The Mermaid in Ellington looks nothing special from the outside; there’s a tired pub sign and blackboards promoting weekly specials and you’d be excused for walking past, mistaking it for your regular local. But what a mistake that would be! Inside this cosy pub has to be one of the best kept foodie secrets in Cambridgeshire.
We would whole-heartedly recommend a visit for the complimentary bread ALONE! These soft-centred, crunchy-outered soda breads were pure heaven, not to mention the whipped beurre noissette with Sumac and seaweed salt on top. We knew this meal was going to be good. The menu is divided into ‘larder’ which includes starters for one, as well as some of the most incredible sharing platters we’ve ever seen on a pub menu – seafood, sushi or caribbean – we have to go back to try all three. An amuse-bouche (more on this later and it really did amuse our bouches!) and then ‘sauce’ dishes are your mains including steaks (vegetarian options available), a ‘transition’ of chocolate and black bean ice cream to help you travel from savoury to sweet and finally, no need for explanation for the ‘pastry’ section of the menu.
You know a menu’s good when you bicker over starters – we were both very excited by the Mermaid garden, a crunchy quinoa soiled work of art, fronds of wild garlic, perfect baby veg and a salsify log which all tasted as good as it looked. When we saw the scallops were teamed with silver skins (pickled onions) and roasted cauliflower we knew they were a must too – perfectly cooked and perfectly plump the bronze fennel completed the dish and made it a taste and texture sensation.
We try to avoid being indulgent when invited to review and so we skipped the amuse bouche, but we were so glad the chef sent two out for us anyway. It was clear from the garden starter that the kitchen knew how to do delicious and surprising food, but this sealed the deal. Bloody Mary pearls on a bed of sweet shallots in an oyster shell which absolutely got us in the giggles as we shot them back – see them in action on Instagram!
Alex’s main packed some serious punch which was great for a veggie dish – some restaurants are scared to make these dishes feisty but the ras al hangout butternut squash and black olive ricotta were perfect against the gentle orzo and buttermilk foam, needless to say the white truffle felt wickedly indulgent. It definitely didn’t need the cherry tomatoes which detracted from such a sophisticated luxurious dish. Sian wanted to keep it seasonal with lamb and was delighted with her fresh, flavoursome dish, the lamb was perfectly cooked and the wild garlic garnish sealed the seasonal-deal.
The fun ramped up even further when it came to dessert, and possibly a notch too far in our book. Alex had Romeo and Juliet’s poison, a wonderfully theatric potion of rum punch poured over fruits and popping candy. It was certainly entertaining but perhaps we’re just classic pud girls at heart as I was left lusting for the other amazing options – damn you order-regret. The dish had stayed on the menu following one of The Mermaid’s amazing themed banquets – well worth keeping an eye out for, this one being Shakespeare. Sian had been perusing the menu online and swiftly ordered the banoffee tree which, you guessed it, was an actual tree – whilst again delicious and fun, the theatre maybe missed the sophistication of the other courses, but it was still very tasty and our tiny friends certainly enjoyed the banana fronds!
An impressive side note is that any dietary requirement you may have, be that vegan or gluten-free, simply let the restaurant know in advance and they will produce your own personalised menu. Impressive stuff in our book. To have a worry-free and extensive menu was bliss – in place of the usual steak menu there were steaks of beetroot or butternut squash! Genius.
So get yourself there as soon as possible, starve yourself before and have allllll the courses. Especially the amuse-bouche and please tag us in your videos trying to eat it. The relaxed pub environment means it’s comfortable enough to go with kids (good facilities too – baby bits and bobs in the baby change included) but you get absolutely stunning food – double win! We can’t wait to go back for our next treat dinner with the husbands or the whole family.
The Mermaid, High St, Ellington, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 0AB. 01480 891106, themermaidellington.co.uk