Reviewer's rating: *** Sophie Bignall spends an enjoyable evening at a country inn.
Reviewer's rating: ***
Sophie Bignall spends an enjoyable evening at a country inn.
There is obviously a place for the cordon bleu restaurant for the gourmet, the chic French bistro for a night out with your loved one, Asian food for those who love rich spices, the chintzy country inn for a quiet night out and places you can take the kids for hamburgers and chicken nuggets.
But what is always in big demand, particularly in these times of credit crunch, is a restaurant that offers hearty meals at prices that are easy on the pocket, drinks at moderate prices and a convivial atmosphere to chase away the international gloom.
If your appetite is good and your budget modest, if you like excellent food and a range of well-kept drinks at extremely reasonable prices, and if you enjoy a hubbub of conversation typical of an English country pub, the Boar’s Head at Bishop’s Castle is the ideal spot.
My husband and I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening there for not much more than half what it would have cost in many places. We couldn’t fault either the quality or the quantity of the food. It was a very tasty meal, and the wine and beer were excellent and surprisingly cheap.
The pub is under new management, and judging by the number of vehicles parked there and the clamour of conversation coming from the bar, it is already proving to be a popular choice with locals.
The pub is reputed to be one of the earliest surviving buildings in the town, and much of the original construction is said to remain today, including genuine exposed beams and a huge fireplace. It certainly does has a medieval feel about it.
As we entered, we were hit by a wall of noise from the packed bar, and it was almost intimidating having to make our way through the drinkers and battle our way to the bar.
Wow, this place certainly is popular! We ordered our drinks and settled down at a table in the dining area, which is separated from the rest of the pub only by a small wooden partition, which doesn’t shield diners from the noise.
After a five-minute battle to combat a wobbly table, which involved crawling around on the floor and stuffing a beer mat under it, we were ready to order.
The menu, chalked up on a blackboard, proved to offer a good variety of yummy pub food, including starters and mains with two vegetarian choices, steaks, fish and pies, and, of course, chips.
My husband, who excused himself to use the boys’ room, reported that the loos were nice and clean and en-route he had met a friendly local who was singing the pub’s praises.
For starters, my husband went for the deep fried calamari, while I satisfied my cheese addiction with the grilled goat’s cheese. We didn’t have to wait long.
Both dishes were served with salad and a fabulous dressing, a perfect partner to my melt-in-the-mouth goat’s cheese. My husband cleared his plate, scoring the calamari with a resounding 10 out of 10, saying that it was perfectly cooked, tender and not in the least rubbery, a complaint he has often had to make elsewhere when he has ordered squid.
The Boar’s Head was so packed and noisy it was difficult to hold a conversation. But it made the evening jolly and, surrounded by lots of other people enjoying their meals, it was much more fun than sitting in a silent restaurant lacking atmosphere.
When we moved on to the main course, I chose the broccoli pasta and ricotta bake while my husband went for the salmon in tarragon sauce with vegetables and new potatoes.
The size of the meal proved to be more than adequate, and we were served with dishes of mange tout, carrots and broccoli along with new potatoes, all cooked to perfection.
My bake proved to be pleasant enough, but unremarkable, perhaps a tiny bit bland. But I really enjoyed the vegetables. The salmon, however, got the seal of approval from my husband. He thoroughly enjoyed the succulent pink fish served in a delicate tarragon sauce, and enthused especially about the crisp mange tout.
Our friendly waitress returned to give us the sweet choices, which included one of my husband’s firm favourites, bread and butter pudding, offered with a choice of different creams and which he said was excellent.
There were plenty of other dessert choices but I decided to forego a pudding. As I have more of a savoury tooth, I could have been tempted by a cheeseboard, but none was available, which is a pity.
We were pretty impressed by the Boar’s Head Hotel. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a pub serving good pub food, and there is plenty of atmosphere, the food and drink was really reasonably priced and the staff were efficient and friendly.
Deep fried calamari (£4.75)
Grilled goat’s cheese (£4.75)
Salmon in tarragon sauce with new potatoes and vegetables (£9.95)
Broccoli pasta and ricotta bake (£6.95)
Bread and butter pudding (both £3.95)
Rowdy and medieval
Access and toilets for the disabled
The Boar's Head, Church Street, Bishop's Castle. Tel: 01588 638521