[Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire] Bulls Head

My favourite nearby dining pub. It’s a while since we’ve been which I suppose means we haven’t been eating in pubs for a while. We were out that way doing a bit of Christmas shopping and lunch called.

Now, it’s fair to say that starters always seem to be the Bull’s weak point, so we passed this time and went straight into mains. The menu changes through the seasons but there are some dishes that are constants. For instance, there’s always a braised lamb dish. Today it was shoulder and it had been given a proper long braise – the meat literally falling from the bone. It came with very decent dauphinoise potatoes, a carrot puree – sweet but not overly so – and a mix of green beans and cabbage. Good gravy. Across the table, there was a cheese, potato and onion pie. Good shortcrust and good contents, although it could have done with a greater presence of the cheese. A creamy mustard sauce worked well, as did the shredded cabbage that was also on the plate.

Well, of course, as we hadn’t had starters, there was room for dessert. Something we don’t often bother with at this level of cooking. And, in truth, we should have stuck with usual practice. They were OK but only OK. A rhubarb and custard ice cream came from Buttertons Lane Farm, just down the road at the southern end of the county. It tasted of both but in a fairly boring way. Call me a pedant, but when your menu says “roasted plums” – in the plural – there’s an expectation that there will be more than one on the plate. It was nice enough and the dollop of marmalade ice cream had just the right hint on citrus. What was not appealing was the gigantic “catering wholesaler” meringue that occupied half the plate.

That lamb dish sounds delicious. Did you manage to work out what else they’d put in the carrot puree? Were the carrots boiled or roasted? I love the idea of roasted carrot puree, but the only one I’ve managed to make that wasn’t too sweet is one that uses the bitterness of tahini and cumin to mitigate the sweetness.

My thoughts were that the sweetness was coming entirely from the carrots - which probably means they’d been roasted - although they may have cooked them in “carrots Vichy” sort of style which would have added a little sweetness.

It’s a funny thing. The pub is part of a smallish chain of dining pubs. I know that individual pubs have flexibility to set their own menu and, indeed, do some local sourcing of produce but there are some dishes where there’s always soem representation, so I think there must be a central direction. I’ve yet to be in one of the pubs and not see braised lamb in some form.

This is fairly common for this sort of chain, I think. I find it really interesting to look at the differences and similarities between menus from different pubs in the same chain. I have something of a collection of photos of pub menus and really must do something about cataloguing and categorising them properly.

Help cover Hungry Onion's costs when you shop at Amazon!

Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
Credit: Juan Antonio Segal, Flickr