Muddy Eats – The Griffin’s Head in Mears Ashby
Jam-packed Monday Pie Nights and one of the best Sunday Lunches in the county, this is a destination pub for more than just the locals
Those of you Mudsters who were here at the genesis of Muddy Northants in February 2016 will recall that Adam Church, Head Chef and then part owner of the Bread and Pullet, was one of the first of the Northants establishments to open its doors to Muddy Stilettos and we gave the food and the ambience a glowing review. Adam’s been cooking up a storm at The Griffin in Mears Ashby for a year and a half now and we’ve managed three visits so far! Read about our exploits below…
Part of Tom Hewer Enterprises since 2017 and under Adam’s able cheffing hand, The Griffin has really come into its own in the last year. As some of you will know Tom Hewer is a grand fromage on the Northamptonshire food scene (behind Frank’s Hamburger House, The Orangery at Delapre Abbey and various other restaurants and mobile catering services). Interestingly Tom used to be landlord at The Griffin’s Head over a decade ago and now lives in the village so has a personal interest in wanting to have a fine local. Adam and Tom Hewer Enterprises seem to making quite the team!
First impressions give a classic country pub, but…oh my goodness, the food! Believe me, we are not talking your average pub grub here (more of which below). There’s been a bit of a refurbishment since they took over and they now have a new roof, rejuvenated windows and a charming outdoor area at the front overlooking a field of sheep. There are also some quite serious talks of an expansion and possibly some B&B rooms which I am quite excited about (who doesn’t love a stay over after a scrummy meal and a glass or three of vino)!!
The bar and restaurant space is all set up for scoff. There’s enough space between tables that you aren’t party to next door’s conversation (unless you want to be of course). It was buzzy on the first time we visited on a Sunday afternoon (not always the case with country pubs around the 4pm mark) and even busier on a Summer’s Monday evening on our third visit! Couples on dates, family groups, gangs of friends, children and dogs (your four-legged friends are allowed in the bar). Everyone is welcome – really welcome, in fact. The service is exceptional, friendly and patient in the face of my four million questions about the menu.
SCOFF & QUAFF
On our first visit we kicked off with a Saxby’s cider and a glass of Prossecco. The food and drink are locally sourced (where possible), and I know that Adam and Tom Hewer Catering are very into supporting local. Something I noticed on my third visit is the wine prices. No £8.50 glasses here, even for a large Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, still in the £6 region!!! This makes me very happy because at the end of the day, there has to be some value; and we all know fine well how much a Marlborough Sauvignon costs in the shops (so many restaurants take the mick here)!
Foodie wise you’re onto an adventure as soon as you walk in. They bake their own scotch eggs and sausage rolls which are in the bar area to help soak everything (great for those just visiting for drinks)!
I didn’t get to try them on my first visit, but THIRD visit I got one warmed up for a starter, boom!
It was TOTALLY worth the wait. Sausagey, eggy, herby, moist, crispy…all of the things a Scotch Egg should be. And at £3.50 for one between two, cheap as chips!
The cheese looked super yummy too, but I guess the Tom Hewer group knows what it’s doing there as the cheese selection at John Franklin’s in The Royal & Derngate is scrumalummy. On the first of our visits the menu was one of the best fits for me that I’ve seen in a long while, there wasn’t much on there I didn’t like (pub classics with a twist and also some sophisticated restaurant style dishes)! I started with seasonal asparagus with breadcrumbed sourdough and a bloomin’ tasty fried egg which Plus One helped himself to almost immediately!
He went for the daily special of king prawns with a splendiferous chimichurri sauce (I love this sauce and these guys did it top notch).
For mains, we had rib eye with chunky chips, trimmings and bernaise sauce and of course, the Sunday roast. Both were exceptional, really they were. The accompanying vegetables were delish – an incredible red cabbage and very crispy chips (much more so than the roasties, but I brought them home and fluffed them up in the oven the following day – no shame this Mudster).
After all that food – accompanied by a glass of lovely Marlborough Sauvignon and a juicy Malbec – I thought dessert was going to be a challenge but we bravely ploughed on (tough job this you know). The Bakewell tart was gorgeous, a crumbly, not too sweet melt in the mouth feast, and all in all, it was top notch food from start to finish!
On the first visit I’d managed to escape sans teens for the afternoon (yippee) but I’ve since returned with the pair of them who love their grub and proclaim to be quite the foodies and it was big thumbs up (they inhaled the scallop and black pudding in seconds).
The third visit on a Monday evening meant Pie & a Pint Night, £14 hand made pastry pie, chips or mash, veg and a drink – can be vino! It’s definitely paying off having a theme on a Monday night because the place was buzzing. Locals, people travelling in cars, drinkers and eaters, it was absolutely heart-warming to see a busy pub at the start of the week. The pie of the week was chicken, leek and ham and it was super tasty. Pastry delicious and sauce fllavoursome and gooey. Only criticism was there could have been more juice/gravy/white sauce (call it what you will), but we still demolished the lot). You can order off the normal menu to and there’s a great mix of meat, fish and veggie.
OUT & ABOUT
The quaint parish of Mears Ashby has a population of approximately 450 people and is built in an unusual format in that it does not have a main road passing through the centre, but instead has five different routes into and out of the “box-shaped” community. It’s easy enough to get to Wellingborough, Northampton or Kettering and there are other small villages with country pubs close by too, but I’d make a special trip to come for The Griffin’s food.
Good for: Everyone – sometimes pubs with amazing food are best for formal, adult occasions but The Griffin totally works if you’ve got the kids and/or the dog in tow too, and whether you’re in muddy wellies or muddy stilettos. And this place was built for all seasons – you can cosy up indoors by the wood burner or while away sunny days/evenings outside. It’s now open 7 days a week too and serves Sunday lunch into the evening I don’t know wen they sleep, but their sleep loss is our gain)!
Nor for: This probably isn’t the spot for a pub crawl –although it IS the spot for a wild and boozy night out with a big group of mates if you’re ok staying all evening. This is a restaurant bar, but it’s also a pub for locals and I think the two can sit harmoniously, but if you prefer a formal dining experience, you may want to go to a white tablecloth restaurant. If you’re not a fan of dogs, you might not find it an entirely relaxing experience although most doggies have been well-behaved when we’ve been.
The damage: Reasonable to upper end for gastro pub food of this quality. Starters and desserts are around £6-7 upwards and mains £12 upwards. You can get wine for the glass under a fiver and bottles for under £20! All in all, the experience is definitely worth the spend.