[Haughton Moss, Cheshire] Nag's Head

We were last here in the summer of 2013, shortly after the Nags Head had reopened as part of Michelin starred chef Nigel Haworth’s small pub chain. We’d eaten at his three places in Lancashire (as well as several meals at his flagship restaurant – Northcote) and, back then, didn’t feel it came up to the quality of the others. We hoped this new visit would be better. But, it wasn’t. It wasn’t awful, of course, but there were the occasional little issues that just shouldn’t happen (and don’t at the other places).

There was a smoked haddock rarebit to start, which it would be hard to fault. Toasted sourdough and a good cheesy topping with the fish stirred through it. A perfectly poached egg complementing the haddock as it classically does. However, a celeriac croquette was generally underflavoured – not actively unpleasant but you did wonder why you’d bothered.

Devilled chicken breast was no such thing. You’d expect a sauce zinging with, say, Worcestershire sauce and chilli, but there was none of it. Instead, this was a plain chicken breast, moist but with flabby skin, that had been cooked in a ridged griddle pan or similar. It was OK as far as it went, but devilled it wasn’t. There were good chips, cooked in dripping and a little salad garnish with battered onion rings. Cheese on toast, with added streaky bacon, was perfectly fine. The requested side salad came undressed but the server quickly brought a little bowl from the kitchen.

We got the bill and quickly spotted we hadn’t been for the cheese on toast. Getting hold of the server, we were given an odd story that the menu item wasn’t in the computer but it had been set up as something else on a separate tab. No, we didn’t understand that either but, after some delay, got an accurate bill which we paid.

There are a couple of other dining pubs in the immediate area and I’d have to say I wouldn’t be driving past them in the future to get to the Nag’s.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold