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nikkib

Pubs - the topic

128 posts in this topic

The Tilury in Datchworth - http://www.thetilbury.co.uk/ is decidedly more gastro but also extremely good. A birthday lunch saw us order everything from oysters to whitebait (which were outstanding, possily the best i've had) and chicken liver parfait (also excellent) to steak, burger and chips (bothe poronounced very good and very generously portioned) to seatrout with crab crushed potatoes and a steamed fish ( i forget which - plaice maybe? with lobster sauce)They do a set sunday lunch menu that is extremely reasonably priced whilst the other dishes can creep up (my seatrout was about £17) but all in all a very pleasant lunch indeed

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"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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BRIDGE OF ORCHY INN, middle of nowhere, A82, between Loch Lomond and Fort William.

It must all be passing trade and it’d be so easy for them simply not to be arsed and to serve up any old crap. But they don’t . Of course, there’s no pretence to be serving other than pub food but, at least, there’s no gammon and pineapple ( a sure good sign in my book).

Here, bangers and mash brought three large sausages of well seasoned Bambi, mustard mash, big chunks of boiled root veg and a decent onion gravy.

Opposite, a burger was clearly home-made with good meat. Unfortunately the bun was the pappy sort beloved of that well known Scottish named enterprise, McDonalds. You know the sort – it falls apart as soon as you look at it. But there were decent chips. Proper chips, mind. Not fries and not the now ubiquitous “fat chips”. And some well dressed salad leaves.

Service is efficiently provided by the East European staff who must wonder (and despair) about where they’ve fetched up. But, even if the location meant it was Hobson’s Choice for lunch, it was a good stop. Fantastic scenery as well – it’d have been great if it had been warmer and we could have sat outside. But that’s a Scottish June for you.


John Hartley

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QUEEN'S HEAD, GLANWYDDEN, NR LLANDUDNO

On the outskirts of Llandudno and only a couple of minutes or so from the main A55 North Wales coast road, the Queens Head makes a decent lunch stop. There’s a varied menu of pretty good pub food and they’re big on seafood, which usually accounts for the half dozen or so items which form the specials board.

Whitebait were nice and crispy and came with a few leaves and a good dollop of mustard mayo. Smoked haddock and chorizo risotto was an excellent consistency but would have benefitted from a punchier chorizo.

These were followed by ribeye steak sandwich, more salad and chips (a bit too floury, perhaps, but fried to a good colour and crunch). And cod topped with Welsh rarebit and sat on creamed leeks. Well, of course, it was, boyo. Never one to miss a stereotype in Manchester-on-Sea. Chips with that as well. Perfectly pleasant plate of food.


John Hartley

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BRIDGE OF ORCHY INN, middle of nowhere, A82, between Loch Lomond and Fort William.

We love this place!! We were walking the West Highland Way some years ago: Bridge of Orchy is half way along the route on day 5. Well, it being summer, the rain streamed down all morning. We got to Bridge of Orchy (tiny train station, a pre-fab Post Office and a short line of council houses) at lunch time. Walked over the eponymous Bridge and there was the pub, beckoning at us through the teeming rain. Inside was rather like being in a parallel universe - I remember carte di musica bread with garlic and olive oil, and an excellent Sangiovese by the glass. All that, plus a fireplace and comfy chairs.

The station is on the main line from Glasgow, so it's possible to hop off there, have a long lunch and then catch the late afternoon train on to Fort William. Or continue the West Highland Way across Rannoch Moor ...


Sarah

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THREE TUNS, HAY ON WYE, POWYS

The Three Tuns is listed in the Michelin Guide. Reading the pub’s website, apparently the Guide describes it as “one of the best dining pubs in Great Britain”. Now, if that’s an accurate quote, then I’d suggest the Guide’s inspectors need to get more. That’s not to say it wasn’t a pretty decent lunch. In fact, it was a pretty decent one-course lunch.

On one plate, a salmon and smoked haddock fishcake, that had a good ratio of fish to potato. There was a handful of salad leaves. And there were some very decent chips.

Faggots on the other plate. Or, to be precise, a single very large lump of faggot – full of meaty livery flavour. It sat on a mound of mash, itself topped with mushy pea. And there was an OK, if somewhat industrial, gravy.

This was none too shabby al round and, perhaps, if the Guide does describe the Three Tuns as one of the best in the “country”, a typo had crept in and they meant “county”.

