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Bulls Head, Mobberley, Reviewed

Neil Sowerby likes this pub very much

Written by . Published on May 13th 2014.

Bulls Head, Mobberley, Reviewed

WHAT is it is about Cheshire and upmarket food pub chains? There are wonderful independents such as the Yew Tree at Bunbury all across the county, but equally you can’t move for outposts of Brunning and Price, New Moon – and Robinsons at their top end in the likes of The Bells at Peover. In early June, even Ribble Valley Inns are moving into what is obviously lucrative territory by reopening The Nag’s Head at Haughton in their house style with another RVI mooted for Alderley Edge.

How satisfying in contrast was the sturdy fortress of perfectly formed shortcrust pastry, sides, base, top, I received here, encasing good Cheshire beef seethed  in the house ale, Mobberley Wobbly.

The Bull’s Head at Mobberley turns out to have four siblings in the Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars stable – the nearby Church Inn, the Cholmondeley Arms,The Three Greyhounds at Allostock and (don’t ask) one in Weymouth. If the others are as good then praise be to Cheshire Cat duo Tim Bird (ex-Brunning and Price) and Mary McLaughlin (ex-La Tasca).

Bull's Head Classic Village Pub

Bull's Head

It was an impromptu lunch that hit the bull’s eye. We only turned up at the Bull’s Head because it was near Knutsford, where (shameless plug) my daughter has just opened her new spa and because it is also notably dog-friendly. Bottles of Lucky Dog Beer (beef extract, vitamin B and no alcohol) and complimentary gravy bones on the bar, designated canine zone in the Whisky Snug, all the water you can lap up. It’s also horse friendly, understandably in this realm of post and rail fencing.

Bottle Of The Wuff Stuff

Bottle of the wuff stuff

We settled into the snug, then moved out into the large garden in search of sun. Our macho chihuahua, Captain Smidge, likes nothing better than to attempt to see off  the planes roaring out of the Airport.

It was a blue noon perfect for vapour trails, so we had first tested the three and a half mile pub walk (download or take a leaflet from the bar) – another canine plus and perfect for stimulating the appetite.

Which brings me to the Bull’s Head epiphany. The Pie. The Pie of Pies. Not the microwave  proof ramekin, topped with a limp, lardy lid so glued to the rim you have to lever it off to reach the gooey, fibrous filling. What a mess in all ways these pub staples can be.

The Virgin Pie

The pie on the verge of cracking open

How satisfying in contrast was the sturdy fortress of perfectly formed shortcrust pastry, sides, base, top, I received here, encasing good Cheshire beef seethed in the house ale, Mobberley Wobbly. And there was a mound of minty mushed (not mushy) fresh peas. If the lank chips were not quite up to the business, I can quite handle that, when the rest was so generous. 

The pub suggests accompanying this with a pint of the old Wobbly, but it didn’t stand a chance in the presence of RedWillow’s seasonal ale, Mirthless (£3.40), which packs a delicate hop punch at just 3.9 per cent ABV. The affordable wine list, predominantly sourced from Boutinot, is dominated by Spain and the New World.

Lamb Shouder

Lamb shouder

The unforgettable pie cost £13.50, my companion’s slow braised shoulder of lamb, at £16.95 was the most expensive main on the menu, aside from the 28-day aged rib-eye (£19.95).

She ordered it because the dog might nibble a bit – he took his tithe and a good helping of my beef. The rosemary and redcurrant gravy overcame the lamb somewhat and the mash was on the watery side, she said. Maybe she was suffering from pie envy.

The are lots of sharing plates for starters, but I couldn’t resist Steve’s Rarebit Smokey (£5.95).

Mirthless Meets Rarebit Smokey

Mirthless meets rarebit

Steve is just one of the many staff treated chummily (or annoyingly) to potted biogs on the pub website – my favourite dish, musical hero, biggest dislike etc. Thanks then, Steve (who’s  a John Lennon fan).

His smokey was just the kind of supper I rustle up at home – Lancashire cheese topping smoked haddock, though I’d leave out the squidgy warm cherry tomatoes.

Seafood crockpot across the table was equally simple and successful, if again lacking the wow factor. White fish, salmon, prawns under a crumb crust in a white sauce that proclaimed but didn’t deliver dill. Bread was good, mind.

