The Eltisley – Eltisley, Cambridgeshire (UK)

There’s a new chef in town (well, the pretty Cambridgeshire village of Eltisley) and it’s Jamie Mountford, a man with an impressive culinary resumé. If his name seems familiar, it’s because he was a finalist in Masterchef: The Professionals in 2016. He has built his reputation in some of the finest kitchens in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, in addition to his tireless fundraising work.

Jamie has taken over The Eltisley’s kitchen with a completely overhauled menu. Now under new management, Jamie’s food finally does justice to this lovely village pub. Out with gimmicks (food on hooks) and a niche menu (100% gluten free) – in with dishes brimming with fresh flavours and quality produce. Featuring a delicious list of starters, sharers, mains, steaks (fillet, sirloin, flat iron), sauces, sides, pizzas, sweets and even kids meals, the menu is varied enough to suit many preferences and appetites but it’s not overly fussy. The vegetarian options are not an afterthought as in many pubs and gluten free dishes are still available.

I was invited to try the brand new menu a few weeks ago. It was only their second day serving the dishes and the team (kitchen, servers, bartenders and front-of-house) were all fantastic. The place was full too, so word has clearly gotten out about the positive changes!

Paulo and I were seated in the converted barn section of the pub, which is also used as a function room. (More on the décor later). We had an early reservation so we had the area to ourselves for a little while. I took full advantage of this for my Instagram while we waited for our drinks (#yolo #livingmybestlife and all that).

They make some really nice cocktails and mocktails so it’s worth pondering the drinks menu. I had the Apple Virgin Mojito and Paulo enjoyed an Adnams Ghost Ship pale ale.

My starter was a delightful duck egg (slow cooked in its shell in a 63-degree Celsius water bath), served on buttered cooked sourdough with mushroom mayonnaise and a generous amount of fresh black truffle. I can’t wait to have this again!

Paulo’s excellent starter featured scallops seared to perfection with black pudding, pea purée, apple sauce and bacon. Another winner!

Curiosity got the best of me so we decided to taste the “poutine” on the menu. I am using quotation marks as the dish isn’t what we Canadians know as poutine, but hey tabarnak I can let it go (I know where to get my squeaky-curds-poutine fix in the UK). French fries topped with slow braised beef in gravy with hard mozzarella melted on top… all so succulent and very much enjoyed!

Paulo chose the 10oz sirloin from the steaks menu and the meat was of incredible quality. It was served with sautéed cherry tomatoes, button mushrooms, red onions, Parmesan, rocket salad and Jenga chips. Sauces are extra but they are worth it – Paulo had the peppercorn sauce.

We shared a side of onions rings, which we both agreed were the best ever (no joke). We’re talking sweet slices of onion encased in a puffy crispy batter, deep fried to golden brown.

The trio of lamb piqued the interest of my inner gourmet with its intriguing flavours and textures. The beautifully arranged dish included lamb prepared three ways (kofta, crispy belly and rump), served with miso aubergine, mint, yogurt, coriander and charred baby gems. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful (one for each lamb culinary creation).

And because I am a truffle addict, I ordered a side of Parmesan and truffle oil chips. These were crispy chips with prominent flavours, not just a light sprinkling of cheese or a miniscule drop of truffle oil. Very moreish!

Unfortunately, the poutine feast meant that we were too full to try the tempting desserts on the menu but for the sake of the blog (he he), I made the sacrifice of ordering the doughnuts.

The hot doughnut balls are good for sharing and satisfying the sweet tooth. They’re rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with strawberry purée, crème anglaise and honey. Whatever you do, don’t miss these!

I honestly could not fault any of the food. It was beautifully prepared, deftly executed and amiably served – all at a good pace, even when it got busier that Saturday night. My only niggles have to do with ambience and décor. The pub is nicely laid out, with a dining room and a more casual bar area, but because it lacks space the barn extension is also used for dining, when it’s not booked for a function. This is where we were seated and it feels cavernous when empty but then is noisy when full of people. The “romantic” music is too loud and much too mellow, both at odds with a buzzing atmosphere.

The ornate décor in the Grand Barn with its gilded mirrors, gold topped tables, chandeliers, drapes and cherubs (including statues and a huge mural of the little buggers) give the room an opulent, decadent feel that is incongruent with the rest of the pub. The menu is classy yet uncomplicated – the whole pub should be a reflection of this, even though the barn has a separate use at times for weddings, etc. In my opinion, when there’s too much going on in terms of décor it suggests a place is more style than substance – and this is definitely not the case at The Eltisley now. I am aware that it’s a matter of personal taste and I know that investing in a redecoration is not high on the list of priorities at a time when village pubs are closing at an unfortunate pace… but I live in hope that at least the cherubs will flutter away into oblivion.

Of course, the barn’s décor won’t stop me from going back to try more of the fabulous menu and it shouldn’t deter anyone else either. I fear the wrath of the locals as it will be harder for them to get a table but The Eltisley is now a destination restaurant, one well worth scoping out.

I was invited for a complimentary dinner for two. I did not receive compensation for my review. All views are my own.

Unless otherwise noted, I am the legal copyright holder of the content and images of this blog. Please contact me for permission if you wish to use, reprint or publish any material.

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