Review: Nicola Warren enjoys hearty food at the traditional pub The Moon and Mushroom in Swilland

The Moon and Mushroom Pub in Swilland

The Moon and Mushroom Pub in Swilland - Credit: Archant

Last Friday night, my dad agreed to forgo his weekly trip to the fish and chip shop to accompany me for a meal at The Moon and Mushroom pub in Swilland.

The Moon and Mushroom Pub in Swilland

The Moon and Mushroom Pub in Swilland - Credit: Archant

We drove out on the increasingly icy roads, through Westerfield and Witnesham, until I spotted the sign off to the little village of Swilland.

I asked Dad to keep his eye out for the pub, but there was no need as, there on the left hand side, The Moon and Mushroom was lit up with pretty fairy lights.

We pulled up outside the front (there is overflow parking round the back too) and headed into the warmth of the pub, where two open fires popped and crackled reassuringly.

Here was a traditional pub, with salmon pink and wooden clad walls and terracotta floor tiles.

Tiger prawns at the Moon and Mushroom

Tiger prawns at the Moon and Mushroom - Credit: Archant

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Dogs accompanied their owners in the bar, waiting in hope for a titbit to fall on the floor or, even better, a playmate to arrive.

We ordered our drinks – Dad a glass of Merlot and me a half a shandy – and sat at a pew-style bench in the bar.

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You can eat here or in the dining room (four-legged friends are only allowed in the bar).

I’m glad we were in the bar – it soon filled up with diners and there was a buzzy atmosphere.

Fish and chips at the Moon and Mushroom

Fish and chips at the Moon and Mushroom - Credit: Archant

The room was also busy with takeaway customers. Owner Nikki Gavin, who has been here for 11 years, decided to offer a fish and chip takeaway menu on a Friday. The fish and chip van only comes to Swilland on a Tuesday, but now locals can enjoy fish on a Friday too.

Orders seemed to be coming in thick and fast on the phone, as well as from customers just dropping in.

Soon, it was time to decide what we would order from the pub menu – there’s quite a lot of choice, plus specials on the blackboard.

Most of the dishes are traditional British pub fayre, plus there are a few Mediterranean and Eastern inspired meals on offer too.

To start, Dad opted for soup of the day with a roll and I chose pan-fried tiger prawns with sweet chilli dip and garlic bread.

Other starters included potted game with granary toast and falafel with houmous, olives and pita bread.

I fancied another seafood dish for my main meal, so chose the classic cod, chips and peas, while Dad decided on the Catalan fish stew with squid, tiger prawns, mussels and clams.

We could have also chosen from dishes such as vegetarian shepherd’s pie and Thai green chicken curry with rice from the main menu and liver, bacon and onion with mash and game suet pudding on the specials board.

This is no gastro pub, but an old style traditional pub with hearty, warming food.

So old style, in fact, that to pay a visit to the facilities, you have to go outside to a separate building!

Back in the welcoming bar, our starters soon arrived. Dad’s vegetable soup looked thick and chunky, and was accompanied by a warm roll.

He tucked in and, between mouthfuls, said it was hearty and warming and that he’d also enjoy it as a lunch.

My tiger prawns were helpfully accompanied by a finger bowl as I got into a bit of a mess top and tailing them!

The huge, succulent tiger prawns were cooked perfectly and went well with the sweet chilli dip and I enjoyed the strong garlic bread.

We had a bit of time to let our starters go down before the mains arrived.

Dad’s fish stew looked really impressive when it arrived, the shellfish sitting in a tomato broth with sliced pepper and courgette.

This dish was brought over with a finger bowl too, and I advised Dad to shell the prawns when his meal had cooled down a bit!

He really enjoyed the stew and said it was flavoursome and a taste of the Mediterranean.

My fish (I’d opted for the small cod) looked really impressive, resting on the chips and peas.

As I dug in, I discovered that the batter was really thin, crispy and light and the perfect partner to the juicy cod.

And the chips! I made Dad try one – he loves his fish and chips. These were chunky and crispy – everything I like a chip to be.

After both enjoying two courses, we weren’t sure we could manage a dessert each, so decided to share the date and walnut pudding with toffee sauce and ice cream.

We struggled to choose between that and the white chocolate crème brulee with raspberries and luxury bread and butter pudding.

The cheeseboard selection also sounded tempting.

When the dessert arrived, the delicious light sponge pudding was doused in rich toffee sauce and accompanied by vanilla ice cream.

After that, we couldn’t even manage a tea or coffee, so we thanked Nikki and her staff and left the twinkling pub behind us.

Dad sang the pub’s praises all the way home – I think he was glad he decided to forgo his trip to the fish and chip shop!

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