Certainly worth a punt if you're in town book-buying.


John Hartley

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SHIBDEN MILL INN, NR HALIFAX

The Shibden Mill Inn has a lot going for it. It’s in a pretty part of the world on the rural outskirts of Halifax. It’s a nice building in an “Olde Worlde” sort of way. There’s a good range of beers. There’s a good range of food. It holds a Good Food Guide score of 3 and two AA Rosettes. And it’s just become the “UK best food pub” at the Publican Awards. Don’t let it put you off that this particular award is sponsored by Brakes Brothers – the food is really pretty good

I kicked off with a slice of home made black pudding (well, of course I did), topped with a slice of rabbit ballotine. Both of a good flavour and well seasoned. The “stack” topped with a dainty fried quail’s egg. There was some dressed salad leaves and a “swoosh” of turnip puree adding an earthiness to the dish. Good start.

For the second time in a couple of weeks, Jacobs Ladder put in an appearance. It’s an uncommon cut which I hope is becoming more popular. Cooked long and slow it really makes for a belting braise. A good variety of accompaniments – kale, purple sprouting broccoli, two sorts of beetroot (the usual one and a really earthy sweet white one), a punchy horseradish risotto was an interesting carb and, similarly enjoyable, there was a crisp and tangy fritter of local cheese.

On t’other side of the table, herself was tackling the bargain set lunch at £11 for two courses (a couple of quid more gets you dessert). To start, a crayfish and crab cake was suitably fishy and came with a few leaves and what was described as celeriac remoulade but was a puree. A proper remoulade would have been nicer on the texture front but the flavours on the plate were fine. Beef followed. In this case, braised rump, served with the kale and broccoli and mash.

This was good solid cooking with portion sizes such that we had no need of dessert. Food was entirely enjoyable. But, if there is to be one criticism then it is that the place suffered from our current pet hate – inordinate delays between courses. They were not overly busy and, otherwise, they seemed organised but it was approaching 30 minutes between starter plates being removed and more food arriving.


John Hartley

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BUTCHERS ARMS, HEPWORTH, YORKSHIRE

The Butchers is striving to strike that difficult balance between gastropub and village pub. On the village side, there’s a comfy looking bar set aside for drinking but the larger room is entirely focussed on food. Clearly making a play for a gastro tag by association – that is associating with the country’s well known high level restaurants by displaying framed copies of menus. Unfortunately the quality of the food doesn’t hit the mark of those pubs which gain Michelin stars. But, don’t get me wrong, it is trying.

There’s a good looking carte with significant use of Yorkshire produce – a starter of wood pigeon with black pudding and quails egg or a main of local venison loin. But it was the two course, fifteen quid set menu of the day that caught our eye. Another couple of quid will get you a third course and there’s around 5 choices at each course.

Starters were very much assembly jobs. But very enjoyable assembly jobs. And very generous assembly jobs –almost a meal in themselves. One plate with a selection of smoked and marinated seafood – salmon, both hot and cold smoked, herring, prawns and some delightful vinegared anchovies very much in the Spanish tapas style. There was a handful of rocket and dish of Marie Rose. The other plate, a doorstep slab of goose liver pate, some salad leaves, homemade piccalilli (tangy with mustard & vinegar) and, to my mind, a perfect match on the carbs front with toasted brioche.

“Pie of the day” was steak & kidney. Excellent flavour of tender meat with a goodly amount of kidney, topped with a spot-on shortcrust lid. Chips and peas to accompany – well, of course, it was chips and peas to accompany. Roast beef didn’t quite hit the mark on the other side of the table. An absolutely cracking Yorkshire pudding, good gravy, nice veg but the meat, although quite well flavoured, was overly chewy.

We passed on dessert, needing a good lie down to recover from the amount of food we’d eaten. Perhaps not a place to go much out of the way for, but pleasant enough if you’re around Holmfirth, maybe on the “Last of the Summer Wine” trail.


John Hartley

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BELLS OF PEOVER, LOWER PEOVER, CHESHIRE

Situated down a narrow cobbled lane, and sharing the access with the parish church, the Bells looks like the quintessential country pub. And, some 40 years back, when we last visited, that’s exactly what it was. Now it is much more of your dining pub. No, I tell a lie. Actually, it’s more your restaurant that happens to be in an old pub building that still retains a tiny bar area. Certainly a bar area too tiny for a game of darts.

