Despite being Cheshire born and bred (with a 15 year stint in London) there are even a few places above and across the Cheshire plains I have yet to visit. One of them being the tiny hamlet of Haughton, near Tarporley. Some would say this is deepest, darkest Cheshire, perhaps even Cheshire ‘proper’. No bling, no ‘nouveau riche’ with those who drive a Range Rover because they need too not just because they can. With an invitation from Ribble Valley’s Inns to attend Sunday lunch at The Nag’s Head (their first entry into Cheshire) my husband and I dropped the children off at Grandma’s house and drove through the country lanes to give it a try.
Two horses were already taking refreshment at the special ‘Horses Only’ parking section and the sun was finally out. Given our sample menu we were taken straight to our table. With lots of various texture and muted, but fun decor, the interior was warm without being stuffy or cliché; a trap many county inns fall into. Now and again I noticed the odd nod to the horse, such as a stirrup lamp base. An old favourite of prawn cocktail to start was done well, crisp fresh lettuce and juicy prawns with cute courgette twist. My husband had one of his all time favourites, Angus Beef Tartare, spiced well, with a cute runny Quails egg and thinly sliced cabbage, my husband thought delicious. My poached cornfed chicken breast with herb tea butter sauce, asparagus and new potatoes was just lovely, soft and full of flavour. My husbands 21 day Aged Rump of Beef was melt in your mouth, with the most delicious cauliflower cheese and perfectly cooked vegetables. Each type of vegetable had been given thought and care, not just slung all together on the plate as an after thought. Vegetables to me are as important as the meat and it seems that the kitchen agree. To finish, a cheese plate for him and a strawberry sundae for me. Job done.
The waiting staff all seemed young, but definitely not inexperienced. Rhiannon and Kayleigh who looked after us were fun, attentive and knowledgable. At one pont we could hear the inimitable Nigel Haworth shouting “mashed potato, mashed potato” in a silly voice accompanied by peels of laughter from the kitchen. A happy kitchen is a great sign of a well run operation and the proof was in the excellent food produced. For drinks we had a pint of the house bitter ‘1629’ which was light and not overly hoppy, served in a barrel glass. I just had to try a ‘Nagtini’, after all we may be in Cheshire proper but just a little bit of bling never goes amiss!
Pictured around the bar and restaurant in flattering black and white are images of many local suppliers such as Burts Cheese (Knutsford), Haughton Honey (Haughton) and Walk Mill Flour (Chester). I think it is good to see the people behind this local produce and to know that when it says ‘local’ on the menu you can actually pinpoint them on the map and not a million miles away. Art from local artist David Lunt also features various recognisable places from around Cheshire, painted on to glass, which we were told look even more beautiful when lit up at night.
We took coffee in the garden overlooking the bowling green and newly planted herb garden. When you have driven for half an hour, slightly worse for wear after a late night out for a much missed and a not done often enough lunch with your husband, you want great food that you enjoy and want to eat, in a relaxed and enjoyable setting with great staff and service. So I am pleased to say The Nag’s Head gets a great big gold star and a huge tick in every (horse) box.