Travel & Life Digest

The Mash Inn - Chiltern Hills

Good morning & Merry Christmas!
Our culinary exploration of the Chiltern Hills continues. Thanks to the three chaps, who own the Mash Inn, the area now is a frequent feature in food magazines and is attracting more and more buzz.  
We had been to the Mash Inn on a warm, summer, Sunday afternoon, in search of a roast. They were closed. But we did get to see the garden with uninterrupted views over the Chiltern Hills and that massive iron fire pit, which must look gorgeous, when lit, under the summer evening sky.
Fast-forward four months and we are in December, with a  weekday reservation for dinner at the Mash Inn. It’s dark and wet and cold outside, but we’ve got a reservation - finally -  so let’s do this!

You know I’m going to say it was worth it. It was. Let me tell you why.
The guys that own the place are committed.
Committed enough to only open from Wednesday to Saturday, because they want everyone who works there to be happy and offer top notch service. Surely that’s not what gives restaurants Michelin stars? Yes it is. And it’s what makes for friendly and spot on service that made us feel relaxed and looked after, even on a cold and miserable December night.  

After our aperitivo by the fire we were shown to the! And we started chatting.
The kitchen is an extension of the dinning room. There are no walls, it's all open for you to wander in and see what's cooking.
There is no stove either, but there are two live fire pits, already hot and ready to cook tonight’s meals. Everything happens here, Jon, the chef, greeted us and so did the rest of the staff.
They are all down to earth. They are nice.
The dining area is simply decorated but the view at daytime out of the windows must be amazing. Little bonus -  the fire pit outside is lit. We can spot the flames dancing in the cold through the windows. We promise to check it out before we go.

Black garlic muffins and salty butter...

Back to why else the place was worth it.
The food.
It’s fresh. And local. And interesting. And cooked on live fire. Francis Malmann take notice, please!
Everything is grilled, barbecued or poached over the wood fire - taste buds rejoice!

Are you one of those people who get excited at the prospect of bread & butter? Well, first of all, good for you! So are we! We always get excited with bread and butter, somehow it sets the tone for the meal. Well, the butter was smooth and creamy and the bread was a smoked garlic muffin, as a matter of fact. Spectacular smokey garlic flavour, not too strong but punchy enough, sourced by the nearby fields, fresh and then preserved in salt.  

Then the starters: poached oysters for me, chicken liver parfait for my husband; both deliciously fresh. I'm happy I tried the oysters, great idea poaching them in their own liquid over a live fire - I just think I prefer the crispiness of the cold, salty liquid they come in.
For our main, we both went for the lamb, roasted perfectly over the wood fire.
By "perfectly" I mean that it was seared nicely on the outside and although it still had that pinky colour inside, it was slightly warm and tender, the kind that makes you smile after one bite. 
That dish was like the little shop of curiosities, full of surprising little accompaniments. Take the pickled fresh walnuts, amongst other things. Jon, the Chef, has a real eye for playing around with local veg that he pickles and preserves everything he can get his hands on - his pickling jars are all dotted around the pub. This means that your food will not be served with he same staff over and over.

Trivial question: what's with the pineapple?
Nick, one of the three owners, told us that his family were grocers, hence the pineapple reminded him of their hard work. This place is run by real people. 

Now let's go see the fire pit outside, under the December starry sky.

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