I can’t recall the food from all those years ago but I’ll bet it wasn’t as good as what’s now on offer. For example, a smoked haddock fishcake was light, crispy and, thankfully, fishy. It sat on just wilted spinach, was topped with aubergine “caviar” and surrounded by a lemon butter sauce. Excellent contrasts of tastes and textures. Venison terrine was rich and gamey. The plate artfully decorated with pickled vegetables and a pea puree. Working well with it were two brioche rolls – light and with a hint of sweetness that contrasted nicely with the pickled items. Some thought had gone into this dish and I really liked its balance.

Salmon fillet was my main. Just cooked through but with a perfect crispness to the skin. Delicious. It sat in the bowl on top of spinach and a few halved new potatoes. The sauce was more light seafood broth than sauce but none the worse for that, the little nuggets of cockles and chopped razor clams adding another flavour layer.

My wife went for the pub classic of a steak sandwich, in which the brioche made another appearance. This was another appealing looking plate – the sandwich, a bowl of chips, a handful of salad, a mini Kilner jar of béarnaise. What’s not to like? Well, truth be told, the steak was a bit chewier than you’d have liked but was cooked bang-on at medium rare.

We passed on desserts but coffee was decent. Service had been attentive, even though they were under some pressure from a large “office Christmas lunch” party.

Must remember not to leave it another 40 years before visiting again.


John Hartley

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MERLIN, ALDERLEY EDGE, CHESHIRE

This was a family gathering celebration meal, venue picked by others. From a foody point of view, I dread these events. It’s all lowest common denominator. Someone doesn’t eat that. Someone else can’t afford that. Someone else’s idea of a varied meal is to have a small lump of meat next to their large lump of meat – and none of that foreign muck either.

Anyway, in the event, this turned out to be none too shabby pub food. The menu sticks fairly closely to a “Modern Brit” style most of time but does thrash about the Mediterranean in a fairly uncoordinated way for the remainder.

I kicked off with a chorizo hash, topped with a poached egg and a decent hollandaise. OK, the chorizo was a bit sparse but, otherwise, this was a plate which looked and tasted the business. The main course brought some nicely pink lamb rump, sauteed new potatoes and soubise sauce, incorporating pancetta, pearl onions and a separate bowl of root veg. No problem for me in hoovering this up.

My partner had shared a mezze plate with her mother. I gather they both liked it – usual Greek Cypriot dips, some roasted peppers and other veg, good crisp flatbreads. Ribeye steak came accurately cooked as requested and topped with a little horseradish butter. There were chips, of course. Now herself makes the point that they were described as “frites” for her dish and other dishes had “jenga chips” and “fat chips” – but everyone got the same bog standard frozen chips.

Others had desserts which seemed to go down well.

And, at this point, the evening took a nosedive. The bill arrives. There’s no mention of the fairly hefty deposit paid. They claim they have no record of a deposit (family member who made the reservation doesn’t have the receipt with her). Manager’s attitude aggravates what is already piss poor customer service. Family member ends up having to pay full bill, and has to return today with receipt to get refund. Left rather a sour note on the proceedings


Edited by Harters (log)

John Hartley

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PLOUGH & FLAIL, MOBBERLEY, CHESHIRE

The Plough has been doing food for as long as I can recall and with mixed success. Bog standard pub grub in some past guises. A bloody good carvery when such things were all the rage in pubs in the 80s. Back to pub grub in more recent times – the sort where your lunch is dolloped up to you at the bar from vast serving dishes of watery looking cottage pie and chicken curry that had been sitting there for hours.

So, it was with some trepidation that I suggested lunch here. Not least because the Plough is now owned by the Deckers Group – the owners of the “mixed grill and chips” place at the Water Sports Centre at Sale. So, in we went, fingers crossed. And, you know, it was a pretty decent lunch. It’s another of those pubs round this bit of North Cheshire that still call themselves a pub but, with all the tables set for dining, are really just casual restaurants.

And, as with most of them, there’s a short table d’hote on offer – three courses at £14.95 – along with the more interesting looking main menu. For our first meal of the year, it had to be “more interesting”.

My partner started with a chorizo and pancetta risotto. She knows a thing or two about risotto and turns her hand to making a damn fine one. So, it was praise indeed to hear how good this one was. The rice was spot on with just a hint of bite and not overly claggy. The pancetta a tad underwhelming but the very zippy chorizo more than made up for it. More zing in the little hints of red chilli in the rice.

