Muddy Eats: The Griffin – Mears Ashby
A pub that does restauarant quality food but in a pub-like atmosphere. I call this a win-win combo!
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 establishment to open its doors to Muddy Stilettos and we gave the food and the ambience a glowing review. So when we got wind that Adam was cooking up a storm at The Griffin in Mears Ashby, we were there with bells on!
The pub had been closed for a few weeks in December 2017 when Tom Hewer took it on 2 days before Christmas and Adam was straight in as chef with his partner Sophie also part of operations. Sophie said the support of the village was amazing and made for a great Christmas eve (these guys know their food and drink, so I can imagine it was). As some of you may know, Tom Hewer is a grand fromage on the Northamptonshire food scene. He is behind Frank’s Hamburger House and various other restaurants and mobile catering services. Interestingly Tom used to be landlord at The Griffin’s Head over a decade ago which was where he met Sophie!
First impressions of are of a Classic country pub, but…oh my goodness, the food! Believe me, we are not talking your average pub grub here (more below). There’s been a bit of a refurbishment since they took over and they now have a new roof and rejuvenated windows. 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 Sunday afternoon we visited (not always the case with country pubs around the 4pm mark), with 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 was exceptional, friendly and patient in the face of my four million questions about the menu.
SCOFF & QUAFF
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.
They bake their own scotch eggs and sausage rolls which are in the bar area to help soak everything for those just visiting for drinks!
The cheese looks 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. The menu was one of the best fit for me that I’ve seen in a long while, there wasn’t much on there I didn’t like! 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!
I’d managed to escape sans teens for the afternoon (yippee) but I’d definitely return with the pair of them who love their grub and both proclaim to be quite the foodies (does KFC count?).
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. Lunches started in June and are really starting to take off!
Nor for: This probably isn’t the spot for a wild and boozy night out with a big group of mates if you want a pub crawl – it’s not really a cocktails-and-chasers kind of bar. And if you’re not a fan of dogs, you might not find it an entirely relaxing experience.
The damage: Reasonable for gastro pub food of this quality. Starters and desserts are around £6-7, mains £12 upwards.