Martin, Sarah and Phil have always had the knack of providing good food at the right price and our visit to the Village Inn this month showed that they still maintain that, with the addition last year of the wood burning pizza oven adding another dimension to their business. Situated on the outskirts of Ripley in Marehay just off the A610, the Village Inn has had a number of names over its long history; Pick and Shovel, Miners Arms and The Kestrel, to name but three.
Whatever the name it has always been a popular meeting place as a pub, restaurant, wedding function and conference venue. The private function room is extensively used for weddings, live music nights and conferences. Martin has an eye for good beers and keeps them well. On offer for our visit was Abbots Ale, which has grown in popularity at a rapid rate, Old Golden Hen and Old Speckled Hen amongst other guest ales. We were there however to try the food and as I love a good pizza it was deemed that I be pizza man for the night.
I wandered across to chat to Phil who was putting a couple more logs on the fire and getting the heat up to about 500 degrees or so. I know it’s a strange thing but men seem to be drawn to fire. Phil said “Children come to look at what’s happening and men just seem to have to come for a closer look while I am preparing and cooking the pizzas.” Over the past year Phil has become an expert pizza chef and mine was absolutely delicious, but I’m ahead of myself here.
On arrival we were greeted by a member of staff who was really friendly and told us the specials for the night as we settled into our chat with a pint of Golden Hen in hand. Martin took us on a quick tour of the facilities and explained how they had opened the pub out to create a more spacious area in which to eat and drink. There is plenty of room for families too, while not losing space for anyone who wishes to call for a drink and maybe catch up on the latest sports on television.
Placing our order we waited for our meals whilst sharing a bowl of olives – always a lovely way to start. I had ordered tomato and basil soup (£3.95) to start which was home-made and a very rich, thick soup delicious to the taste, accompanied by a granary cob and butter. My friend chose the grilled goats cheese, presented on fresh salad leaves dressed with lovely basil infused oil and reduced balsamic. Thin slivers of crispy bacon were a good addition, their saltiness complementing the creamy cheese.
I could see my pizza being prepared, they only take four minutes to cook and I had ordered the Spanish pizza with sundried tomatoes, peppers, ham, black olives and chorizo topped with rocket leaves. A thin base but not too crispy, using quality ingredients – it was top class. Over the past year the pizza oven has proved very popular with customers returning on a regular basis both to eat in and to take away and I could see why. Sarah served Jane’s meal which was nice.
We hadn’t seen her for a while but her culinary skills are still there for all to see. A bowl of seasonal vegetables, not over cooked and chips accompanied her chicken breast which was smothered in a cream tarragon sauce. A classic partnership of flavours which rightly stand the test of time. Fresh out of the oven we couldn’t resist sharing the treacle sponge pudding served with custard. When so many restaurants fall at the final hurdle, Sarah bakes her own most exquisite traditional puddings, which don’t disappoint.
The establishment has grown over the past year and alongside the successful pizza oven, the Sunday Carvery served between 12 and 2pm has also grown. Quality produce and consistency at the right price is the key to success in this industry and the Village Inn is working hard at doing just that. We had a super evening and thank Martin, Sarah and Phil for their hospitality To book a table call 01773 743970 www.villageinnmarehay.co.uk