Food profile - The Nag's Head, Haughton Moss
PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 July 2015 | UPDATED: 19:34 24 October 2015
A year after Lancashire culinary giant Nigel Haworth's friendly invasion of Cheshire, Louise Allen-Taylor returns to his Nag's Head at Haughton Moss for second helpings
It took only a sip of rhubarb bellini and a nibble of the sweetly spicy red cabbage accompanying Nigel Haworth’s famed Lancashire hotpot for us to fall for the Nag’s Head at its opening last summer.
This was superior pub grub in a very superior pub - a tastefully renovated early 17th century inn in deepest Cheshire - and with the reassuring imprimatur of a consistently Michelin-starred chef, he of Northcote, near Blackburn.
Twelve months on, with a couple of initial teething problems ironed out and some personnel changes, the Nag is now cantering forth purposefully under a new general manager Rob Broadbent and Cheshire-born head chef Tom Pickering.
On our second visit, the pub seemed just as welcoming - a cosy bar area leading through to an airy restaurant with lots of bare brick, knotty timber and, beyond the picture windows, the kind of pub garden in which you’d want to while away a sunny Sunday.
The menu strikes a deft balance between tried and tested beer-drinker’s ballast - fish and chips, pie and chips - and proper cheffy concoctions, but at reasonable prices.
A starter of rare breed sticky ribs with devilled black peas (£7) featured fall-off-the-bone meat, coated in a smoky southern states-style barbecue sauce - the kind of thing which would induce one of Homer Simpson’s drooling fits. A twice-baked Chorlton Cheshire cheese and chive soufflé (£6.50) was perfectly aerated, its rich, ripe flavours sharpened by a subtle beetroot relish.
A main of pan-fried loin of cod (£16.50) came with a cheesy crust, slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, brown shrimps - little taste bombs! - and nutty butter. A quietly accomplished fish dish.
When the menu comes courtesy of a Lancashire food hero like Nigel Haworth, it’s almost rude not to go for one of his star dishes. The Lancashire hotpot (£12.50) had generous cuts of Lonk lamb (an ancient breed of Lancashire upland sheep) beneath a crisp ‘roof’ of thinly-sliced potato. It’s a classic less-is-more dish in which high-quality ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves. The red cabbage was, as I had recalled, divine - zinging with star anise and cinnamon.
Of the desserts, the star was mini rhubarb donuts with dippy custard (£6) - crusty little balls of naughtiness in such a generous portion that we took some home with us.
Pub grub..it’s almost a dismissive term, but not when the pub and the grub is this good.
The Nag’s Head, is at Long Lane, Haughton Moss, near Tarporley, CW6 9RN, tel 01829 260265, www.nagsheadhaughton.co.uk