The Black Horse at Elton
If you're in search of a great pub with an even better garden - here you go!
I’m writing this feature with a huge grin on my face because, truly, it was such a delight to find The Black Horse in the beautiful village of Elton, close to the Northants border a few miles from Oundle. We’re not drowning in good gastropubs towards the west of the county – if you’re a regular Muddy reader, you’ll know already that the lifeblood of the blog is to find things in Cambridegshire that have something that lifts them from the ordinary, and here’s one delicious nugget for you.
Love the look of the Cotswolds but don’t have the time, or inclination, to treck three hours cross country for Sunday lunch?! There are a handful of villages in Muddy Cambs that have a hint of that handsome sun drenched honeyed stone – and Elton village has it!
I had the preeny pleasure of being the first journo to try out the Black Horse and boy – it’s a dark horse. Like many properties in the village it forms part of the estate of Elton Hall, and has an interesting history of being the local jaihouse and scene of judicial hangings. It’s had a turbulent past few years but it was taken over last year by the chef David Simms, formerly of The Talbot at Oundle and the renowned Falcon at Fotheringhay, and his partner Mark Bailey and they’ve been busy putting the style back into the place.
The integrity of a drinking pub has not been lost in any of the renovations – the main door takes you straight into the bar area with plenty of areas to sit and chew the cud over a pint or two.
There’s a woodburner churning out the heat which keeps the bar area toasty – inside the Farrow & Ball colour chart has been out, but not overdone, and I love the brave Wedgewood blue accent walls.
There’s a definite country feel with exposed beams, flagstones, deep stone walls, a hint of check, large old battered leather chairs by the fire and the odd quirky accent – the rope light draped over the beam in the restaurant, once the jail room, adds an interesting touch.
Wander through from the bar into the sitting area and you’ll find another huge open fire (unfortunately not lit the day I was there). Vintage leather wing back chairs stand guard either side – a perfect spot for a good old goss or, if you’re there to scoff. peruse the menu
The restaurant area is on the far side overlooking the garden. Due to the age of the building it’s split into separate levels but both are equally welcoming with plenty of light – there’s nothing pokey about this place.
But what about the food, Sallie? I hear you cry (go then ahem). Well thanks for the nudge – we had the choice of both the lunch menu and the à la carte. The lunch menu has nibbly bits to start with – like warm chorizio & olives (£5), sandwiches begin at £6.50 and pub classics such as beef burger (£12.50) and ham, egg and chips (£9.50). Clearly I’m a total cochon as my plus one for lunch, aka my mother and I opted for the à la carte menu. I chose the feta and beetroot salad as a starter– the candied pecans gave a delicious sweet flavor to the otherwise savoury ingredients and my mother (who doesn’t mind me sticking my fork in her food) chose the chef’s signature dish, crab linguine with dill and chilli – beautifully subtle.
Next I had the baked ricotta and aubergine torte and my partner in crime opted for the breast of pheasant wrapped in parma ham with a red wine sauce. Both delicious (not always the case with pheasant) and I’m rather taken by the pottery serving plates.
It’s a hard job but I do it for you Muddy readers – I released those elasticated trousers and dug into the pudding menu. Pear and almond tart with home made ice cream and a beautifully light crème brulee with shortbread – divine.
Upstairs there’s a private dining room that will comfortably seat up to 35 – a great space if you have a large group or for a business meeting.
The Black Horse is the pub you’ll be wanting to take your kids to on a sunny day when you want to sit in peace in the frankly enormous garden while they play – there’s a small football goal, two swingball posts and heaps of space. This place gets a thumbs up from me – how often do you take your kids into a pub garden or terrace only to find that they’re either the size of a postage stamp or filled with diners giving your children the evils as they play tag around their tables. (I mean, what’s wrong with these people?). There’s a kids menu offering nibbles to start, the normal mains – pasta, fish and chips, cheese burger and chicken strips and a fab pudding menu. If you’re kids are good eaters (like mine, *cough*) they’ll serve smaller portions from the main menu also.
Parking’s not a problem either you could get a fleet of Hummers in here!
For such a small village Elton does well on the food front – The Black Horse, The Crown Inn and a Loch Fyne restaurant. There are ample walks along the old railway line and by the River Nene and if you’re coming by boat there are moorings at Elton Lock with a 10-15 mins walk into the village. If you like visiting historic houses then Elton Hall found on the edge of the village is definitely worth a visit – a part Gothic house that has belonged to the same family since 1660, set in beautifully landscaped gardens – including an orangery, a sunken garden and an arboretum and surrounded by parkland and woodland. Visting times are limited and is mainly from May – August so you’ll need to check ahead. Set in the grounds of the Hall you’ll also find the Walled Garden – a garden centre and tea room that are open all year round– if you’ve not had enough to eat already!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Families in all shapes and sizes. Walkers, bikers, doggy types (dogs can go in the bar area and in the garden), boaters wanting a welcome drink or some great gastro grub. Relaxed weekend lunches with family and friends, a romantic meal or a smart local for a drink or two. Don’t forget big groups and business meetings upstairs.
Not for: er, good question. I guess if you’re looking for hip and trendy this might not hit the ‘cool’ button but you’d be mad to walk out on this one.
£££: Mid-range I’d say. A la carte is £5.50-7.50 for starters, £12-17 for mains, and £5.50 for desserts; with sirloin steak plus all the trimmings for £20.
The Black Horse, 14 Overend, Elton, Peterborough PE8 6RU, theblackhorseatelton.co.uk