Ram’s Head @ Grappenhall

When the then Prime Minister John Major made that famous speech evoking England as a place of “long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers with old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist” he may well have had the village of Grappenhall in mind.
With its cobbles and hump-backed bridge, Grappenhall is the archetypal Cheshire village; it was mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086 and comes complete with stocks, a pretty stretch of the Bridgewater Canal and a Norman church with what many believe to be an original carving of the Cheshire Cat on the west face of the tower.
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The village has also been the setting for TV’s The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes and is the home of two pubs, one of which is the solid, imposing-looking Ram’s Head, built in 1886 which, as well as providing traditional pub amusements – darts etc. – boasts a restaurant and bed ’n’ breakfast rooms.
For scenic Grappenhall is a bit of a holiday venue, too. From there, places such as Manchester, Chester (and its zoo), Liverpool and mile upon mile of rural Cheshire are easily attainable. So, putting up for a night or two at the pub makes sense.
But I wasn’t there to go day tripping, I was there to sample the beer, the food and the welcome.
It’s a roomy dining area inside (or tables outside if the weather is kind enough) and the first thing to notice is the airy nature of the converted building with its unusual mechanised fans beating a gentle welcome.
For real ale lovers, the award-winning Summer Lightning beer provides a not-wrongly-warm welcome, while I was very happy to see a choice of chilled cava or Champagne by the glass offered on the menu. It’s these sort of small indulgences which takes this very traditional venue a step above the average when it comes to eating out.
The menu included a “roast of the day” and “curry of the day” option – something which seemed at odds with the interesting and aspirational food offered elsewhere at this pub. Having said that, anyone having a retro moment can also get a traditional prawn cocktail or fish and chips. It seems all tastes are catered for but we decided to seek out the less ordinary options.
We started with the skewers of black pudding, cherry tomatoes and caramelised apple with dressed rocket. I took advantage of the choice to have a vegetarian version of the traditional blood delicacy, which was succulent and herby, while he went for the standard option. Both plates were well complemented by the lightly caramelised apple and the sweetness of the toms.
It was a longer than wanted wait for food but, when it came, the lamb cutlets with a rosemary and Parma ham crust (£10.95) cooked until perfect pink were melting, the leek puree creamy but not bland and the chips!…… well the chips were chunks of crisp but fatty potato in the way that fatty is good. Fat, appealing and ultimately defeating!
The large fillet of halibut(£14.25) came with a strong tasting crust which infused every forkful with garlic and rock salt and was accompanied by an equally robust tomato, garlic and herb salsa plus a generous helping of mashed potato.
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The choice of deserts was equally interesting with treats such as a crème brulée with fresh strawberries and Cheshire Farms real dairy ice cream with meringue buttons vying for attention.
Being restrained(sic!) we shared a rhubarb and ginger fool in a meringue nest (£3.95) which was at once light and moreish – a mini volcano of confection with a chewy-in-the-middle meringue which just couldn’t contain the river of fool decorated with strawberries.
Stepping out onto the cobbles for an after dinner stroll along the canal bank we could still see those long shadows forming against the backdrop of a rolling vista of green fields, hedgerows and trees which makes the Cheshire countryside such a pleasurable place to be on sunny afternoon. Maybe a longer stay courtesy of those room should be the order of the day after all.
The Ram’s Head, Church Lane, Grappenhall, Warrington, WA4 3EP. 01925 262 814.