Muddy Eats: The Mermaid at Ellington
You know those pubs where you’ve driven past a hundred times but somehow they never entice you to try them out? That’s how I’d always felt about the unassuming The Mermaid Inn, in the quiet village of Ellington just off the A14 a few miles west of Huntingdon, but the other day I tried some of their delicious canapés at a party and couldn’t stop scoffing them. So I did what any self-respecting glutton would do – grabbed my husband and dragged him along to try out the pub. I’m soooo glad I did.
Inside the interior is a traditional and cosy pub style; it was renovated a year or so ago and they’ve worked hard at keeping the 400-year-old integrity of the building. They’ve done a fairly safe job on the interiors, Kelly Hoppen isn’t going to be sweating it too much, so you can expect exposed brickwork, vintage light fittings, original beams (brought to the village from a ship called The Mermaid many moons ago), flagstone floors and a roaring fire. Everything in the pub is small but beautifully proportioned.
As we braved the sub zero temperatures to get here we were after a hearty, warming winter menu. However don’t discount this place for spring and summer – when the warmer weather kicks in the French windows open up into a pretty sheltered garden, perfect for those balmy summer days we occasionally experience.
There were quite a few locals drinking at the bar (I had the feeling the village are keen supporters of the pub), and visitors eating in either the front restaurant or the back room. We sat in the front area which is a bit of a squeeze so no gossiping about your neighbours please! The back restaurant is more spacious but doesn’t have the benefit of the roaring fire. Given the choice for dinner I’d probably go for the cosy front room.
The bijou bar had 5 draught beers, – Mr Muddy was in a better mood immediately (*phew*) and if gin is your thing the 12 or so on offer will you have you giggling in no time. I opted for the Pink Pepper; it came with Fever-Tree elderflower tonic and was served with a sugar coated vanilla pod. The wine menu would take weeks to read but the staff seemed to really know their stuff and offered me a small tasting session to choose the one I wanted to guzzle.
Whilst the interior has a strong pub feel the food is definitely gastro. The menu was inventive – even the soda bread offered up surprises, served as it was with whipped cinnamon butter .
I chose the shredded duck with cucumber spaghetti, sweet chilli glaze, clementine gel and Earl Grey poached prunes (delivered in its own smoking glass)…..
….. followed by the courgette and halloumi baklava with Greek yoghurt, sweet pepper, spiced chickpeas and coriander. Totally delicious and I loved the pottery style platters that dishes were presented on.
Mr Muddy opted for flamboyant monkfish tails, with squid ink linguine, watermelon turnips, salsify crisps and lemon marjoram sauce. The colours on the plate were reminiscent of a summer’s day – beautiful.
For desert I released my elasticated pants all the better to indulge in a medley of caramelized apple and spiced oranges. An unusual taste if I’m being honest but it worked well after the heavier main course.
I wish I could have found room for the huge cheese menu, but by now if you’d pricked me with a pin I’d have popped. I’ll definitely opt for this next time but I played safe and ordered a coffee instead.
If you’re not local to the pub it’s still worth considering as Grafham Water, with over 10-miles of waterside traffic free trails, is only a mile or so away. With a bird sanctuary, woodlands and relatively flat terrain it is popular with walkers and cyclists and dogs are allowed too. There are various kids parks dotted around and a fab flat surface, near the damn, for those wanting to try out Heelys, skateboards, roller skates and any other wheeled clobber that Santa delivered.
Let me know your thoughts if you try it out, I’ll always get back to you. And don’t keep it a secret if you know of somewhere equally special!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: relaxed foodies, gin guzzlers and wine connoisseurs will love it. Sunday lunchers and walkers who are organised enough to book a table – the pub isn’t huge so you won’t be eating with the hordes.
Not for: those wanting a high-end dining interior – the décor is hotter on safe than stylish. It’s on the gastro scale so if you’re after panini and chips for lunch this might not be for you. There’s no space for prams and, with only a small garden, nowhere to shove the kids when they begin to kick-off.
££: I felt this was towards the top end with one course starting at £19, 2-courses £28.50 and 3-courses at £38. Steaks offer better value – they start at £20 for sirloin through to £27 for fillet and include all the trimmings.
The Mermaid at Ellington, High St, Ellington, Huntingdon PE28 0AB. Tel: 01480 891106. themermaidellington.co.uk