Restaurant review - The Nag's Head, Haughton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:49 07 May 2015
Ray King visits the Nag's Head at Haughton Moss, a Lancashire chain's first venture over the border
Long Lane is appropriately named. Twisting and turning amid the lush countryside of south Cheshire between the A49 and the Wrexham-Nantwich road, it could be the proverbial Road to Nowhere. Don’t be fooled; this is the road to somewhere quite special, for half-way along Long Lane’s long length one comes upon the scattered hamlet of Haughton Moss and its quintessential village pub – a local landmark since circa 1680.
Not much passing trade, one might think, not too many local regulars. But the chances are that from now on – or at least since its reopening in early June – much of the traffic along Long Lane won’t be passing the Nag’s Head, but heading for this stunningly refurbished pub as a destination.
For the Nag’s Head is the first Ribble Valley Inn in Cheshire and if the geography sounds a little wayward, don’t be fooled again. Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth, one of the north west’s true culinary champions, has chosen the location of RVI’s Cheshire debut with all the passion for historic, unique and beautiful settings with local high-quality produce that characterise the group’s four sites in Lancashire, North Yorkshire and Cumbria, all of which boast an AA Rosette and a place in the Michelin Pub Guide.
The refurbishment and extension permitted under the Nag’s Head’s Grade Two* listed status has preserved its period feel and the inn abounds in rustic charm. The cosy bar with open fireplaces gives way to spacious dining areas with soaring beamed ceilings. Outside there’s an immaculately manicured bowling green, kitchen garden, and plenty of space for al fresco eating.
It’s not just the heritage of the Nag’s Head that’s been painstakingly researched, but also Cheshire-based suppliers of the finest ingredients have been sought out and homage to them is paid fulsomely on the pub’s website, menus – even place mats – and in many strategically placed photographs around the place.
We arrived for a late lunch on an idyllic summer’s day and found dishes on the menu that perfectly suited the place, the season and our mood. I started with what was technically listed under ‘Nibbles’ but the Old Spot Scotch egg (£4.50) that came in a lovely hollowed out wooden ‘dish’ with crisp watercress and a mild curry mayonnaise was a piggy delight encased in a crunchy crumb shell and enveloping a faultlessly done runny egg; yum.
Mrs K opted for a tad more sophistication with a starter that we’d never encountered before but are determined to do so again. Field mushroom soufflé with watercress and a silky celeriac sauce (£5.25) was a masterpiece contrived from the simplest ingredients. The soufflé was light and airy, binding the tiniest of mushrooms, while the cress and celeriac worked with it in perfect harmony. Just for good measure we shared a platter of excellent home-made sourdough breads with Cheshire butter and the mandatory olive oil and balsamic cruet.
The summer sunshine dictated my choice of main course and it matched the occasion to a tee. Tempura of native lobster (£19.50) from the menu’s list of salads and platters, came in with a mélange of peas, broad beans, scorched lettuce, morsels the most fabulously sweet and ripe Alfonso mango with counterpointing pickled ginger and coriander dressing. The fresh and flavoursome chunks of lobster were encased in gossamer tempura batter that somehow retained its crispiness and the combination of flavours was racy and exciting. What a treat!
Mrs K chose the fish dish of the day (£13.50) and was rewarded with a generously proportioned fillet of seabass, perfectly fried with crisp skin and moist, seafoody-flavoured flesh, draped over a tangle of mangetouts sugar snaps and fine French beans. A dish of mayonnaise and s side of real chips completed the mouth-watering picture.
Desserts were simply too tempting to ignore so we didn’t. Mrs K relished her epic treacle tart, classically partnered with fresh raspberries and clotted cream (£5.50) while I chose lemon curd ice cream with meringue and ginger biscuit crumble (£5.50); fabulous to look at but incredibly sweet – maybe a bit more lemon please! We drank a delightful yet modestly priced Chilean sauvignon blanc (£16.50) from the bottom end of what must be one of the best thought out wine lists of any Cheshire pub.
Welcome to the county!
The Nag’s Head, Long Lane, Haughton Moss, Tarporley, Cheshire, CW6 9RN. 01829 260265, www.nagsheadhaughton.co.uk