The Bull’s Head has two restaurants. A casual brasserie on the ground floor and the more formal Loft Restaurant in, erm, the loft. We’ve had past lunches in the brasserie (and they were good) and had excellent dinners in the Loft. A re-visit was one of the reasons for spending a couple of nights in the area.
Aperitifs are served in the ground floor lounge – a comfy old fashioned hotel “residents lounge”, although we weren’t residents. We were greeted by an odd smell, apparently connected to the completion, that day, of a redecoration project. Not nice – they should have got the Airwick out. There were canapés, of course – excellent smoked salmon, goats cheese & beetroot on a goats cheese biscuit and, joy of joy, pork scratching served with a fig chutney. The menu is a short table d’hote with around five choices at each course, at a very reasonable £47.50 for the three courses.
The Loft itself is a pleasant space – modern decor, comfy seating and staff who are friendly, engaged and really on the ball. First up was an amuse bouche of parsnip soup. Now this was good. Really good. So good, it should serve as a masterclass in parsnip soup making. Both sweet and earthy at the same time and very rich.
Starters were bang-on. There was no need for me to look further than smoked pork belly with a chorizo beignet. The accompanying onion and parsley risotto was more generically savoury than specific of the two ingredients. The other plate featured a red mullet fillet and scallops. A crab, cucumber and apple ravioli added to the light, fresh taste of the seafood. As did a chunk of caramelised cucumber.
Seafood was our choice for mains. There was nothing wrong with my partner’s monkfish but it proved to be not to her taste. Simply a poor choice – I’d have been very happy to eat it (but she didn’t want to swap with my dish). It came with what was almost a puree of yellow split peas, a potato fondant, finely shredded black kale and a scattering of shrimps.
Fillets of brill were simply brill. Perfectly cooked and tasting very much of themselves, they needed no enhancement and the light fishy foam was enough of a moistening. Also on the plate, lemon & dill potato croquettes – formed into elegant balls before frying. Braised little gem lettuce, fennel and a scattering of peas were thoughtful and successful accompaniments.
The pre-dessert of lemon posset was lovely in the way that something citrus is always going to be lovely as a pre-dessert.
A slice of chocolate and hazelnut gateau was rich and sweet. A slightly bitter cake base topped with a very rich ganache. Perfectly balanced and I loved it – almost as much as I loved the pomegranate ice cream. The other dessert was, perhaps, simpler – which means there’s no margin for error. A vanilla mousse was perfect but the topping of poached rhubarb was slightly undercooked leaving it slightly crunchy.
Coffee was good. As were the “sweetmeats” – always a more accurate description than “petit fours”.