Published on October 28th, 2013 | by Nottingham Drinker0
Fare Deals ND118
THE GRIFFIN’S HEAD
Famous for its impressive Victorian Pumping Station, the actual village of Papplewick a mile or two to the west can also boast other attractions: an attractive conservation area; a Grade I listed Hall; an ancient church where it is rumoured that Alan-a-Dale, Robin Hood’s very own wandering minstrel, lies buried and a splendid, white-painted inn, the Griffin’s Head, which has stood sentinel by the main crossroads and what was once the southern gateway to Sherwood Forest for over 300 years. Outside there is a well-appointed beer garden, plenty of car parking and a large field to the rear where the kids can be let loose, whilst the warren of rooms within exudes all the ‘olde worlde’ charm one might expect from a typical English country pub: ceiling beams; open fires; part bare-board, quarry tile and parquet flooring; several old tables with chequer boards stencilled into their tops and plenty of aging, black and white prints of village life adorning the walls. Even the more recent dining room extension with its exposed joists and pitched roof manages to blend in, although some might question the ubiquitous use of Venetian blinds about the place.
Handpumps along the central bar offer Black Sheep Bitter and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, together with one regularly changing guest ale and a LocAle in the shape of Castle Rock Harvest Pale. Clutching a suitably charged glass of the latter, a fine beer that goes well with so many foods, I make my way to a window-side table in order to study the menu and various specials chalked up on the blackboard, which also makes special mention of chef Barry Mayoh’s gluten free dishes.
An imaginative list of starters includes grilled goats’ cheese with baby beetroot and green beans (£6.50), but I cannot resist treating myself to the scallops with black pudding, pancetta brittle and celeriac purée (£7.95), an intriguing combination of some of my all-time favourite ingredients, which soon arrives elegantly presented on a rustic black slate. Three plump and perfectly cooked scallops are surmounted by a thin sliver of crispy Italian salt-cured pork belly to create a delightful contrast of textures and flavours, which is evident again in the interaction in the mouth between crumbled, spicy black pudding that has been cooked to a semi-crunchiness and served atop a generous diagonal swipe of creamy, white vegetable purée, whilst a neat little mound of assorted micro-leaves has been added alongside for good measure. It is a great start and I am looking forward to the next instalment.
Barry tries to use locally sourced produce as much as possible and as all dishes are cooked to order, I have a short wait before my main course is ready. The menu includes separate char-grill and fish sections, the latter including moules marinière, another old favourite of mine and served here with a nice simple chunk of crusty bread (£11.25), but after a shellfish starter, I feel something more meaty is called for and I reckon I have spotted just the job: pork cooked three ways, which the menu tells me comprises pressed belly, pan-fried tenderloin and sage and apple roulade served with wholegrain mustard mash, mangetout and Dorset sauce (£11.95).
This time the dish is presented on a rather more conventional, rectangular white plate, with the belly pork sitting upon a good sized dollop of firm yet creamy, mustard infused potato taking centre stage. Opposing corners are occupied by a small piece of genuinely tender tenderloin on one side and the roulade on the other, a splendidly herby affair in an accurately executed, thin pastry shell, whilst two mini-stacks of really fresh, al dente mangetout attractively garnished with purple hued amaranth micro-leaves, an interestingly spicy variety I have not previously encountered, occupy the two remaining corners. Completing the ensemble is a rather miserly drizzle of a rich, brown, gravy-like creation, which is presumably the aforementioned Dorset sauce, albeit that all my endeavours to uncover a recipe for this have been to no avail! Nevertheless, it is all very tasty and enjoyable, my only quibble being that instead of a nice little bit of teeth-challenging crackling, one side of the piece of belly is overlaid with a small slab of rubber-like, inedible fat.
Desserts, it seems, are not for the faint-hearted and range from crumble of the day with a choice of cream, ice cream or custard (£3.95) to ‘The Sweet Shop’, the pub’s own full-frontal attack on anyone’s dietary concerns comprising candyfloss, marshmallow, rhubarb and custard popping candy ice cream, similarly flavoured dust, cinder toffee and white mice (£7.95). For me, the well-chosen cheese selection looks far more appealing, but luckily I have no room left for temptation to lead me any further astray than the Griffin’s Head has already achieved.
Straddling the River Greet close to its confluence with the Trent, Rolleston is a quiet, rural village gathered around its 12th century Holy Trinity Church, which boasts an unusual six-bell peal, and its pub, the Crown, a pleasing, cream-painted affair, with parking and a leafy beer garden and patio to the rear. Entering via the pergola, the modern looking taproom with its bare-board floor and polished pine bar still manages to find a spot for a dartboard, while three handpumps offer a choice of Greene King’s Olde Trip Ale and IPA Gold together with one guest, which a little disappointingly sometimes comes from the same source. Just beyond and fronting the street is the dining room, a bright and equally modern space, which mine hosts, Clive and Kim Wisdom, have endowed with a tasteful cream and violet décor, nicely complemented by the muted shades evident in the padded chairs and banquettes.
The lunchtime menu is not quite as extensive as that available in the evening, but with a number of blackboard specials to also consider, there is still plenty to choose from, whilst a complementary jug of iced water sporting a few slices of lemon and brought to the table without asking adds a nice, thoughtful touch. Homemade pâté with warm toast and Cumberland sauce (£4.95) sounds pretty good, but today there are no less than two homemade soups on offer: minted pea or mushroom (£4.00), and as I am rather partial to the latter, especially if well made, I decide to give it a try. Disappointingly for the management, the restaurant is far from busy, but it does mean I do not have long to wait before I am surveying a deep, white bowl of rich and creamy, piping hot soup absolutely bursting with intense, earthy mushroom flavours. Served alongside a small wicker basket containing a warmed and really crusty bread roll, together with a pat of lightly salted butter, it is a very tasty precursor to what I am hoping will prove to be an equally well-presented main course.
Traditional lambs’ liver and bacon with mashed potato, garden peas and a rich onion gravy (£8.95) could easily have won me over, but the Crown makes something of a speciality of its individual, homemade pies (£10.25), which depending on the filling, are either topped with mash or properly encased in short crust pastry rather than merely having a lid slapped on top. I have not enjoyed a good pie for a long time and here I have a choice of two: steak and ale or chicken, leek and ham, so with fingers crossed, in goes my order for the latter. Once again, it is only a short time before I have before me a golden brown, oval shaped pie already turned out of its dish onto a large plate and placed beside it, a small white jug of creamy, pale yellow sauce seated on a paper napkin. Together with an over-generous helping of nicely cooked chips and a separate bowl of fresh vegetables, it all looks very enticing and I am eager to get stuck in. The suitably thin, buttery pastry is crispy on top and packed below with tender chunks of chicken, slightly smoky pieces of moist ham and deliciously soft leeks, which help to bind the mixture together. And from the jug, the light and creamy, fennel infused sauce is, without doubt, the perfect accompaniment. Carrot batons still retain a nice bit of firmness, while the shredded red cabbage has a distinctly fruity character, which delivers a clever and well-balanced sweet and sour effect on the palate. Only the green beans have been marginally overcooked and hang limply on the fork, but this detracts little from what is otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable meal, made even better when washed down with a decent drop of IPA Gold and, in my opinion, pretty good value for money too by today’s standards.
Puddings priced at £4.90 and served with either cream or ice cream include a refreshing lemon citrus tart or ‘millionaire cake’, a biscuit based, caramel cheesecake topped with chocolate, but not for me. However, for once the weather is fine, so I might just find room for another beer and take advantage of this rare opportunity to savour it on the shady and flower bedecked patio outside.