She had got the better of the starters. My tomato and cheese tart was not a thrill. Pastry was undercooked. The bottom of the tart was covered with a bland and boring Cheddar which was overwhelmed by the pleasantly sharp topping of sunblush tomatoes. Still, it was small portion so my boredom didn’t have to last for long.

Herself also got the better of the mains. Steak pie is classic pub grub. It can be dismal - and usually is. But not here. This was a substantial shortcrust pie – crisp pastry, rich filling. Alongside, good chips, peas and little jug of gravy.

I’d been attracted by the Dunham Massey suckling pig. It proved to be a restrained serving of a couple of small slices of albeit tasty meat - although nothing of the full-on flavour (and generosity) that you might see in Spain. There were crushed new potatoes and a portion of wilted kale that I could just feel was doing me good. A nice enough dish that would have been even better if the advertised black pudding and crackling had been there. Good gravy and a nice tart apple sauce also on the plate

There was Cheshire Farms raspberry ripple ice cream to finish. Usually, we’re not that thrilled with this genuine “made on the farm” product but this flavour was pretty good.


John Hartley

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I feel a little hesitant venturing in this thread as it's not really my 'speciality'...but I'd like to mention two recent experiences, a mediocre one and an excellent one.

The mediocre one in our opinion is Morgan Arms in London. Located in the East End, a few minutes walk from the Mile End station, we found that they do the minimum above mediocrity not be considered crazy for describing themselves as 'gastro'.

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Nothing was particularly bad, but nothing really tasted of what it should have tasted, notably a fishcake where the cod was barely detectable and similarly a mackerel pate' that had little affinity with mackerel, and was overwhelmed by lemon anyway.

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When they wanted to create powerful flavours they became heavy-handed. A ribeye was covered with a mountain of a cheesy cream that we removed, to reveal a decent if unspectacular piece of beef. And a sea-bass (farmed) with chorizo was intensely greasy.

We skipped desserts. Service was very good. We were by far the oldest in the room (Queen Mary College is nearby) and everybody but us seemed to be very satisfied, which led us to ask ourselves some searching questions... :smile:

I want to separate this one from the good experience so I'll write a separate post.

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As I was saying, a very nice discovery: Drover's Inn in Memus. This is really in the middle of nowhere in Angus, with Forfar the nearest bastion of civilisation (if you like hillwalking, however, nearby there's plenty of opportunities as we are close to Glen Clova).

The Inn comprises both a pub and a slightly more formal area.

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What struck us from the beginning was the quality of the produce: scallops, salmon, crab were all excellent. They were also very well cooked and seasoned. Here's the crab

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A sirloin had really deep flavour (being in Angus we were expecting good sourcing for beef), while a roast rump of lamb was prepared with some finesse: nothing heavy, nice crust on the lamb, nice sauce.

This Valrhona chocolate torte with raspberry sorbet was simple but a stunner:

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The flavours so clear, strong and complementary, the sponge under the chocolate showing that the chef knows his (or her, for all we know) craft well. Isn't this what simple, 'non-fine' dining should be about (in this way often being better :unsure: )?

A plate of cheeses was served slightly too cold, the temperature not helped by the presence of frozen grapes, but a 'Blue Monday' (which we didn't know) was particularly notable, complex.

Difficult to reach, but charming all the way. And the sun always shines in Scotland.

(Edited to add: three courses - including the more expensive items - plus coffee for two are less than £70 in the restaurant section, in the pub area you can spend much less).


Edited by Man (log)

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LORD CLYDE, KERRIDGE, CHESHIRE

Ooooh, this one is a bit of a find. Small pub in Kerridge which is just outside Bollington, in itself just outside Macclesfield. Half the pub manages to accommodate six tables set for eating with the other half seemingly devoted mainly to stand up drinking. On this lovely March day, hardier souls than us were eating outside.

And there’s a menu that surprisingly punches well above its weight. There’s a good range of lunchtime sandwiches but, also, a really good carte that belies the fact you are in a small dining pub.

