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Muddy eats: The Miller of Mansfield (Goring)

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Well, this is good timing. Just as I was about to start writing this post about The Miller of Mansfield in Goring, word has reached the Muddy shell-like that they’ve just been awarded South Oxon CAMRA Pub of the Season.

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That’s no doubt manna from heaven for Nick and Mary Galer, who took over the pub earlier this year and have been working hard to make it a credible local alternative to the well-established The John Barleycorn.

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It’s a handsome looking pub from the outside, all brick and ivy and confident signage. Big too – there are 15 rooms here, recently revamped in love-it-or-hate-it flamboyant fashion. Stepping inside you can see why it’s gained pub plaudits. The space is warm, deep colours against the wall, exposed brick work, comfy leather chairs, fires blazing, the kind of place that would feel like home on a Sunday afternoon with a paper and large glass of red.

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I sat here to have some nibble and a cheeky glass of fizz before moving to the more restauranty bit at the back of the bar.  The two areas do feel incredibly different, almost like two different venues, and I’d say that the restaurant would definitely work best on an evening, as it has more of a formal feel to it – if not quite fine dining not far from it, with its banquet seating to the side, and plush (and very comfy) grey fabric chairs.

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Food too errs on the elegant side, which is no surprise when you discover that chef/owner Nick (below) and Mary ran the Fleur de Lys pub in Dorchester, then worked at Michelin-starred The Goose at Britwell Salome (now The Red Lion), and then onto Bray as Heston Blumenthal’s head chef at The Crown.

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That’s quite the credentials list – and if you look on the Miller website there’s a stonking letter of commendation from Heston – so no surprises then that the food was impressive. I had cauliflower lasagne to start with cumin, raisins and hazelnuts – very unusual, which is why I chose it, but it really worked.

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Then I brought out the big guns for mains, but, oh balls, I can’t remember what it was LOL! (Miller of Mansfield, help me out here…). It was wonderfully meaty fish, cooked to perfection, I can tell you that much. I ate the entire plate, porcelain excluded.

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Dessert was the only dish that for me didn’t work massively. The tonka bean panna cotta with blackberries and pistachios (below, £6.50) was a bit too intricate for my stodgy winter warmer palate. I would have preferred the dish pared down a bit, and probably should have gone for something more traditional on the menu like a lemon meringue tart or a pear tatin.

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Though the day-to-day menu errs on the restauranty side, it would definitely be a good Sunday lunch family option, with its more relaxed fish and chips, and roast beef and pork options, particularly as Goring is so goddam pretty and there’s loads of fantastic walking to do around there – either following the river, or wandering across to neighbouring Streatley. If you’re localish to Goring, another good option is its Supper Club, 6-8 on a Sunday night, with a set one course menu including a drink for £12.50, and dessert also available. It’s a great boon for Goring I reckon, I’d love to have a Miller where I live (*sigh*).

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THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: local nibblers/drinkers, relaxed business lunches, girly catch-up over restaurant fare, weekend walkers, family Sunday roast lovers.

Not for: anyone looking for a pie-and-pint type venue. Though the front of the pub is relaxed in style, the reality is the food’s a bit smarter than that. Anyone who needs nearby parking – there is virtually no parking on site, so you’ll have to scout the nearby roads for spaces.

££: Mid-range. £6-7.50 for starters, £13.50 – 18.50 for mains and Sunday lunches, £6.25 – £7.95 for desserts.

High Street, Goring, Reading, RG8 9AW. Tel: 01491 872829. millerofmansfield.com

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