Food review - Fox and Hounds, Sproston
PUBLISHED: 19:35 15 February 2015 | UPDATED: 19:35 15 February 2015
Good food and cosy hospitality at the Fox and Hounds at Sproston is establishing it as a destination eaterie
The Fox and Hounds has been a landmark - of sorts - on the mid-Cheshire road from Holmes Chapel to Middlewich and Winsford since the modern mode of transport was the stage coach. I say ‘of sorts’ because in recent times this 18th Century wayside inn at Sproston Green has been somewhat out of sorts; a place where the passing trade - and there’s a lot of it just half a mile or so west of the M6 motorway’s junction 18, where many frustrated motorists bail out of the traffic congestion - largely passed it by.
All that has changed. A major makeover and a commitment to the service of freshly prepared top quality food using the best of locally sourced ingredients amid a cosy, relaxed ambience and a clever design take on traditional country pub surroundings, has made the Sproston Fox not only a wonderfully welcoming oasis for refugees from the motorway, but also a destination inn-restaurant in its own right with its warming winter stoves and, for summer, extensive gardens and play areas.
The Fox and Hounds’ newly acquired reputation for excellent hospitality had gone before it when we arrived, mid-evening, mid-week to find the place bustling and musicians just setting up. We were struck by the warm textures of wood and stripped Cheshire brick, the deliberately eclectic assembly of leather, upholstered and wood furnishing and the impressive murals of hunting scenes, repeated on colourful place mats. The pub’s imagineers have done a very impressive job.
The seasonal menu, in a cover fronted by an image of hanging hunting pink jackets, is an exemplary assemblage of comfort food delights : nibbles and snacks featuring the likes of devilled whitebait with aioli, smoked haddock or smoked bacon Scotch eggs and black pudding chipolatas and sharing platters comprising items of the above. Having glanced at the generous portion sizes being served on nearby tables, we went straight for the starters; Thai-style fishcakes with lemongrass, chillies. coriander and while crab meat, salmon and sweet chilli dip (£7.95) for Mrs K and treacle baby back pork ribs with watermelon and spicy black pea hummous (£8.95) for me.
The former, moist and appealing, struck all the right exotic flavour notes while the latter - to borrow from the late Michael Winner’s foodie-critical lexicon - was historic. The pork, luxuriating in unctuous, sweet black treacle, and literally falling from the bones was served in a huge stack and was absolutely finger-licking delicious. The addition of the watermelon and spiced black pea added a touch of Dixieland magic.
For the main course I was sorely tempted - again by spying what was being served on an adjacent table - by the Fox and Hounds’ hand-crafted beef and Guinness pie, a thing of crusty beauty - but succumbed instead to a seasonal classic, roast pheasant (£11.95). This was a bird - well, half a bird - of some pedigree, raised on the Arley Estate and partnered with honey soused root vegetables, a thyme fondant potato and juniper butter. The flavour combinations really complimented the slight gaminess of the pheasant which was admirably moist and juicy. Opposite, Mrs K chose a generously proportioned and perfectly cooked grilled seabass fillet (£18.95) imaginatively and deliciously accompanied by king prawn butter, saffron baby potatoes and just-so mixed green vegetables.
After feasting so well we might, in the normal course of events, have passed on pudding but there, lurking among the list of home-made desserts was an irresistible Jack Daniels’ bread and butter pudding with raisins, brioche and silky custard (£5.95) which we shared with glee. The wine list is short but very well chosen and moderately priced, though we drank by the glass: vibrant Nika Tika Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (£4.25 for 175cl) and concentrated spicy Australian McPherson Shiraz (£3.90 for 175cl). Service, marshalled by the Fox and Hounds’ new manager Mark Huntley who ran the prestigious Nunsmere Hall Hotel for many years, was efficient and friendly throughout.
That pie beckons...we’ll be back.
The Fox and Hounds, Holmes Chapel Road, Sproston, Cheshire CW4 7LW. Tel: 01606 841180; www.foxandhoundssproston.co.uk