There’s a pride in using local produce and there was none more so than in a sharing plate of “Flavours of the North West”. The Macclesfield Mezze if you will. From Cheshire, a cheese croquette, spiked with mustard, sat on some really fab homemade apple chutney. From north of the Mersey, chunks of black pudding battered and deep fried – meaty, salty, crispy, lovely; and a small pot of, erm ,potted shrimps, served with thick toast. From Cumbria, a peppery Cumberland sausage sat on a spoonful of mashed potato. Proper mashed potato, mind. None of your sloppy pomme puree. This was just potato mashed. Apparently spuds come from Aunty Denise’s farm at Peover – yep, they’re a tad keen on provenance. Oh, and there was a little air dried Cumbrian ham. This was, presumably, the excellent product made by Richard Woodall before he retired and sold his business (not sure who now owns it). Faultless – and a really good pub dish.

For mains, braised beef with a pea risotto. This was a very generous portion of good shin – very long cooked and then shredded. It topped an equally generous portion of risotto and, in great idea, was itself topped with a small handful of pea shoots. Truth be told, I didn’t expect this to work too well but was able to sneak a couple of mouthfuls from my partner’s plate to confirm that, not only did it work, it worked exceptionally well.

My own plate was Tatton Park venison, done three ways. Some perfectly rare loin. A rich livery faggot. And, the least successful, a little pie – good and enjoyable but needed a more reduced sauce and a slightly longer cooking for perfection. But it was still bloody good. There was a little cabbage, some more of the excellent mashed potato, and a few cubes of beetroot bringing a welcome earthiness to the plate. And a really good gravy.

Much too full for dessert, we waddled away to work it off with a walk along the nearby canal bank.


John Hartley

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Just back from lunch at the Lord Clyde, thanks to your recommendation, John.

It was just as well that we had planned to eat here 2/3 of the way through a 6 or 7 mile walk - we needed the exercise - both to work up a suitably large appetite and to walk off our indulgences.

We had the NW platter, which was amazing - all of it was very good, but highlights were the strangely light black pudding fritters and the potted shrimps - the best I've had. I love cheese in small quantities, so the cheese croquettes were slightly too much for me - but they were incredible - usually you expect to have lots of mashed potato and little else - but these were pretty much all cheese, and beautifully done.

I had the Shin of beef with the pea risotto, which was very, very good - but I couldn't manage it all - it really is a very rich dish, especially the beef. And the combination of pea risotto and beef did work very well. I loved it, but would probably choose something lighter next time (and there will be a next time) it was just too much for me.

My husband had the fish, chips and mushy peas, which was great.

Thanks for the recommendation - it's a great find. Great food and a nice laid back atmosphere - we will be back for more, but will probably need to walk further next time to earn it!

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POINTING DOG, CHEADLE HULME, GREATER MANCHESTER

Only open a few months, it’s name sounds like it’s a pub. From outside, it looks like it’s a pub. Inside, it’s more cafe bar and restaurant. At least they don’t describe themselves as a gastropub. And they’d probably piss themselves laughing if anyone else did. So I won’t .

I loved the inside. Very modern, bright and spacious. With separate areas dotted round the rooms set aside for drinking and others for eating. And comfy seating, with tables well spaced apart. The menu is best described as “better than average” pub food with some interesting stuff. Like a half lobster served with a chilli lime butter and aioli as either a starter or main. Or a chicken/ham/mushroom/leek pie (I’ll come back to that one in the winter). And, alongside the main menu, a very short set menu at the bargain price of £12.95 for a starter and main. This changes regularly but seems to follow a set formula soup/terrine/something else for starters; risotto/fish & chips/chicken/something else for mains. And it was this menu that appealed.

I’m not big on soup when I’m eating out. It’s the fear of chucking half of it down my shirt. But I enjoyed the mushroom. Not a lot to say about it. It was hot soup of a rich mushroomy consistency and flavour. Seasoning was spot-on.

And I ignored my usual rule about eating fish and chips in pubs. That’s don’t. Unless it’s (a) in sight of the sea and (b) has a reputation for good fish & chips. Other than that, it’s usually shite. But it wasn’t here. Excellent crispy batter, which was not at all oily. Nice white flakes of an indeterminate fish (I think one of the cheaper ones, like Pollock or something). Proper chip sized chips fried to just retain a hint of the floppy. Peas were a puree (not mushy) with a hefty dollop of mint incorporated – I think I’d have liked this better with something other than fish – the mint just didn’t quite feel right.

So, nothing to rave over. Just a nice quiet midweek pub dinner at a remarkably reasonable price. And what’s wrong with that?


