There’s some history to the Bull’s Head. Probably built around 1800, as a farm house – but a farm with a licence to serve alcohol. So, it’s always been a pub, even during the more recent period when it’s also been a restaurant. It was probably part of the estate of Mottram New Hall, owned by the Wright family whose coat of arms included three bull’s heads and the name must derive from that. I first remember it in the 70s and 80s when it was fairly manky and part of the Beefeater pub restaurant chain. It then became an overpriced and very underwhelming Italian restaurant (where I remember eating once, in 2009). Since 2013, it’s been operated by Brunning & Price – a small national chain of dining pubs, of which we are fans.
We’ve been for lunch several times over the years but this may have been the first time for dinner. It was busy when we got there at 7.30 and had to wait a few minutes for our table. The menu is pretty straightforward, homey food – the sort you might well be able to cook for yourself. We were almost the last arrivals for the evening – seemed that folk had popped out to eat home style food, with someone else doing the cooking and washing up, rather than it being a place where you were going to linger for the evening having dinner. Certainly, well before 9pm, staff were clearing tables, resetting for the next day and generally cleaning down.
As for the food, it was OK. Salmon gravlax had the usual salty, sweet cure but had been enhanced with beetroot to give a great colour. There was also some smoked salmon pate, ready to be loaded onto a crispy tortilla, and some root vegetable slaw. The other starter was “sticky pork belly” in a honey, ginger and soy dressing. But that was it – five cubes of meat and the dressing. You just felt it needed a bit of something else on the plate. Anything really.
For mains, there was an Asian style salad. Crispy beef, crunch from pak choi and other salady bits, a fairly meagre scattering of cashew nuts and a sweet chilli dressing. On the other plate, a slice of a proper pie – pastry top, bottom and side. And a traditional pie at that –cheese onion and potato. And they use Appleby’s Cheshire cheese. There’s mixed greens (always good in a Brunning & Price place) and chunks of an earthy beetroot. A white wine and mustard sauce brought it together (and would have benefitted from a more assertive use of mustard).
A salted caramel and chocolate tart was not worth the calories. Pastry was soggy and the chocolate filling didn’t have much flavour. The bits of caramelised banana were the best bits. They also have a great idea of offering a coffee and a mini dessert (in this case a small portion of the crème brulee). It might have been lovely had both arrived at the same time as obviously intended. But the coffee had been brought and drunk several minutes before the brulee turned up (even more disappointing, it wasn’t very nice).