Food review: The Bull's Head, Gornal
We’d driven past the Bull’s Head numerous times, usually while travelling from Dudley to Bridgnorth for various reasons, thinking, ‘we must pop in there’.
That was when it was more of grill house and pub. But then it suddenly closed and we thought we’d missed our window and another local pub had gone forever.
When we realised it had been taken over and reopened we thought it was an opportunity not to be missed.
It always looked so inviting. I’m not sure why but there was just something about its layout and look.
The venue, in Himley Road, Dudley, is not exactly up the road from us, so it does require a drive, which means planning to go there rather than just popping in.
Sounds incredibly lazy but you get what I mean. So the next stage was to look at the menu online, and that’s when we received our first pleasant surprise.
It was all authentic Indian cuisine. We were expecting the pub grub – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but the thought of having a nice curry in a pub environment really appealed to us.
Having never set foot in the previous establishment, we had nothing to go by, but the refurbishment looked brilliant when we first stepped through the door.
We’d booked for 5pm on a Saturday, so it was pretty quiet. And having arrived a little early there was plenty of room, which was handy as our four-year-old daughter Annabelle had decided to fall asleep on the way.
As we found out, the staff were incredibly polite and friendly, so sprawling Annabelle out on the bench for 20 minutes or so was no problem.
It gave us a chance to take in some of the surroundings, have a chat and give the menu a proper look.
The venue has the look of a pub when you first walk in, with a revamped bar, and high chairs and tables, but when you walk round the corner there’s rows of neatly arranged tables for eating out – nothing too fancy, just very neat and tidy – with a long, comfortable bench running along the side.
We sat right next to the warm fire, which actually got a little too warm but once again, when we asked the staff it we could move, they simply turned it off for us.
Back to the menu, and it was pretty much the staple Indian cuisine but it was all very reasonably priced and there was even an extra Indo-Chinese menu laid on for those who fancied something a bit different.
And another point worth mentioning was the variety and simplicity of the menus. It wasn’t overbearing, with hundreds of dishes to choose from, they were laid out neatly and even allowed customers to create their own dishes.
There was plenty for meat eaters, fish lovers and veggies too, even the children’s menu was worth mentioning.
Starters included vegetable samosas, chilli paneer – which was creamy cheese cubes cooked with chillies – fish pakoras and onion bhajis.
Like I said, simple but appealing food. For us, there’s no better way of starting an Indian than with a tray of poppadoms, all served with four different dips.
We doubled up on the order as we knew Annabelle would get involved, especially with the mint yoghurt on the scene. The sauces were a triumph, with some having a little kick too.
Another nice detail was the fact we were asked when we might be ready for our mains. I can’t remember the last time that happened but Annabelle soon let us know.
The children’s menu looked like a great deal, as you could choose from the usual – chicken nuggets, cheese and tomato pizza, fish fingers, beef burger and tomato pasta – and then add two sides, a dessert and refillable cordial, all for under £7.
But Annabelle loves her curry, so we ordered her chicken korma, while my wife, Kelly, went for the grilled fish of the day, marinated with herbs and spices.
My eyes, however, were immediately drawn to the Indian grill section.
Succulent pieces of chicken, marinated in Indian spices; Indian-flavoured spicy chicken wings; spicy meat cooked on the skewer; king prawns cooked in a secret recipe; and lamb chops cooked in warm spices.
Any of the above would have done for me, but I’d been hankering for a tandoori mixed grill for a while, so the only real choice was whether to go small or large.
As Annabelle was having an adult-sized curry, I thought a small would be the best option, and it proved a wise decision too – because even that was not small, not that I was complaining.
And, most importantly, it was delicious. The mixed grill included boneless chicken tikka, chicken wings, lamb chops, sheesh kebab and chicken tikka on the bone.
It came with a pile of fresh salad and we asked for extra sauces too, which were provided free of charge.
Along with some peshawari naan and pilau rice, which we all shared, it turned out to be one of the nicest and most flavoursome meals I’d had in a long time.
All the meats were cooked perfectly. The chicken was moist and was an excellent cut of meat, while the chicken on the bone included the darker meat and made for a lovely contrast.
The lamb chops were possibly the tastiest part. The marinade had seeped into every possible crevice and I can only describe each mouthful as a taste explosion, it was that good.
I even dived into Annabelle’s chicken korma, although she had done an impressive job of trying to polish the lot off herself. It must’ve been the sleep.
Despite being more of a vindaloo lover than a korma fan, I have to say it was also beautifully cooked and wasn’t over-bearingly sweet or swimming in cream. It was just right.
Kelly was also full of praise, saying her fish was cooked to perfection, with a succulent taste, plenty of nice flavours and, importantly, no bones.
She said the salad that came with it, although mainly onions, also went really nicely with the fish, especially after a little squeeze of lemon. She too enjoyed the korma and was even a fan of the “nice and fruity” house red wine.
On a return visit, we would probably have to try one of the chef’s specials, especially if the grills were anything to go by, which included lamb, paneer or garlic chilli king prawn masalas, a mixed meat special – served in a medium hot curry sauce – tawa chicken fillets marinated in ginger, garlic and tomatoes and cooked in the tandoor, or even a chicken, lamb or prawns claypot.
But for those who simply know what they like, the “your curry, your way” option would probably be more appealing.
Customers can simply put together their own dish, choosing from chicken, lamb, mixed vegetables, prawns or paneer, which are then served in either a vindaloo, jalfrezi, dhansak, rogan josh, saag, korma, curry, chilli curry, bhunna, dopiaza or madras sauce.
There were also plenty of vegetarian options, including aloo gobi – potatoes and cauliflower – spicy potatoes, Indian cheese and peas, spinach and potatoes and a tarka dhal lentil Curry.
Somehow we found room to share a dessert, which was sticky toffee pudding. I say share, as Kelly pretty much finished the lot, but she said it was a real treat.
Warm and gooey, the sponge had a lovely texture, coming served in a moat of custard. Again there was plenty.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable meal and somewhere we would highly recommend.