John Hartley

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PHEASANT INN, BURWALDSLEY, CHESHIRE

It’s just over three years since I was last at the Pheasant. Some things havn’t changed. Then the menu proudly proclaimed “We source the very best local and free range produce wherever available”. Then there was not a single item on the menu described as free range. Now, the menu proudly makes the same proclamation. And, now, there’s still not a single mention of an ingredient being free range. Frankly, that’s a bit piss poor.

Some things have changed – or, at least, my ordering skills have improved. Then I made the mistake of ordering a fridge cold terrine that tasted of nothing but cold. And the classic error of ordering pub fish and chips – never a great idea. Things were a bit better this time around.

Goats cheese risotto was well made. Well made, that is, for the UK. By which, I mean it was not the thick claggy gloop that usually passes for risotto. Now, it wasn’t as soupy as you’d get in northern Italy but it wasn’t at all shabby. And packed with flavour. The local Kinderton goats cheese really delivering on a tang. Less thrilling were a small “nibbles” serving of cauliflower fritters – not much a flavour from the veg, but a nice crisp batter. They were advertised as coming with a chilli and garlic dip which would have worked well. But, it actually came with what was probably a homemade plum chutney, which was sort of OK , but it lacked the kick you’d have got from the chilli and garlic.

For mains, a burger was a big lad, topped with bacon and cheddar. The bun, as all too often, was soft, flabby and disintegrated before half had been eaten. Everything tasted good though and was accompanied by mustard mayo, a tomato & sweetcorn relish and decent chips.

Breast of salt marsh lamb was advertised as being a confit, although I doubt it was. What it was, was a very nice piece of meat, long cooked and then crisped up in the pan or oven. It’s hard for anyone to cook breast of lamb in a way I don’t like and this was no exception. Came with carrots, asparagus just cooked through and decent mash. Unfortunately, it also came with industrial strength gravy which was oversalted and already forming a skin before I started eating. It was best avoided.

Oh, and there’s still cracking views across the Cheshire plain up towards Liverpool that might make the trip just about worthwhile in spite of the so-so food.


John Hartley

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INN AT THE FARM, SOLIHULL

I’m not about to diss a pub that offers up a decent two course menu for £10.95. Not least when it includes good bread, aioli and a drink. It seems to be a rare occasion when you bag a bargain these days but this is one.

It’s a bit of an odd and interesting place. Well, actually two places. The pub is in a farmhouse dating to around 1580 and is Grade 2 “listed”. The restaurant is in the old dairy barn, dating to around 1700. Both buildings have had sympathetic restoration and conversion.

This isn’t gastropub territory but there’s a good solid main menu offering a mix of the “usual suspects” of bistro/pub stuff – steaks, burgers, cod fillet, several lurches across the Mediterranean but it was the cheapo “special” menu that drew us in. Three choices at each course. We both went with the “help yourself” salad bar as a starter. Mains were herb crusted plaice with chips and pork chop with an apple mash (replacing the black pudding version on the menu as the delivery of puds hadn’t arrived). All very pleasant – I’d be a regular if I was local.


John Hartley

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OLD HALL, SANDBACH, CHESHIRE

The Old Hall was, indeed, the home of the Lord of the Manor of Sandbach and the building dates to 1656. An extension was built in the 18th century to house a pub, so as the website states, hospitality had been dispensed here for some 300 years. It is a Grade 1 “listed” building but, before its recent restoration, it had been derelict and in a very sorry state. The obviously very sensitive refurbishment had taken two years and it will probably not come as a surprise to many north western foodies that the Old Hall had been bought by Brunning and Price.

Which means that the food is going to be pretty good as well.

For a starter, lamb’s kidneys came on toasted brioche. Kidneys still just pink; good bread and a really rich Madeira sauce drizzled over and around. On the other plate, the more ubiquitous ham hock terrine was a pleasant enough slice of piggy and came with zingy mustardy piccalilli vegetables and a couple of slices of spelt bread. So far, so good.

From the “light bites” section of the menu, a rump steak sandwich came on ciabatta, accompanied by tomato chutney and a few chips. Lamb pie was a thing of joy. An excellent example of “proper” pub food – crisp pastry, generously filled with lamb and veg. And, unlike the industrial strength gravy you often come across, this was just rich and tasty. There was also “proper” unsloppy mashed potato and very thinly sliced cabbage.

We went away very happy bunnies. Not least as the manager told us that their latest opening, only yesterday, is just down the road in Manchester’s Castlefield.