Lloyd’s sticky toffee pudding (£5.50), enlivened by a good dash of Jamieson’s (thanks, Lloyd, who likes Lenny Kravitz and Kings of Leon), was light, moist and spirited; spicy apple crumble and custard (£5.25) similarly sprightly after those imposing mains. Pity about the unripe strawberry and mushy (bottled?) raspberry garnishes.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

The cheese offering is from the redoubtable Carole Faulkner at The Cheese Shop in Chester – a guarantee in itself – as is the Good Beer Guide rating recognising the Bull’s Head devotion to microbreweries sourced within a 30 mile radius and the presence behind the bar of more than 65 malt and other whiskies. From 6.30 pm Monday-Thursdays they can organise whisky tastings for groups of eight and more – five whiskies, nibbles, £17.50 a head.

There’s are also the wonderful Fernando de Castilla sherries from Manzanilla to Pedro Ximenez that I’d happily sample across the range any time.

The Whisky Snug

The Whisky Snug

The Bull’s Head has been open in its present form for four years but possesses the admirable self-confidence of a hostelry parading the same virtues for decades. I’m only teasing Cheshire Cat about the the team spirit touches.

There is a genuine warm buzz about the service. Much is down to Irish landlord Barry, who spent eight years at Brunning and Price’s Sutton Hall in Macc, so he has his finger on the Cheshire pulse, if not the musical (Damien Rice and Stereophonics, oh dear). 

You can follow Neil Sowerby on Twitter @antonegomanc

The Bull’s Head, Mill Lane, Mobberley, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 7HX. 01565 873395 

Rating: 15.5/20 

Food: 7.5/10 (rarebit 7, seafood crockpot 6, lamb's shoulder 7, steak and ale pie 10, sticky toffee pudding 9, apple crumble 7)
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Locla Microbrewery Ales Our SpecialityLocal ales are legion

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Henry VMay 13th 2014.

That pie looks a tad burnt to me

2 Responses: Reply To This...
FoodieMay 13th 2014.

Cremated! And he gave a 10 for it? Hahahaha

Henry VMay 14th 2014.

Pal of mine just confirmed that these pies, slightly burnt or not, are top. I'm off there this weekend.

AnonymousMay 13th 2014.

One of the best pies in Cheshire, although I've never seen it look as unappetising as it does in these photos. You won't need to eat for a week after it.

AnonymousMay 13th 2014.

I take it they've just started advertising with you?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoMay 14th 2014.

Why do you read our site? You infer that we only review people well who pay us. Now, in our tenth year, i still have to put up with the fact that people like you are allowed (by me) to put your snide coments on. Here is my reply. If you can prove that we only review restaurants that pay us, I will give £5000 to a charity of your choice. In the meantime, this pub is not an advertiser; I didn't know it existed until Neil put his review up. I really want to say to people like you, why don't you just go and fuck off. But Jonathan, who has complete editorial integrity, will tell me off. So, whilst he is out, i am going to take advantage; You are a fuckwit.

pollolocoMay 15th 2014.

Was agreeing with you there Gordo...right up unto the point when you said you've never heard of the place....hmmmm!

FoodieMay 13th 2014.

The sticky look lighter in colour than the pie

Woof woof slurpMay 14th 2014.

The pub is horse friendly...why did you fail to do 'why the long face' joke Neil?

AnonymousMay 15th 2014.

The home-made burgers are a must try also. Make sure you are sat outside on the lawn at 2.20pm to see the A380 take off for Dubai, its quite a sight.

JanieBMay 15th 2014.

Well said Gordo! There is no need for snide comments like that and they don't have the balls to post their name. I had a really great lunch at the Bull's Head a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it so much I went back last week. Fab pub food, lovely friendly staff. The place is just a gem.

Ash JairathMay 15th 2014.

Has the pub reopened again, we were there few weeks ago and it was shut for the second time in as many years.

Gavin HarrisonMay 15th 2014.

You're thinking of the Roebuck opposite Ash. Not sure if it's open, it has a great beer garden though.

AnonymousMay 15th 2014.

Please go try its sister pub - The Church, in Mobberley - equally as good, if not better! Staff great, good ambience/decor/beer garden and lovely food.

AnonymousMay 15th 2014.

didnt u dine there on sunday gordo???

AVOMay 15th 2014.

Been there recently for lunch. Had a decent steak and blacksticks blue sandwich. The scotch eggs are good.

CarnationMay 19th 2014.

Agreed they need to sort out the limp chip situation... how hard is it to get chips right?!

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