Pub review: The Bull's Head Inn, Beaumaris

Sometimes, when it comes to visiting the best pubs that the UK has to offer, you have to go the distance, writes Tristan O’Hana.

It’s June, which means only one thing in Pub & Bar magazine land – it’s almost time for the National Pub & Bar Awards. At the end of this month, we’re bringing our 2024 County Winners down to London to celebrate their triumphs, as well as revealing which sites have gone on to scoop the Regional Winner titles and, the big one, the National Pub & Bar of the Year. It’s set to be another fantastic celebration of on-trade excellence. 

So, what better time to shine a direct spotlight on one of those 94? And I’m not talking about one that’s close to home in the south east of England, but one that is so far away, so remote, that it’s on an island. An island with a rich history that is beautifully complemented by the pubs that sit within its shores. I’m talking about the Welsh island of Anglesey and, more specifically, the town of Beaumaris, which is a short drive to the north east once you’ve crossed the Menai Bridge. It is there that you’ll find The Bull’s Head Inn, bought by the Inn Collection Group in November 2022 and refurbished to an admirable standard shortly after. I’ll let you in on a little secret – it’s a wonderful pub.

Inside The Bull's lounge area

I was lucky enough to arrive at the Gwynedd Pub & Bar of the Year to glorious May sunshine (a side note here to remind our passionate Welsh readers that the County Winners are based on the Preserved Counties of Wales, hence Anglesey falling into Gwynedd). Winding my way along the quaint coastal roads, the sun bounced off the low tide as I drove into the modest Beaumaris high street, where The Bull sits proudly just a stone’s throw from World Heritage site Beaumaris Castle. I have a friend who loves castles – can’t get enough of them – so, when I arrived, I sent him a snap of the ancient structure I found myself staying next to. “Oh wow, in Anglesey?” he replied immediately. “That’s where the Romans killed all the Druids. Would love to go.” See what I mean?

Alas, I wasn’t there for the castle, but for The Bull’s Head, another historical addition to Beaumaris. Dating back to the 15th century, it’s a Grade II-listed pub that seems to have retained all of the character it has acquired over the last 550 years. Through its refurbishment a couple of years ago, Inn Collection has cleverly kept the aura and atmosphere that so many old pubs seem to exude, while bringing a couple of spaces (most notably the dining room and accommodation) into 21st century pub operations. Most importantly, the two styles don’t clash at all – it’s a decent blend of old and new. This is especially prevalent in the lounge – a beautifully kitted-out drinking and dining room at the front of the pub that has been welcoming guests since 1472.

Seasonal food at the award-winning pub

Of course, there has to be a line where this history ends and the contemporary operations of the Inn Collection Group begins. Essentially, this comes down to the food, drink and bedrooms. I’m not sure the tourists and locals of Beaumaris would tolerate a 15th-century diet, so Inn Collection has rightly rolled out menus similar to the ones found across the estate of the Newcastle-based outfit. I mention tourists because after I point out to a team member behind the bar that their fridges are looking a little bare, I’m told they have just had a couple of cruise ships dock in the town and the passengers all but cleaned out the bottled drinks selection. A good problem for the pub to have, I suppose. However, the main reason for the booze-cruise inclusion here is that if The Bull’s Head has such a diverse range of guests coming in off the boats, its menu has to accommodate appropriately. Thankfully, it does, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a classic pub menu, sprinkled with the odd alternative dish (a nod to the Crispy Pork Belly Ramen Bowl), that was ready to feed any diner with any tastes or dietary requirements. A site’s location can so often dictate whether or not it is up to speed with what the modern on-trade consumer is after, but The Bull’s Head’s remote residence hasn’t affected it in this way. Based on this perfectly pleasing menu, this could have been a pub in any city centre. 

The Bull's Head is housed in the most historic of buildings

I suppose I can’t hold it against them that they had just sold out of the pie of the week when I sat down for dinner – a victim of their own success. A rump steak with peppercorn sauce managed to ease this disappointment. However, was the classic pub dish a little too classic? Despite it being just the job, the addition of a flat cap mushroom, roasted plum tomato and giant onion rings did feel a little bit 1990s. Elsewhere on the menu, I enjoyed the addition of the ‘Alcoholic Hot Chocolates’ and ‘Liqueur Coffees’ underneath the traditional post-dinner beverages. If you’re not quite up for a dessert but are looking for something boozy to keep your evening at The Bull’s Head going, I can think of no better nightcap than a Contreau Hot Chocolate or a Grand French Coffee with Grand Marnier. You certainly wouldn’t have got that in the 1500s. 

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