wafted tantalisingly round the table.

The prawns were big and meaty, pinwheeling out from a central island of salad leaves, lying in a golden lake of melted butter. The salad was the visual highlight of the meal – a generous and diverse combination of fresh leaves supplemented by strawberries, pear, black olives and grapes.

The chicken tom-tom was generous, with tender chunks of meat with slices of carrot, mushroom and pepper packed into a dark, rich Oriental sauce, all topped with crisped wisps of spring onion. It came with a bowl of plain rice and servings of mango chutney and lime pickle.

My Rock Hotel bill

Peroni lager: £2.50

Coke (2 pints): £4.40

Garlic bread/cheese: £2.50

Garlic prawns: £12.95

Chicken tom-tom: £11.00

TOTAL: £33.35