Muddy Eats: The Fitzwilliam Arms, Marholm
I’m discovering that I love the pub reviews at Muddy, not because I’m a piggy (though clearly I’m a total couchon) but because it’s so useful knowing the best pubs in an area. Those days when we’re trying to meet a girlfriend halfway for lunch, or the kids are playing sport and you need a nearby feeding spot or – damn it – you can’t be bothered to cook Sunday lunch.
Like many of the best pubs I come across, The Fitzwilliam Arms in Marholm is little off the beaten track – in this case surprisingly it’s only a few miles from Peterborough. Turn off one of the cities zillions of roundabouts, down a windy road until you find yourself in some serious countryside, and you’ll come across the the sleepy village of Marholm – you ain’t just going to stumble across this place.
I drove to the village from north of the county and came down windy narrow roads with a railway crossing still manually operated by a very stressed looking stationmaster. It was all beautifully quaint and English.
The Fitzwilliam Arms is a chocolate box thatched country inn and it sure does look mighty fine. Milton Hall, once the seat of The Fitzwilliam family owns the majority of buildings that surround the inn, so there’s no question then about the reason for this pub’s name.
Inside you’ll find a country pub that immediately puts you at ease – it all feels very homey and inviting.
There’s a snug immediately on your right with slouchy leather chairs, coffee tables and dimmed lighting and I love the nod to HRH in another cosy area.
The main bar area is a large L-shape which stretches from the entrance area round into the bar lounge. This space has two fires, one massive inglenook at one end with chairs to huddle around and a smaller one at the other end. Remember that for when the nights draw in later on in the year, but let’s not dwell on that now.
The décor is laidback country casual; tweeds, tartan and leather all make an appearance but it’s not overdone. The full menu is available if you’re eating in the bar and dogs are welcome in this area too.
Head back round to the bar and through in the other direction and you’ll come into the dining area with doors onto the large pub garden. There’s a vintage feel with a country dresser and walls with mirrors and another open fire– the dining room has nooks and crannies where you can tuck yourself away if you wish.
I went on a Tuesday lunchtime and the dining area was busy with a mixture of couples, groups of friends and families with young children. The menu offers a great range of pub classics, steaks, burgers and sandwiches, stone pizzas as well as an extensive Sunday menu so it’s an idea family lunch choice. On this occasion my lunch partner was in fact the two mini-mudders – what better way to road test the kid-friendly box.
There’s a well-priced fixed lunch menu but for starters I opted for the maple glazed chicken wings with blue cheese mayonnaise– deliciously sticky. Not too sure about the tracing paper but that’s a personal thing.
Followed by the beetroot and feta salad with black rice, grapes and chargrilled halloumi – finely shredded, crunchy aand very tasty.
The children’s menu comes in an activity booklet with colouring pencils, which kept them amused for a short while. It offers choices above the normal pasta and chicken nuggets – rump steak, battered cod and grilled chicken. If you’re blessed with brilliant eaters (like me) you’ll be pleased that one mini-mudder pushed her culinary taste buds and opted for the home made marguerite pizza – can’t knock it, it was very tasty.
The little man, unprompted, choose the steamed salmon (pass me the smelling salts I’m feeling a little faint) which came with peas and chunky chips. They woofed their food down without a murmur of a whinge – what better advocate for a kids menu.
I’m learning that suitable attire is required for a pub review so streeeeeeeetch the waistband, here comes pudding. They have a particularly appealing coffee and a mini pudding combo, as well as the full sized, stick the carbs round my stomach, portions also. As I was feeling the stretch I opted for the melba mallow mess (an variation of an Eton mess with peaches and marshmallow) – gooey and sweet but as a bijou size it was delicious.
Outside there’s a good sized garden with plenty of tables and chairs for those balmy summer days and it backs onto fields where we came across this cutesy one day old lamb with it’s grumpy looking mother.
The whole place has a lovely rural feel despite the fact that it’s only a few miles form the city. There’s a large car park next door so no worries on that front either.
I have a terrible habit of wanting to go in every church I see – to check out the history in the graveyard, peer at the plaques to work out the movers and shakers in years gone by and practise a few choice words in the pulpit. I know it sounds a little weird-beardy but the church of St Mary the Virgin in Marholm won’t disappoint with its squat Norman tower and a history inside covering the Cromwellian civil war.
If you’re thinking of bringing the hound there are loads of walks, but one for starters is to head up through the churchyard and follow the footpath past Belsize Farm and on to Outfield Pond. Bear right and continue towards Castor Hanglands Nature Reserve. The options are to either to follow the road back to Marholm or drop down to one of the other footpaths that will take you back into the village.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: If you want to escape the city, a weekend family lunch, a stop-off en route from the A1, a halfway house meet with friends, or a Sunday afternoon pint al fresco in the summer.
Not for: This offers good pub grub – if you’re after a gastro pub or fine dining it wouldn’t be an obvious choice.
£££: Good value – starters and desserts around £5.50 apiece, mains between £10-£17 (steaks start at £12.95) and deserts £5.50. It’s £5 for a child’s main course, £1 for a desert and drinks are extra. Fixed price lunch menu (Mon – Fri) is £11.95 for 2 courses and £14.95 for 3.
The Fitzwilliam Arms, Stamford Road, Marholm, Peterborough PE6 7HX, vintageinn.co.uk