Featured Restaurant: The Nags Head

30th June 2017

London Road • Great Missenden • HP16 0DG • 01494 862200

Reviewed by Jill Glenn

On the hottest June day since 1976, it’s a real relief to escape the urban sprawl and head off into the countryside, ending up at The Nags Head, a pretty 15th century country inn and restaurant on the leafy outskirts of Great Missenden. Of course, we are not alone in thinking this…

…and the extensive garden is packed with eager diners. Staff are battling manfully against the twin onslaughts of excessive temperatures and excess guests. We opt to sit inside, in a corner where a breeze plays between two open windows; it's cool and pleasant: no mean feat in a pub designed to be rustic and cosy.

We begin with a St Germain Elderflower Spritz (Prosecco and elderflower liqueur, mixed and topped up with soda water). Served in individual 250ml carafes, it’s light and refreshing, and will, we think, occupy us during what we anticipate will be a long wait. In fact, despite profuse apologies from the staff at how busy it all is, it seems barely any time at all before our starters arrive:

Tian of Haddock and Crayfish with mixed green beans and a saffron sauce for my companion; Chilled Crayfish Terrine, asparagus tips, dill and lime mayonnaise for me.

Both are very pretty, and taste as good as they look. The tian, in particular, is very bright and summery with its vibrant saffron sauce. The fish is delicate, and the balance of flavours well-considered; the little parsley garnish punches above its weight to bring the ingredients to life in the mouth. My terrine is firm and full of flavour, although possibly slightly overpowered by the lime mayonnaise… but this is delicious, so no matter. The asparagus is the perfect texture (hint to chef: I could eat more…). I clear the plate, mopping up the glaze with a piece of the accompanying toast (served here, as at The Nags Head's sister pub, The Bricklayers Arms in Flaunden, in four neat slices skewered together with a fragrant sprig of rosemary).

The main course selection is surprisingly wintry. My guest opts for Duo of Lamb (pan-fried lamb cutlets and slow braised pulled leg of lamb, celeriac and pumpkin purée, served with marjoram jus) which proves a very substantial offering. The cutlets have great flavour, and the knife just glides through the meat. The pulled lamb is topped with glorious (albeit unseasonal) pumpkin purée and crisped celeriac, adding height, sculptural interest and texture. I'm unconvinced by the very concept of pulled meat, but my companion defends it stalwartly: it's well cooked and easy to eat, mixes well with the purée and melts in the mouth. The jus is very light, and pulls all the ingredients together into a coherent whole.

My Fillet of Chicken, with a melted white cream and chorizo crust and a masala jus, is another generous portion. The chicken is beautifully tender, and complemented by the thick creamy coating and the crust; I'm hard pushed to identify the specific ingredients of the sauce, but its general mouth-filling savouriness enhances a meat that I often find dull.

And oh! The signature Dauphinoise potatoes… they're the perfect texture, lightly coated with their cream sauce, and utterly moreish. Side orders of French beans cooked in butter with shallots and Fresh buttered seasonal vegetables are pretty good too, although rich. It's all rich. It's all delicious.

For dessert, Mixed Berry Millefeuille hits the spot perfectly for me. My guest, more easily defeated, manages merely a single scoop of vanilla icecream. The puff pastry in the millefeuille is as fresh and flaky as you could wish, and the berry filling, along with a touch of dark blackcurrant coulis, is sweet and creamy and light. And the icecream? Cold, says my companion. On a night as hot as this one, you could ask for nothing better…

STARTERS: £6.45-£11.95 • MAINS: £17.95-£27.45
DESSERTS: £4.95-£7.95 • HOUSE WINE: £19

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