THE lighthouse that stands overlooking the water on the edge of Hale Village is undoubtedly one of the hidden gems of the Mersey coastline.

And just half a mile inland, there could soon be another. Named after the landmark, the recently-opened Lighthouse restaurant — which has been elegantly transformed by new owners Jane and Phillip Harris and chef patron David Mao — brings fine dining to this quaint corner between Widnes and Liverpool.

Its 11 tables, charcoal walls and gilt mirrors make for an intimate setting where quality takes priority over quantity. The menu may be small but it has been seemingly lovingly created.

For starters, my husband’s asparagus, ham and truffle soup (£6) was accompanied by a delightful bowl of crispy pulled-ham bonbons, a tasty twist on the traditional crouton. My slow cooked and pressed Lancashire ham and Kirkhams cheddar starter was perfectly complemented by an array of micro herbs and tangy homemade piccalilli puree (£7.50) and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a soupcon of soup to enjoy alongside it.

On to the mains and full marks were given for my dining partner’s tender pink Cheshire lamb with a melt-in-the-mouth crispy cut of shoulder, vegetables and marrow jus (£17).

I chose grilled sea bass, with perfectly crispy skin and translucent flesh, accompanied by a well-balanced seafood and champagne sauce.

Both dishes were pretty to look at if not similar in their selection of vegetables. Much prep had evidently been put into carving spheres of carrot and courgette.

For dessert I chose the selection of Woolton cheeses accompanied by a further portion of the piccalili puree, plus a mini jar of pickle, a celery and grape salad and a brush of beetroot puree on an unnecessarily warm slate plate and drizzled with a balsamic dressing. It was one ingredient too many and good cheeses deserved to be left untouched but this was a minor quibble and easily addressed.

My husband was delighted with his banoffee cheesecake and completed the generous portion with ease.

Being a ‘hidden’ gem in the restaurant business isn’t always ideal when you’re new and trying to get word around.

The question is, can The Lighthouse attract diners from nearby Liverpool and Warrington?

On the evidence of the food, value and friendly service on offer, it deserves to.

We sampled the early menu (served from 6pm until 7.15pm), good value at £19.95 for three courses, plus a bottle of Le Grand Clauzy Merlot, £18