[Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire] Bull's Head

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).


A return visit for dinner although, in truth, the food is more “good lunch” than “nice dinner”. Reliable, solid dining pub food with a menu that may change daily – I’d looked online a couple of days before and thought I might order X but, when we went, X wasn’t on the menu.

For one of us, there was a carrot and ginger soup to start. Nicely thick, with a slight zing from the ginger contrasting with the sweetness of carrot. Came with a sourdough roll. The other starter might easily have made a lovely main course if it had been upscaled a bit. As it was, pig cheek had been very long braised in cider. It fell apart at the touch of the fork. It sat on a parsnip puree and there was a scattering of parsnip crisps for crunch. There’s a little wilted greens and a couple of dabs of apple puree. Everything surrounded by a puddle of the delicious braising liquid.

I faced a dilemma for my main course. My hoped-for lamb shoulder dish wasn’t there. Should I stick with lamb in the form of a burger or should I go for a steak, smoked bacon and venison pie? The burger won. It came, spiced with harissa, on a brioche bun which managed not to fall apart till I was halfway through eating it. There’s a bit of feta on the burger, a drizzle of red pepper ketchup, lettuce and pickles. And indifferent fries alongside.

From the “Light Bites” section of the menu came a slice of Sparkenhoe Red Leicester and leek quiche, served warm. Nice pastry. Tasty, mellow filling. Alongside, a couple or so new potatoes, dressed with mayo and a small handful of salad.

None of the desserts appealed, so we just got the bill from the smiley, efficient server and were home in time for coffee.


We’d booked for lunch which was just as well as it seemed very busy with several groups of “ladies who lunch”. As always, there was good service and a menu packed with dishes you could fancy ordering. They modify the menu regularly which accounts for the fact that, whilst I’d spotted a lovely partridge main course when I looked online just after breakfast, it had disappeared when they updated the menu just before midday.

There was a roast chestnut risotto, as a starter, which was nice enough in itself but would have been even better if you could actually detect any pieces of chestnut in it. The overall flavour was enhanced with a scattering of lightly pickled shemeji mushrooms and a few crisped sage leaves. That was followed by a “proper” suet shortcrust pie – crisp pastry top, bottom and side – filled with long cooked venison, bacon, mushroom and baby cocktail onions. It came with colcannon and mixed greens. Just the sort of lunch that works on a chilly autumn day.

Spiced carrot soup was everything you want from a bowl of soup. Warming, flavoursome with the sweetness of carrot and a little background spice from cumin and coriander. Lovely sourdough roll and butter alongside. The main course came from the Light Bites section. A steak sandwich – alleged to be fillet but so chewy in parts that fillet it wasn’t. But most was edible and those bits were nice enough. It wasn’t a plate to send back but it was a plate to comment on when we were asked how everything had been. There’s a tarragon and Dijon mayo, a little salad, sun blush tomatoes and a few fries.