What: Pretty pub grub, bistro style plates and pizzas.
Where: Brook Street, Brentwood, CM14 5ND.
How Much: Main courses from £8, for three courses, wine and a cocktail £50-£60 a head.
Overall: Good food, great drinks for the drivers and desserts worth skipping starters for.
Regulars will already be aware that The Nag’s Head has been closed for a refit in recent weeks, and this girl was lucky to be invited for a sneak peek of the results before the grand re-opening on Sunday 3rd February. The pub itself is looking most swish following a lot of effort on plush seating and modern, eye catching lighting features in both the bar and main restaurant area. You will find them quite literally a minute from the A12 and M25 in one direction and the town of Brentwood just up the road the other way.
I’m going to take a moment to mention the drinks because, as the hosts are keen to emphasise, this is a pub, and given the size of the venue it has an impressive range of drinks and an ample alcohol free menu. I’m not talking two types of J20 and a Seedlip here- there are fizzy and fruity virgin cocktails (who doesn’t love a fruity virgin?) as well as some very grown up options in the Bitters & Twisted section of their Saintly Sips menu. The Mr recommends the Victoria’s Secret in particular if you are off the hard stuff when you visit.
As one would expect in this Ginophile age there’s a lot of choice for a G&T lover here but if you’re not a Fevertree enthusiast you might be disappointed. Extra points for being the only time this fan has seen Japanese Roku on offer. Expected beers and cider are available on tap, backed up by a lot of bottles, fizzy French stuff and red, white and pink. I was frankly thrilled by their fluff free and user friendly wine-by-the-glass options.
The food menu goes from bistro favourites to pub classics via pizzas and vegan choices aplenty. That’s a full vegan menu available BTW- not just a butternut risotto on the specials. Honorable mentions from the starters include a knockout duck parfait and a seriously pokey salt and Szechuan pepper squid (you need that aioli with it!).
For the main event, there’s a lot to consider. Carnivores might struggle to opt for a traditional burger over a comforting individual chicken and leek pie (two thumbs up from Him In Law on this one). Seafood fans will love the lobster and Devon crab fishcakes- they are like crispy fried seaside clouds. Mix your metaphors if you wish and opt for pork belly with seared scallops. The health conscious have some beautiful salads and sub-700-calorie dishes available and the hungry vegetarian/utterly filthy types can tuck into some deep fried halloumi. The vegan menu offers a plant based burger, tarts, bakes and a wicked looking curry.
If we weren’t sold on the Nag’s Head by all that, my party were well and truly hooked in with the desserts. The pineapple tart tatin is a show stopper- a delicious flaky pastry base, caramelised pineapple and fresh mango pieces topped off with a wondrously light coconut milk ice cream. Yes, I said coconut milk. Yes, I don’t usually like coconut but this was incredibly fresh and well balanced and, well, not too coconutty at all. Foodies will marvel on the presentation and the fact that you’d never know it was vegan. The astute among us might point out that is is essentially a pina-colada cake but whatever your view point, this dessert is absolutely stunning. I was
horrified surprised to hear from our server that it is very seldom ordered. You will also see brownies, cheesecake and an impressive chocolate and peanut butter melting bomb dome glitzy thing to ease you into a mild sugar coma to round things off. The Mr, who is currently concerned as to how his shirts appear to be shrinking, was pleased with the ‘mini’ dessert option of a smaller serving with a hot drink for a fiver. This is a great option for anyone in their winter diet mode or, more likely, too full to face a whole dessert.
You are absolutely not going to need an espresso martini after all that, but at under £8 a go you’re going to have one anyway, and it’s going to be pretty good.
The real joy of The Nag’s Head is that you can take anyone there. The traditionalist who wants a soup-of-the-day and fish n chips is covered. The food porn enthusiast who wants cauli-couscous followed by something nduja stuffed with a spiralised salad is covered. Your vegan pal is covered. The slimmers are covered. Your twelve year old who is obsessed with pizza is covered. If anything, I might worry that such an extensive menu could prove challenging to deliver in peak times but time can only tell on that one.
I don’t know about this whole ‘Gastropub’ label though. I appreciate how enthusiastic the management team there are about The Nag’s Head being a real pub with an exceptional chef, and technically this is correct but it doesn’t feel like A Pub to me. It feels like a decent mid-range restaurant with a classy but comfortable bar area. I can’t see myself whiling away the hours there with a pint and a pack of peanuts but I will be back for a decent feed and some cocktails for sure. Perhaps I’m being pedantic, and whatever your opinion of the nomenclature, I recommend The Nag’s Head for a visit if you’re in the area and thank them heartily for having us.
To book your table, click here: https://www.thenagsheadbrentwood.co.uk
I was invited to try the full menu at The Nag’s Head and the meal and drinks were gifted.
Some photos provided by Him In Law, who you can check out on instagram as @spudbarr