[Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire] Bull's Head
Smack bang in the middle of Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, the Bull’s Head has always seemed an odd place . Although in a rural setting, the building has always struck me that it wouldn’t be out of place on the edge of some sprawling 1930s estate. It was always a manky unappealing boozer in the 1970s. At some point, I think I recall it became aBeefeater or carvery sort of place. In recent times, it’s been a dismal, expensive Italian restaurant that offered some of the worst value for money food in North Cheshire. Now, at last, something is going well.
It’s been refurbished and, definitely against the trend, has re-opened as a pub. And a pub that majors on its food. We went for lunch.
There’s a short list of starters and, realising that we just weren’t hungry enough for a three courser decided to pass, as the desserts appealed more.
Two smoked haddock and salmon fishcakes formed a lightish main course. They were perfectly fine in the way that food is perfectly fine in a dining pub but may not ring the bell in a more pretentious gastropub – if you see what I mean. The accompanying rocket and tomato salad was spot on for balance. And the tartare sauce gave it all a zing.
Beef, onion and red wine suet pudding was anything but lightish. A thickish, but not overly thick, suet pastry was also spot on. It enclosed some very long-cooked and tasty stew. A mega-quenelle of non-sloppy mash mopped up the gravy. And sugar snaps and steamed cabbage provide a good bit of texture change. Oh, yes, I loved this one!
For dessert, I had a waffle with a hot toffee sauce (yes, there could have been more sauce, chef). Alongside, caramelised banana and a scoop of vanilla ice cream worked well. Over the other side of the table, a red berry and cider jelly wobbled appealingly. There were sliced strawberries and raspberry ripple ice cream. Both worked as a pretty good end to lunch.
OK, I've managed to hold off being a bore since the summer but it's time for a note about their winter food. We went for dinner last night.
Tomato & red pepper soup - very tomatoey. Just the thing for cold, wet winter evening.
Smoked salmon, pea & mint pannacotta, apple & fennel salad. Lovely combination. Crisp salad, citrussy dressing working well to cut the richness of the salmon. Pannacotta was a light touch - I'm sure the chef hoped it would have set more than it had, but effectively as a thick cream it still worked well.
For mains, two very wintry dishes. Slow cooked beef in Guinness, with celeriac dauphinoise and pumpkin mash. Chicken, ham and leek suet pudding (good thickish pastry), cabbage, mashed spuds. Nothing elegant here but just damn tasty food. And generous portions.
I promise not to become a bore over this place - although i am a big fan of the Brunning & Price pubs and it's great to have one only a few minutes drive from home.
We went for lunch again. Herself had a decent enough burger, topped with bacon and cheese, which came with better than decent chips and a homemade tomato ketchup.
I had a belter of a dish - their take on "lamb three ways". Some shepherds pie - artfully presented having been stuffed into a cooking ring. A small chop sat on some sauteed cabbage. And a lovely piece of lamb breast - crisp yet still fatty - which topped a chunk of fondant potato. A light gravy was drizzled cheffily on the plate. Well, it made a change from a braised lamb dish that always seems to be part of a B & P menu in some form or another.