Restaurant review - The Bull’s Head, Wilmslow Road, Mottram St Andrew,

Scallop starter

Scallop starter - Credit: not Archant

A former Italian restaurant building in Mottram St Andrew is now revitalised as a gastro-pub. Our reviewer reckons the Bull’s Head is right on target. REVIEW BY RAY KING

Bakewell Tart

Bakewell Tart - Credit: not Archant

It’s an all too familiar tale of modern times. A thriving country pub is taken over by a characterless corporate chain, falls on hard times through indifferent management and eventually a key part of the local community disappears. In the case of the Bull’s Head in the Domesday Book village of Mottram St Andrew, at the heart of Cheshire’s ‘Golden Triangle’ just outside Prestbury, the former pub became an Italian restaurant.

see j-pegs

see j-pegs - Credit: not Archant

But something remarkable – and rare when we hear of so many pubs closing – has happened. The Bull’s Head, after seven years, is reincarnate. Pub-restaurant group Brunning and Price, whose operation involves a number of highly respected inns across Cheshire, acquired the site on Wilmslow Road and set about a major refurbishment in January of this year.

The result, as we discovered on an extremely busy Wednesday evening, has garnered obvious approval. The car park and the capacious multi-room inn was virtually full at 7.30pm. Brunning and Price have once more raided central props for their trademark traditional pub accoutrements.

The Bull’s Head’s welcoming bar is surrounded by a series of rooms on different levels; each is different in size and character, variously sporting open fires, bookcases, period furniture, eclectic prints and posters, rugs and oak floors. I always think that Brunning and Price pubs would make great venues for a game of full-sized Cluedo – it was Professor Plum, in the Library (there’s a copy of Who’s Who 1976 on the bookshelf?!) with the steak and ale pie.

Accompanied by our daughter, we took our places in one of the larger rooms with its attractive eau-de-nil walls hung with a multitude of pictures and prints and furnished with unclad polished wood tables of all shapes and sizes and a diverse collection of chairs. The menu matches the mood – an array of modern British dishes with a nod towards exotica here and there.

I began with in-season asparagus served with silky hollandaise and a just-so crispy duck egg (£6.75) which combined the classic trio of elements with a variation of that retro favourite of the moment, the Scotch egg. The asparagus was excellent and the egg, in crispy crumb, was lovely and runny. Mrs K chose seared scallops (£9.95) which came with pea and chervil purée but without the billed crisp Parma ham. The scallops were big, fresh, plump, fleshy cushions of delicate flavour, and quite delicious. Junior Blonde was equally enthusiastic over her lime-cured sea trout – a flavoursome and inventive take on gravadlax – partnered by wasabi crème fraiche and shards of crispy sesame shrimp toast. It all added up to a seriously good start.

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The mains also impressed; I had rump of venison with rabbit sausage, skilfully crafted fondant potato, a tangle of spring greens and tender stem broccoli and blueberry jus (£18.75). The venison was dense in texture yet tender and subtly gamey and the richness and well-judged sweetness of the jus was just right. Mrs K was also full of praise for her tandoori toasted cod, served and spiced crab samosa, almond rice pilaf and fennel and cucumber salad (£14.95). The fish was beautifully moist and its spicing spot on, the accompaniments entirely complimentary. Our daughter reported her shoulder of lamb, braised in a red wine and rosemary gravy and served with dauphinoise potatoes, carrot purée and buttered greens (£16.95) to be a succulent treat.

We shared around two puddings – hot waffle with caramelised banana, toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream and peach, apricot and pistachio Bakewell tart with peaches and ice cream (both £5.45) – with rounded off in traditional comforting style. The well chosen wine list, arranged by style rather than origin, offered up a very drinkable Grillo, one of Sicily’s fine unsung whites for £16.50 and I accompanied my venison with a large glass of the house red, Nero d’Avola, whose concentrated fruit made the ideal match. Bull’s Head, bull’s eye.

The Bull’s Head, Wilmslow Road, Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire, SK10 4QH. Tel: 01625 828111;

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