If there's one thing I absolutely love it's a cosy pub with a relaxed atmosphere, lovely interior styling and a damn good menu. Recently my husband and I were invited along to The Queens Head in Belton which is a prime example of such an establishment, nestled in the heart of a lovely Leicestershire village and glowing like a beacon on the windy, rainy Friday evening that we visited. I didn't realise until we were leaving but the pub also has four rooms if you would like to stay overnight as well as meeting room facilities and a really great looking feasting menu should you want to host a party!
We were welcomed into the nice airy dining room and handed our menus which to my pleasant surprise included a small gin menu. The attention to detail was great and the selection of wines very well rounded - clearly care had been taken with all of the available drinks down to having different types of tonics to suit each gin. I ordered a rhubarb gin with elderflower tonic and Pete went for a nice glass of red while we perused the menus.
Unsurprisingly Pete went for the pub's version of a scotch egg. A perfectly soft centered duck egg was cloaked in black pudding and breadcrumbs and fried, served with a mustard mayonnaise that was both creamy and tart and so worked perfectly with the rich egg and blood sausage. Now my husband has tried a lot of fancy scotch eggs in his life and he said this was one of the best, the flavours being perfectly balanced and everything working together including the peppery leaves on the side.
I'm a sucker for a good caesar salad and so was toying between this and grilled sardines for my starter but the fish won out in the end. The four fat Cornish sardines were grilled to perfection, fresh and delicate with a bold dressing of parsley, garlic and lemon gremolata sitting upon a piece of toasted bread that soaked up the delicious juices and oils. This is a great classic starter with a zesty twist that I would definitely order again.
We both had quite a hard time choosing a main course but eventually Pete popped for the gnocchi with wild mushrooms, parsley and walnut pesto. As you can see from the picture above this was a really decadent and rich plate of pasta but again really fine tuned. The gnocchi was pillowy and not at all stodgy and the mushrooms retained a little bite which was a great contract to the squidgy potato dumplings. I think pesto is one of those culinary alchemical marvels that is perfect as it is, but is extra wonderful when given a little tweak such as here where the pine nuts were replaced with walnuts giving an even deeper nutty taste.
At the recommendation of several people I decided to try the rib eye steak with triple cooked chips and a watercress salad. I'd heard really great things about the meat served here which is supplied by an award winning butchery based in nearby Derbyshire called Tori and Bens. I really wasn't disappointed - the meat was buttery and flavourful and had the most wonderful texture which is only gained from expert ageing and the fact that it was cooked on a bbq grill enhanced the experience with that lovely lightly charred and caramelised taste. Eaten with a touch of garlic and herb butter and a little watercress this really was a dream of a main course and if that wasn't enough the triple cooked chips were to die for. Again a picture paints a thousand words and you can clearly see how crisp and gorgeous these babies were, as were the crisp onion rings we ordered as a side.
I won't lie, we were both feeling pleasantly full at this point but I just couldn't resist trying the homemade waffle with juicy cherries jubilee and vanilla ice cream. I'm a big fan of waffles and pancakes and the like but this was different to what I'm used to, in a good way of course. It was far lighter than I was expecting and relievingly wasn't heavy or doughy, so didn't overpower the sweet-sour cherries and luscious ice cream.
Feeling more satiated than me thanks to his bowl of gnocchi Pete decided to go for a light pudding of lemon sorbet doused in limoncello with little homemade langues du chat style cookies. I'm not a huge fan of limoncello but I must say this was such a great combination and I wondered why I'd not seen it before, the icy tart sorbet adding the perfect second citrus layer to the sweet lemon liqueur.
This was a wonderful meal and the atmosphere at The Queens Head was just right for a relaxed Friday night with tables of couples and friends around us all enjoying a few drinks and a great dinner. We'll definitely be heading back to try the roast dinners one Sunday and as it's only a 15 minute drive from our village it may well become a bit of a regular excursion for us!
Thank you so much to The Queens Head for asking us along to check out their wonderful establishment, we can't wait for our next visit!
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