John Hartley

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BULL'S HEAD, MOBBERLEY, CHESHIRE

Along the original Mobberley to Knutsford road stands the Roebuck, a past Cheshire dining pub of the year. Directly opposite is the Bull’s Head which, as far as I know, has never won owt. But it puts up a valiant attempt to offer good pub food.

We went straight for main courses. A Cumbrian veal chop was on the thin side and, for me, a bit overdone. Tasted fine though. It came with finely sliced leeks braised in cider and sautéed new potatoes, both of which were good accompaniments.

Herself went with the homemade individual steak and ale pie. Good crisp pastry, packed with tender tasty meat which had been cooked in “Mobberley Wobbly” bitter, brewed for the pub by Tarporley brewers, Weetwood, I gather a pint of it worked well on its own. Came with good chips and minted, slightly mushy peas. And a little jug of gravy which was welcome as the pie contents would have been a bit on the dry side otherwise.

A pleasant enough lunch but, in truth, if you’re only having one meal in Mobberley, go to the Roebuck.


Edited by Harters (log)

John Hartley

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if you’re only having one meal in Mobberley, go to the Roebuck.

Then again.......don't. It's closed within the last few days.


John Hartley

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SAMUEL FOX INN, BRADWELL, DERBYSHIRE

Although it’s a pleasant enough drive, if it wasn’t for its entry in the Good Food Guide, we wouldn’t have been making a nearly 60 minute schlep to have lunch there. And, truth be told, having eaten there, you really do wonder about its slot in the Guide. There must be many dining pubs that offer up this sort of food and, even in our limited experience, we know that there’s a goodly number can do it better. Some can do in much better and, seemingly, still not find a place in the Guide.

It’s a pleasant enough pub, away from the main village, with most of the space set out for eating but the second smaller room retained for drinkers. There’s a decent looking dining pub carte, as well as a very good value set menu offering two courses for a tenner. But it was towards the carte and specials board that we looked.

Ham hock and chicken terrine was OK. A tad cold from the fridge – a midweek lunchtime service must be their quiet time so they probably don’t get stuff out unless there’s a customer (we were the only ones). There was toast, a little bit of salad garnish and some homemade piccalilli which was mustard zingy, as you’d hope, but the vegetables were soft.

Cream of broccoli soup looked the business but tasted of pretty much nothing. The accompanying bread was oddly crisp on its upper side – at a guess, the plate had sat for a while under the hot lights of the pass.

Speaking of sitting for a while, that’s exactly what we now did. For quite a while. In due course, an explanation and apology came. It was my chips that were the problem. Not the chips themselves, but rather the cooking of them. The fryer had either gone on the blink or had not actually been switched on. When they finally came, they were pretty good, sitting alongside a juicy, tasty piece of flat iron steak. Google tells me this is an American term for something Brits call “butler’s steak”. Well, not this Brit – I’d never heard of either description before. I’d like to see it on more menus so I can order it again. Also on the plate, the classic accompaniments of mushrooms and tomato. And a béarnaise sauce that simply wasn’t like any béarnaise I’ve had before, nor want to again – I wasn’t quite sure what it tasted of, but it was perhaps an attempt at a flavoured butter – which might have been an OK substitute if only it had properly tasted of tarragon, instead of the herb only being wafted in its direction.

On the other plate, slow cooked lamb shoulder was as good as you’d hope to cook yourself at home. There was some thinly sliced creamed cabbage. And what the menu said was going to be dauphinoise potatoes, but wasn’t. Instead, a single small piece of potato, perhaps roasted a bit, or deep fried.

Desserts? No thanks, we’ll pass and get coffee and a biscuit at home.


John Hartley

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OLDE BELL, HURLEY, BERKSHIRE

Hurley has its own River Thames regatta, presumably trying to emulate its better known near neighbour at Henley. And we only ended up here because Henley was heaving on this lovely Sunday lunchtime and there was nowhere to park.

The Olde Bell seems a deservedly popular village pub, offering a range of food options. There was a well priced traditional three course Sunday roast in the restaurant. Outside, there were BBQ offerings of posh burgers and the like. But, with a Michelin three star dinner in front of us, we just needed something fairly light and simple. So, we opted for the bar menu – mainly sandwiches but with some other bits and bobs thrown in. Like a Welsh rarebit – two slices of thick bloomer, tangy cheese and mustard and a slice of bacon on each piece of toast. Like a ploughman’s – three cheeses on offer (Colston Bassett Stilton, Lincolnshire Poacher and a Cornish brie), together with a ham version. I went with the Poacher – a good sized portion, excellent granary seeded bread, homemade pickle, a little salad, apple, pickled walnut and a sprinkling of capers.

