It’s sometimes hard to find that mix of a down-to-earth English country pub where you can traipse in wearing muddy boots, perhaps with a dog in tow, yet still order from a diverse, interesting menu and enjoy a bite to eat that’s a bit beyond the average burger or sarnie.
Yet this is exactly what The Plough Inn, in the village of Huddlesford just outside Lichfield, proudly claims to do. Owners Mark Hynett and Andy Twigg have declared it a canalside pub ‘with a twist’. The Plough claims to concentrate on ‘unpretentious yet interesting’ food, which means it definitely does go beyond just beer and burgers.
I featured Lichfield eateries a fair few times on this blog while working there, but haven’t really ventured out of the city itself. Lucky for me, my invite to The Plough was on a lovely sunny lunchtime so I could see the picturesque setting in all its glory. Nestled next to the Coventry canal, it seems like the perfect place to pop in for a nice bite to eat during a walk. Then again, when it’s only 10 minutes outside Lichfield, it’s also easy enough to try for an evening meal, an afternoon treat, or even something from their rather tempting breakfast menu.
If unpretentious is what these guys are aiming for, they’ve definitely achieved it, and I mean that in a good way. The interior is warm and welcoming, retaining that classic pub charm but adding a bit of finesse and attention to detail that gives a hint of the owners’ passion for what they’re offering. The outside space is pretty lovely too, including a ‘not so secret garden’ with seating just waiting for your to wile away a few sunny hours.
For the drinkers among us, there’s craft and cask beers plus a not-too-shabby choice of gins and spirits. And for food, the new menu’s brimming with choice. There’s a section of small plates and salads hinting at influences from far beyond classic British fare. There are pizzas from The Plough’s own stone-baked oven, burgers, and a range of main courses varying from some firm pub faves to dishes with a bit of a difference.
And let’s not forget the yummy-sounding breakfast dishes served from 9am to noon – another extra offering compared to some of the classic country pubs I’ve been to. This could be, I imagine, something that might well win The Plough some extra customers in the form of a morning crowd looking for something a little bit different.
For my lunchtime menu tasting, I dashed out to Huddlesford to join my pal and fellow food blogger Roz from The Foodie Couple Blog to try out some of the dishes. We started off with a mezze – a simple but well-presented platter of houmous, raita, olives, feta, taramasalata, as well as a delicious harissa flatbread that, for me, was the star of the show.
This crispy duck, with mouli, watercress and carrot salad and plum, ginger and soy was definitely something I’d choose again. It was nice to see some thought put into salads rather than the all-too-common method of using an identikit base and just swapping the topping from chicken to fish to duck whilst boasting to have a vast array of choice. This was a well-designed dish with beansprouts and carrots giving a great crunch, while the peppery watercress provided a balance in taste to the rich duck.
Pibil pork tacos served with apple slaw, crispy lettuce & barbacoa sauce were great too. Melt-in-the-mouth pork in a rich, sweet barbecue sauce, again balanced by the contrasting texture of the crunchy apple slaw. And, hurrah, not crispy tacos that crumble all over you and help you do a great impression of a toddler throwing their dinner all over the place! Instead, a soft alternative that provided the perfect vehicle for getting the sticky pork from your plate to your mouth without a disaster.
This Plough greek salad, I have to say, was one of my faves and a perfect example of how The Plough is doing dishes that you often see on menus but adding its own twist to elevate them beyond your average pub fare.
Along with the all-important feta, cucumber and tomato, The Plough’s version features cape gooseberry. You might know these slightly tart little golden fruits as Physalis and have probably seen them, complete with their papery leaves, as decoration on desserts rather than ingredients in a dish. But they worked brilliantly and added a new dimension to the salad. So, too, did the honey and sumac dressing, which definitely added the taste of the Mediterranean.
Unfortunately for me, limited time meant I didn’t get to try every single dish on offer, but I definitely saw enough to make me want to go back. Papardelle with Packington pork and veal meatballs in a chilli, tomato, basil and mint pesto, was full of flavour and a great big bowl of comfort food, while lamb rump served with pancetta, chorizo, peas and baby onions with thyme roasted potatoes looked fab too.
I also missed out on trying the puds, which include Mississippi mud pie as well as a dark chocolate pot with pistachio shortbread soldiers – not to mention a whole different section on ice-cream. If there weren’t enough other reasons to go back, this would probably be one in and of itself.
My visit to The Plough was, unfortunately, far too brief but in the short time I was there I was impressed at the balance they’ve struck between being welcoming enough that I would have no qualms about wandering in covered in mud for a well-earned rest, yet aspiring to be something a bit more than many other traditional village or canalside pubs.
In tough times like these, I reckon its more important than ever for places to think outside the box (excuse the hackneyed phrase) and come up with ways to draw punters in, stand out from the competition, and make themselves the go-to place in their local area. From what I saw on my brief dive in and out, The Plough seems to have made a good start at this. I’m looking forward to going back for the full experience!
I was invited to try the new menu at The Plough and the food I ate was complimentary, but I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.