The Saracens Head is a beautiful old pub set in the heart of the lovely village of Shirley. We arrived with friends on one of the coldest evenings so far this year; the lights were twinkling in the windows and as soon as we walked through the door I knew that we were going to enjoy a really relaxing evening. We were welcomed as we entered and shown to a table in a quiet corner, which I thought showed sensitivity as there was a large party of ladies dining, although I must say that this in no way impinged on our evening.
The Saracens is decorated with a lovely contemporary flair, which also acknowledges the age and character of the building. Open fires add a warming glow and were welcoming on an evening as frosty and clear as the night we chose. The staff are friendly and immediately make you feel at home, there for when you need them but not intrusive. The menu is on a board above the fire and changes regularly, it combines a selection of traditional pub food, lighter meals and restaurant dishes, which I liked because it means you can just pop in for a snack as well as arranging a longer, more formal evening. Selections of warm rolls with butter were served to take the edge off our appetites until our food arrived. I chose the crab served on a bed of avocado and mayonnaise to start; there was plenty of white crab meat and the avocado added creaminess to a lightly dressed salad of mixed leaves, it was not too heavy to start with. The baby asparagus spears chosen by my husband were also served with a dressed mixed salad and plenty of parmesan shavings. He followed this with a pan-fried rib-eye steak, perfectly cooked with a peppercorn sauce and chunky chips. Our friends chose the lager battered haddock and chips and said that the fish was white and moist and the batter crispy. I thought I would try something lighter and plumped for the asparagus and leek quiche, new potatoes and dressed salad leaves with diced peppers and cucumber. Rich flaky pastry and a creamy filling made this into a real main course. A dish of roasted winter root vegetables were placed in the centre of the table for us to share. The desserts are all home-made and without exception were delicious. Tempted by the hazelnut and cinnamon meringue, this was not too sweet but just a little sticky in the middle and the chunky chocolate ice-cream made a perfect partner. We finished with a filter coffee and lulled by the warmth of the fires and full of good food, we sat and chatted until the thought of an early start and work in the morning drove us home. To book a table please call 01335 360330