The Nags Head is one of those pubs that comfortably fits into those few known as landmarks.
It has a long history – it was bought for just £1,000 back in 1922 – and over the years has built up a formidable reputation.
And it’s now been treated to a £500,000 refurbishment – a word I particularly dislike as it conjures up images of something old being turned into something new, ‘modern’ and, ultimately, ruined.
That couldn’t be further from the case here.
In fact, it can be argued the Nags Head has gone the other way to revel in its and the town’s history.
Old photos of Huddersfield from the end of the Victorian era right through to the 70s adorn the walls. You can’t help but just wander about peering at them trying to spot exactly where they have been taken. Here’s a quick pub quiz for you – try to find the one of Wellington Mills at Oakes as you’ve probably never seen it before.
And in the main dining area in what was the barn there are two huge tapestries hanging down the wall, antlers stuck up there and, along with the bare stone and iron chandelier lighting, it gives it a distinctive castle feel.
With dining also upstairs – there’s a great nook and cranny up there where you can even hide away – there’s plenty of room and the lighting is spot on, not that they’ve used spots. It’s homely, cosy and now the carvery has been dropped there’s more space for seats.
So on to the food. Could it live up to the promise of the surroundings? Will you dine like a lord?
Well, like the horse its named after, you can go grazing before you even start on the starters with such guilty delights as pork scratchings with gooseberry chutney (£3.50) or box baked Camembert with warm rustic bread that’s ideal to share (£10.75). That sounds more like a fully-fledged starter to me.
We got a bowl of mixed olives marinated in lemon and thyme (£2.95) – if that tangy oil complete with miniscule diced slices of red pepper couldn’t get the taste buds going quite frankly nothing could. It made the olives something special.
With that we only needed one starter which was king prawn, lobsters and avocado cocktail in lobster mayonnaise with a crusty cob (£5.75). Perfect for seafood lovers, these were lovely prawns oozing freshness with a delicate mayonnaise that added to the flavours. With the cob and two decent slabs of butter it’s starter that could easily do two. And did.
And the reason is you’ll need to – in the words of mothers up and down the country – ‘save yourself’ for the main course.
For there is one on there that leaps out. And that’s the Sunday roast platter for two (£23.50) that includes a huge plate resplendent with rump of roast beef, roast breast of turkey and herb-crusted ham served with a lemon and thyme stuffing wrapped in bacon. It came with roast potatoes, huge roast parsnips and veg including peas. You can’t go wrong with this ... and they didn’t.
The turkey was moist, the beef cooked so it was tender and still slightly pink in the middle and the ham plentiful. The parsnips were so soft they weren’t far off melting in the mouth – now that’s how to do parsnips – and the menu talks of never-ending gravy. Bizarrely it then came in a small round bowl and we had to ask for it to be refilled twice. It would be better off in a jug to get more and make it easier to pour.
Don’t forget to ask for horseradish – and the one they serve here will cause a taste bud kerfuffle if you overdo it.
We took along our 10-year-old son Harry to broaden the test. The children’s menu was kicked into touch once he saw the 7oz beef burger in a brioche bun with smoked cheddar, thick cut streaky bacon with ginger beer glaze and triple-cooked chips (£9.95). It seemed about as big as his head when it arrived but he demolished it with all the panache of a wrecking crew in a hurry. The thick cut streaky bacon looked more like a couple of pieces of ham and he loved the relish so much he asked for another pot which arrived quickly.
And to top it all off we shared the dessert platter (£8.95) which again was good value for money with four decent-sized portions which turned out to be Eton tidy cheesecake, classic sherry trifle, rhubarb and custard compote and a Belgian chocolate brownie.
The great Eton tidy did look messy rather than tidy but who really cares, the trifle could have done with a great big slurp of sherry and lacked that homemade feel, the custard compote was brilliantly offset by the rhubarb zing while the chocolate brownie was rock hard. Looked like we’d need Harry’s demolition skills again, ideally with a jackhammer.
We pointed the conundrum out to the waitress who immediately fetched another that you could slice straight through with a spoon so not sure what had happened to the first one.
The only slight gripe was a long wait from starter to mains and then mains to dessert but no problem if you like a leisurely meal and aren’t in a hurry.
In short, a decently-priced meal in surroundings that are way above your average pub restaurant.
The Nags Head
New Hey Road, Ainley Top, HD2 2EA
Tel: 01422 373758
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 7am-11pm; Saturday 8am-11pm and Sunday 8am-10.30pm.
Disabled access: Access and a disabled toilet
The bill: £67.45 including drinks (large glass of wine £5.50)
Would you go back? Yes