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Food review: The Holly Bush Inn, Salt

By Lisa Harrison | Weekend | Published:

A mid-week meal with mates to catch up and have fun was just what was needed and a country pub was the place to go, says Lisa Williams. . .

It’s a classic – cottage pie, hand-cut chips, peas and carrotsPictures by Tim Sturgess

We were treated to a potted history of The Holly Bush on our journey out into the sticks to the pub.

“Did you know. . .?” he began.

“That The Holly Bush is the second oldest pub in the country?”

Before we could even take a breath to comment. . .

“And the building dates back to the 12th Century.”

While we digested this wealth of knowledge and ooohed and ahhhed over the rich history bestowed upon us there was a little confusion on which turning to take. It was dark, there were no street lights but eventually we arrived at the olde worlde cosy pub.

There was also the great debate as to whether I had been there before. I was adamant I never had (for the second time this had been discussed) but my other half was certain I had. And, for the second time (with my shocking memory) I was wrong and yes, I had sat in the beer garden in summer but never actually stepped foot inside the pub.

Traditional dish – cod, hand-cut chips and peas

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Despite this we were four friends out for a pre-wedding meal and a bit of a catch up and we decided on The Holly Bush as it has a great reputation with the locals for good food.

When we arrived on a chilly Thursday evening it was pretty quiet in the pub and we had our pick of the tables opting for one in the corner out of the way. But as the men went to the bar to get drinks, us ladies discovered that the seats were a little uncomfortable so we decided to make a move to a larger seat in the window which was much better and gave us a lot more room.

The pub is very traditional and quaint and hasn’t succumbed to an old-meets-new kind of overhaul just yet and has retained plenty of character with furnishings that complement it rather than making it seem garish and out of place.

We checked over the menu and also got the men to take photos of the specials board so we didn’t have to keep getting up to look and try to remember all of the dishes on offer.

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Starting out – the garlic bread

We all picked pretty quickly. Garlic bread was a top choice and one of our friends fancied the baked Camembert but as this was a sharing dish I volunteered to help out. In the end we decided to to put everything in the middle and share the lot!

On the side – the coleslaw

The mains caused a bit more debate. I fancied the fish and chips as it’s something I never really have unless I eat out. My other half was going for something classic too but it was off the specials menu, a cottage pie which was the perfect choice for a perfect (ish) Northerner. Our two friends went for the free-range chicken breast with smoked bacon, chorizo, salami, homemade barbecue sauce and melted mozzarella served with mixed leaf salad and another dish off the specials menu: fillet steak in a Stilton and mushroom cream sauce. This was a pricey option for a pub at £19.95 compared to the other three which were around £11-12. All of the dishes came with a choice of potatoes, either chipped, jacket, new or mashed and I’m pretty sure we all went for the hand cut chipped.

We made the order at the bar and then settled in with our beer and wine for a good chat and a giggle. The wine was really lovely, it was their wine of the month and I’m sure it was called Two Birds One Stone but I may be wrong. But it was a really lovely and smooth red for only £14.95.

As we chinked glasses and chattered away, it didn’t take long for the pub to fill up with groups and couples getting together for an it’s-nearly-the-weekend night out.

The starters arrived and it was a good mountain of food. The garlic bread was fluffy, light and chunky with a good coating of buttery and garlicky herbs. It was not too greasy and well cooked and well presented.

Grand fromage – Camembert starter with apricot preserve and pecans

The Camembert was lovely and gooey but it almost looked like the wheel of cheese had been cut in half so it wasn’t a completely full portion. It was a little overcooked but this didn’t detract from the gorgeously gooeyness. The toasted and crumbled pecan nuts and apricot preserve gave it a lovely sweet and crunchy texture and taste. It came with a side of warm bread to mop up the cheesy delight. Needless to say the sarters didn’t last long.

Once the plates were taken away there was just the right amount of time before the mains landed.

The cottage pie was a big hit. A steaming hot dish which was perfect on a cold night. It came with green beans which were lovely and crunchy, carrots and courgettes on the side along with ‘the best hand-cut chips in Staffordshire’, as described by the Northerner. He also said it initally seemed like there was too much mash on top of the pie but it gave way to a thick and flavoursome mince filling. The potato was fluffy and substantial and well-seasoned. A hearty meal which was excellant value.

It’s a classic – cottage pie, hand-cut chips, peas and carrotsPictures by Tim Sturgess

The deep fried cod and chips was a healthy sized portion. On the menu it said mushy peas but when it arrived there were just normal peas. Confusing but it turns out the Northerner had decided to get me normal ones as he is well aware of how much I love peas. Not to worry.

It was lovely, the crispy batter – not too greasy – encased a flaky and tender piece of cod which was just the right size and not too much to manage. There was a good ratio of batter to fish which was a plus as sometimes there can be too much. The chips, as described previously, were lovely not greasy or dry just perfect and crunchy. I’d also been craving coleslaw so had a side of it which was perfect crunchy veg in a creamy mayo dressing and not vinegary.There were good reports from the other side of the table with the the fillet steak in a Stilton and mushroom cream sauce getting the thumbs up and being worth every penny. Melt-in-the-mouth pieces of meat in a gorgeously seasoned sauce with lovely crunchy veg.

Something old – The Holly Bush, Salt, Stafford

The free-range chicken breast was also a winner with with smoked bacon, chorizo, salami adding a good dose of extra meat and the homemade barbecue sauce providing a bit of zing to the dish. The melted mozzarella and mixed leaf salad added a fresh and lightness to the dish. Yum.

Plates were cleaned, drinks were drunk and laughs were had. There was no room for dessert although there were some tempting options including chocolate brownie cheesecake, syrup sponge or even a banana split.

Home sweet home – inside is cosy and inviting

The bill for the four of us with starters, mains and drinks was a smidge over £100 which we felt was reasoable for the amount and quality of the food.

The huge warming food had left us stifling yawns and our beds were beckoning so into the night we headed. The Holly Bush is a great place to go, it really is Salt of the Earth.

Lisa Harrison

By Lisa Harrison
@LKWilliams_star

Deputy Weekend Editor, based at E&S head office in Wolverhampton. Works on Weekend and Woman supplements. Features include celebrity, real life, fashion, homes, beauty and general lifestyle content.

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