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The Black Bull Review

Visited June 2019

The Black Bull


I do love a quality pub lunch. Even though many leading pub-restaurants nowadays are more restaurant than pub, a great meal in unpretentious, relaxed surroundings is my dream combination. With a journey planned to Nottinghamshire for a family event, I used this very site (it really is useful you know) to find a place for lunch on the way, without too much of a detour. Step forward The Black Bull in the village of Blidworth; a family friendly pub and holder of two AA rosettes since early 2017.

Given the awards held, and the overwhelmingly positive Tripadvisor reviews too, I was looking forward to a decent meal as I rocked up for lunch with my wife, young daughter and baby son on a gloriously hot June Saturday. There's a small amount of parking in front of the pub, but there's on street parking a short walk away too on local residential streets. The welcome on arrival was friendly enough and we were shown to our table; there was no high chair as I'd requested when booking, but this appeared swiftly when requested without issue.

The restaurant was completely dead and we were the only table in until just before we left, not that I minded at all; it was a scorching day outside so understandable that people would stay away for lunch, although the bar area was decidedly quiet too. The dining room is a pleasant space with the exposed beams and brick fireplace giving a nice feel to the room. And of course, those aforementioned AA rosette plates are proudly on display too (and why not, it's why I came). There's a decent selection of beers and spirits; I enjoyed my usual Hendrick's and tonic to start. Although we didn't enquire too deeply into the non-alcoholic selection, there was no issue producing still apple juice for my wife and kids.

The full menu is available at lunch alongside a few specials, and there's a proper pizza menu too. Not expecting pizza at a rural pub? Well, under the name Forge, the restaurant also offers takeaway pizza seven days a week. And why not, nothing wrong in my eyes with diversifying and it gave some excellent additional choices for the kids (what child doesn't like pizza) in lieu of a children's menu.

Lunch began for me with the pork and ham terrine with piccalilli and brown sauce, accompanied by a rather solid (and not particularly pleasant) piece of bread, which according to the menu at least was supposed to be focaccia. Bread aside, I enjoyed the dish, it was nothing complicated but had some good flavours and was a nice choice for a hot summer's day. My wife had less luck with some fairly average duck liver pate, but my daughter enjoyed her ham and pineapple pizza and my baby son munched happily on a margherita. The pizzas were properly made and tasty and there was no issue bringing them with the starters.

For mains, I opted for the special of rib eye steak with chunky chips, two big onion rings, a pepper sauce (at a supplement) and a tomato salad. The steak itself was nice if not perfect (and a tad rarer that the medium-rare I asked for) but the chips were good. The highlight however was the little salad which was a delight, I really enjoyed that. My wife opted for the 'black bull burger' and wasn't thrilled to be honest; the burger was OK but the accompanying coleslaw in particular wasn't great.

For dessert, I enjoyed a perfectly decent spiced carrot pudding and my wife was happy enough this time with her Eton mess, although she did remark she's had better versions previously. For my daughter, three scoops of ice cream was the order of the day; the chocolate being quite a lot nicer than the vanilla on this occasion.

And so, a decent meal came to an end. Service throughout was good with no issues and the meal pacing was fine too. The food in the main was good; nothing complicated but well above standard pub grub and decent value I thought, lunch was not expensive at all considering this is a two rosette venue. However (as you might have guessed) I do have a bit of an issue with that award although my beef here is really with the AA. Two rosettes puts The Black Bull on the same level (according to the AA) as some of the top pub-restaurants in the country, such as The Pipe and Glass Inn, The Star Inn, The White Swan and more. But the food here, although enjoyable, just isn't in the same stratosphere as those venues.

But look, regardless of if the AA have overcooked their assessment somewhat, overall we enjoyed lunch here. If you're looking for a good value, family friendly pub for lunch with well above average food, you can't go too far wrong by visiting here.


Dress Code

None.

Top Tip

Child friendly. Small car park in front of the restaurant but parking available on nearby residential streets.

Guide Ratings

As mentioned in the review, I think the AA have overcooked this one, but there's definitely enough here to warrant one rosette for me. I can understand why neither Michelin or The Good Food Guide are too interested though.
Ratings Michelin Guide AA Guide Good Food Guide
At time of review - AA RosetteAA Rosette -
Our view - AA Rosette -

Group size: 2 adults & 2 children. Total bill: £83.