Food & Drink

FULL OF FLAVOUR

Known for his Lancastrian heritage as much as his cooking, Nigel Haworth has stepped over the border. Louisa Castle speaks to the down-to-earth chef and business man about finding those local gems and why Cheshire is his next domain

The Nag’s Head at Haughton Moss, already has the reputation as being one of the best destinations for Sunday lunch having only opened this summer. Quite an achievement but it was a long time in the making for Ribble Valley Inns’ co-owner Nigel Haworth.

‘Cheshire is a fertile area so it fits perfectly with our ethos of locally sourced produce. It has taken a lot of car miles and adventures to find the people we now work with and build the relationships but it’s always worth it.

‘I would speak to people who would recommend this place or that and jump in the car. I always encourage my chefs to get out and see what’s about – you never know what you will find.

‘In the last twelve months we’ve sought out the established and the interesting. Like The Cheshire Smokehouse, I’d heard great things about them and was really impressed with their bacon and smoked goods.

‘Then there’s Clare Burt of Burt’s Blue Cheeses, we met her at The Cheshire Show. And Mr Bourne – he’s a great character with great cheese and his own unique style. We work with Haughton Honey a lot too. I think the one thing I am looking for is a local dairy to provide pure whole milk, so if anyone has any contacts, let me know!’

All of the local suppliers are featured in the décor of the pub, a gentle yet constant reminder of the people behind the great produce.

‘We’ll keep going and dig up some more great finds. Tom, our head chef at The Nag’s (also called Trevor due to the fact that there were once too many Tom’s in a kitchen) is a great forager and a key thing for me to do is not dictate but empower the team to get out there, make the menus and keep things on which we then adopt.

‘If you can source great, local produce, cook it simply and give it the care and attention it needs then you’ve got a great meal in front of you and that’s always our aim. You can pop in for a pint and a scotch egg or a three-course meal and, hopefully, feel just as comfortable doing either.

‘The season’s bring what the season’s will bring. At the moment we’re deep in pumpkin season and we’ve a great dish of Ginger’s ice-cream with pumpkin seed oil. You must try it.’

But what of the difference between Lancashire and Cheshire in the taste department? ‘Lancashire’s more your two-course lunch or dinner. Cheshire, on the other hand, can be a bit more discerning, more three-course meals. And they love their seafood, so we’ve more crab specials and scallops on the menu and lobster from the East Coast, when it’s in season.’

With one pub firmly established as a destination in Cheshire, the company is not resting on its laurels. The Stag’s Head, just outside Alderley Edge, is now under the Ribble Valley Inns umbrella with an exciting opening planned in the Spring of next year.

‘Before that we’ve got Christmas to celebrate! We’ve got some great Cheshire game and venison on the menu and all sorts of other Cheshire goodies.

‘I love Christmas, it’s a really important time for the family. We open at Northcote for Christmas so once I’ve been in to chat with the team and guests and service is under way I go home and we have our dinner. Last year we had Beef Wellington so we might try that again this year. Then its turkey on Boxing Day after the football (Blackburn (Nigel’s team) face Bolton at home), and it’s much more casual affair with some roasties or just in sandwiches. Then its back to work and we’re back again before we know it.’

How true but next year will see a new launch and I have no doubt, many new dishes and produce being discovered.

(nagsheadhaughton.co.uk; ribblevalleyinns.com; northcote.com)

For The Cheshire Magazine, 2014

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