Food review - The Nag's Head, Haughton
PUBLISHED: 12:50 21 March 2019
The Nag’s Head in Haughton is back at full gallop… after the odd false start
If we’re using horsey terminology, the Nag’s Head always looked like a dead cert. Here we have an absolutely beautiful building – a half-timbered quintessence of a country pub, dating back to 1629 – in a tranquil setting on a winding lane near Bunbury. First impressions are of a cosy bar beyond which is an airy, tastefully extended dining room with exposed brick, wooden floors and massive rough-hewn beams in the high ceiling. Horsey paraphernalia decorates the walls.
On a sunny day, the long windows of that extended dining room look out onto the kind of pub garden where you would happily while away a sizzling, sozzled summer Sunday. If there were boxes for a Cheshire country pub to tick, the Nag’s Head ticked the lot.
And yet, the old nag has, in recent years, failed to make it to the winner’s enclosure. A much-vaunted attempt by Michelin-starred Lancashire chef Nigel Haworth to make the Nag’s Head his bridgehead to a friendly invasion of Cheshire faltered. There were teething problems and personnel changes after the 2014 launch and by this time last year the pub was up for sale.
Along came James Hughes of the family business Piste Wine Bar of Tarporley, and the nag is up and running again. Rather than replicating Piste’s quirky Alpine and fondue theme, the menu here features upmarket pub grub, plus steaks, burgers, pizzas, sharing platters… something for everyone. Head chef Mark Stubbert deserves some credit for this.
His starter of mussels (£7) was a promising first taste, the white wine and garlic broth extremely creamy, with diced smoked bacon giving the dish something extra. Salt and pepper chicken (£6.50) arrived as perfect crispy, chunky goujons with a zingy lemon mayonnaise.
A main of belly pork (£17) was a big wedge of meat with sweet sticky crackling, a firm puck of black pudding mash, red wine jus, tenderstem broccoli and a tasty little cheffy flourish in the form of a couple of tiny toffee apples. Yet even more accomplished was a main of blackened cod (£17.50) with pak choi – a deeply flavourful, exotically peppery and spicy piece of flaky fish with shrimp butter and a rasher of crispy smoked bacon. Lots of great tastes on that plate.
Pecan and maple pie (£7) with its honeycomb ice cream was perhaps a sticky indulgence after the belly pork, while a black cherry crème brûlée proved a lighter, subtler affair… as well as having enough fruit to count towards your five-a-day.
There is lots to like on this menu, and this remains one nag worth betting on.
The Nag’s Head, Long Lane, Haughton, Tarporley. CW6 9RN. Tel 01829 260265, www.nagsheadcheshire.co.uk