The Rams Head Inn,

Denshaw, Saddleworth. OL3 5UN


Venue The Rams Head Inn

Tel 01457 874802


Opening times: Mondays - noon-2.30pm,Tuesday to Saturday food noon-2pm, 6pm-10pm; Sundays noon-8.30pm

Disabled Access: Yes

Children: Yes

Bill: With beers and wine for four people: £163.00

Would you go again: Definitely, reckon Christmas would be a perfect setting.

There are pubs with leafy beer gardens and there are pubs with hanging baskets, benches and parasols galore.

The Rams Head at Denshaw is not one of those – it’s what I call a winter pub.

You can’t imagine people sitting outside overlooking Saddleworth with a bottle of Rose and mixed olives, but you can imagine a rattling stagecoach or a string of weary horses with hooded riders pulling up in the howling wind and driving rain on a Bilbo Baggins-like journey to Mordor, well maybe Cleckheaton.

This isn’t a bad thing at all mind, for a lover of the colder season’s dark nights and cosy fires, it is indeed a very good thing. In fact the only bad thing about the Ram’s Head is that it’s in Lancashire. Everything else about the 450-year-old inn is pretty much perfect as far as a dining out experience is concerned.

The four of us had a table booked for 6.45pm on a Saturday night and we were there on the dot, after looking round the impressive and well-stocked farm shop, which features many of the ingredients and products that are sold in the restaurant.

We were met on arrival not by a haggard, toothless old crone of a landlady and we certainly weren’t given the once over by a huddle of vagabonds, orcs and cut-throats, but by the friendly and down to earth front of house chappie and, after ordering drinks at the bar, which in a bizarre contrast from the olde worlde interior of the pub, featured an electric blackboard menu and shiny chrome electric hand pump for pulling ale – it’s the brewery’s idea evidently – we were shown to our seats in one of the many cosy dining rooms. Each one of which have plenty of character, but not in a foisty, stuffed animal type way.

A pint of Taylor’s Landlord and one of Black Sheep slipped down a treat and were quickly refilled while the menus were inspected and the ladies checked out at the all important wine list. A bottle of Merlot red and Sauvignon Blanc white were ordered to compliment the mixed red meat and fish starters and mains.

The Ram’s Head prides itself on its meats and fresh seafood and you can tell that at a quick glance of the menu. New season mussels, surely not plucked from the sweeping heather-clad moors, are featured strongly, with a set menu featuring a choice of accompanying broths and a glass of white wine, there’s also lobster, scallops and a good selection of fish. But when you are out in the wilds, I reckon you need some good old-fashioned red meat, or perfectly pink red meat as my rack of lamb proved to be.

The starters appeared at the table a lot quicker than it took us to choose our dishes, there wasn’t a single thing on the menu I didn’t fancy, well I suppose the roll-mop herrings were always a non-starter, a dish which incidentally, one of my fellow diners had once naively sent back in a previous restaurant for being cold.

Two of us had wood pigeon with a parsnip puree which looked a little lost on the large plate, but was delicious and not too gamey, sausage and mash, which didn’t, and was also delicious. The pick of the bunch however was the chicken livers in a pink peppercorn and cream sauce. The livers were cooked to perfection, practically dissolving in the mouth and the sauce was mopped up by hands clutching warm bread from more than just my side of the table.

All the starters were duly dispatched and four happy hobbits were ready for their main courses.

My rack of lamb with minted new potatoes and broad beans was exactly what it said on the menu, it didn’t need to be anything else, that’s why I ordered it. Around the table the tasty little baa-lamb was joined by two sea bass served with roast fennel and a creamy crayfish sauce, which was very light with the fennel not too overpowering.

Making up the quartet was a dish of baked haddock on spring onion mash topped with cheddar cheese, which was deemed more comfort food than gastropub fayre.

The two fellas couldn’t resist ordering a couple of portions of chips, which were home-made and crispy and, after being doused in salt and vinegar, absolutely perfect.

The two ladies then shared the Ram’s Head’s famous sticky toffee pudding which, having sampled on a previous outing, is the lightest version of the fantastically heavy, sweet, fattening pudding I’ve ever had – they agreed. The more figure conscious men opted to share a plate of cheese and biscuits and two glasses of port.

Everything was served impeccably, with the ladies always first, whether it was the menus, the wine or the food. This might sound old fashioned to some, but it’s how I think it should be.

But don’t think this makes it over formal, it’s not at all and there was a real mixed bag of diners. If there was one tiny criticism it would be that we felt a little rushed, but that is forgivable on a Saturday night with tables to turn.

And so it was back onto the bleak and rain-soaked weary moors to carry on our pilgrimage to the terrifying mountain of doom. Actually it was a lovely, pleasant evening and a five minute motorway drive took us back to Lindley.

The Ram’s Head is a precious thing indeed!