No, we hadn’t tested the kitchen’s capabilities but, sometimes, simple is good.


John Hartley

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Anyone have any recommendations for a good pub in Wiltshire/Somerset? Would normally go to Royal Oak @ Paley Street however they are closed on Sunday evenings so looking for somewhere on the way home from London :).

Thankyou!

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GROSVENOR ARMS, ALDFORD, CHESHIRE

Doesn’t time fly? I’d never have thought it was three years since we last ate here but my notes confirm it is. Things don’t seem to have changed, except that it’s clearly busier. Lunchtime saw us scratching round for a free table. Other than that, there’s still a good looking menu and staff who are friendly and know what’s what about serving pub food.

Life had interrupted our plans for the day and we only had time for a main course. But they were pretty good.

There were two Gruyere, spinach, potato and olive cakes – think veggie fishcakes for appearance. Tasty and pretty good for a veggie fishcake. They were coated in walnut crumbs fried to a nice crispness. So far, so good. They sat on a butterbean casserole – beans, a well flavoured tomato sauce, topped with strips of roasted red pepper. It worked well.

The burger was a good ‘un. Half a pound of decent beef, topped with bacon, cheddar, lettuce, onion, tomato and gherkin. It was a big lad. Too big, in fact, for the soft pappy bun which proceeded to fall apart as soon as I picked it up. Alongside, decent chips –proper chip sized chips and none of your fries or “fat” chips. A dollop of creamy coleslaw and another dollop of a slightly too sweet tomato chutney completed a very full plate. Good effort and I thoroughly enjoyed it – even if some of the more gloopy bits fell off the bread onto my shirt.


John Hartley

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Saracens at Hadnall, Shropshire

Quite a find in an area without many options. We were originally going to try the Inn at Grinshall in ...erm ... Grinshill, which gets a good write up in the Hardens Guide, but they weren't serving food (and it was a Saturday lunch time). I think there might have been a wedding on or something - I certainly don't think the red carpet outside was on our behalf.

Anyway, we decided to continue our drive South on the A49 and take pot luck at the first pub that looked half decent. We stopped at the Saracen, which is right on the main road in the village of Hadnall. We nearly didn't go in because, looking at their menus outside, it looked like they only did full-on three course meals or tasting menus, and we only wanted a snack, as we were having a big meal that evening.

But we went in and asked if they did small dishes or snacks, and they produced their "Express Menu", which is served at lunch times. It reads very like a brunch-type menu, but it looked interesting,so we gave it a go. I had the Saracens Salmon Bagel - perfectly cooked scrambled duck egg with smoked salmon on half a bagel, with a little thin creamy sauce - rich and satisfying, it hit the spot. My partner had the Eggs Benedict, which was also great - duck egg again, with a lovely hollandaise and bacon too.

This isn't much to judge a place by, but we were very impressed. Even though we were only having a snack, we were nicely surprised by the amuse bouches they brought to the table before our meals - they brought me a beignet with apple and something else I can't remember, which was delicious, and for my husband (who has recently discovered a wheat intolerance) a spoonful of crab and mayonaise, which was also spot on. They also had gluten-free bread to replace the muffin his dish was supposed to come with. The lads serving were lovely and trying hard to provide restaurant service rather than pub-type service. I'm not bothered about having formal service - I prefer things to be informal - but they are clearly aiming at a fine dining type experience for customers while still being friendly and approachable.

The chef is Jason Hodnett - I didn't know his name, but he's had something to do with Masterchef in the past. They have apparently had a bit of a makeover in the kitchen and it looks like they have high aspirations. We ate in the bar - which is small, but perfectly formed, but the only part of the building which still feels like a pub. The rest is very much a restaurant - there is a garden/conservatory dining room at the back, and a lovely light and elegant but simple room at the front.

We will definitely stop here if we are driving down this side of the country from Liverpool - and it's also probably near enough for a lunch before a long walk if we fancy a day out in the countryside.

I've got a feeling after writing this that I'll get loads of replies from people saying that it's been well known as a destination restaurant for years. Oh well - maybe we haven't "discovered" it for other people, but we've discovered it for ourselves!


Edited by MacD (log)

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