Muddy eats: The Mash Inn, nr Radnage
Tis true that Muddy Stilettos has a terrible weakness for a cool new foodie venue. The team from The Mash Inn had barely stepped across the threshold of the former Three Horse Shoes in the rural hamlet Bennett’s End (just outside Radnage, mid Bucks) before I was peering through the window, and apart from a rogue Daily Telegraph hack who sneaked in to review it a few weeks ago *humph*, yours truly is the first national journo/blogger to taste its charms.
Shall we just start by saying ‘whoopo!!!‘? In an area not overly blessed with an abundance of superior gastropubs and inns, The Mash Inn has made quite the impression with its cosy interiors, confident service and the experienced steer of Nick Mash, a man who grew up in the area, has returned like the prodigal son and clearly has a desire to dispense with the more poncy elements of the London eating scene with his new vision of ‘a new generation inn’ – a place with no pretention, locally produced and sourced ingredients and food cooked on an open fire by a head chef chopping, creating and cooking in an open area (you can’t call it it a kitchen, seriously) adjacent to the tables.
The Mash Inn is part cute local pub with higgledy piggledy settles and a tiny cosy bar, and part groovy restaurant with generously spaced tables in a more modern setting (kind of Scandi, with large glass doors out onto a neat garden and lots of wood, though slightly more functionally elegant than stylish).
I’d say that Nick Mash (below) is the main weapon in The Mash Inn’s arsenal – a man of considerable charm and chutzpah, he clearly knows what he’s doing, drolling performing the maitre’ d role on the night I visited with wit and energy, and keeping things ticking along just nicely.
It helps, of course, that the food is excellent. The Mash Inn runs two daily menus – one an informal informal a la carte offering where guests can choose to have a little or a lot, and a second tasting menu of eight or nine dishes. Guess which one I went for? Yup, I woofed that tasting menu like a labrador let loose on the biscuit tin. Eight courses of perfect proportions for a very reasonable £45, paired with wines suggested by Nick because Mr Muddy and I were too lazy in the first course and too piddled by the third to make any decisions for ourselves.
Apologies for the photos, but as we were there on a busy evening and the lighting was low it I didn’t want to put my flash on, so we have some slightly sepia courses on show. No hiding how fabulous the food was though.
The one course I didn’t massively enjoy was the partridge but I’m not big on game and it was definitely a question of ‘it’s me, not you’, as it was Mr Muddy’s favourite course – he ate my portion as well as his, the complete cochon.
I should tell you that you are deep in Buckinghamshire countryside here and it cost me around £30 in a taxi each way – not far off making it better value to stay over. With that in mind there are 5 doubles here that cost £100 per night. I didn’t get to peer at them on the night I visited so I can’t vouch personally but given the quality of my experience I can’t believe they wouldn’t be anything but value for money and to be honest, at the end of a tipply evening, all you want to do is snore it all off anyway. The official photos look the part anyway.
For those who visit in the day, there’s some beautiful walking in the Chilterns all around, and children are welcome, though I’d caveat that for really little ones by saying that the eating space is relatively small as is the garden, so if you have a toddler with real howling tendencies, this might not be the restaurant for you. Kids who can sit in their seats and only need the occasional breath of fresh air will be fine though.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Foodies, large groups of friends or family, out-of-towners, Sunday lunchers wanting to breathe proper fresh country air and eat really well.
Not for: It’s not a young family-based experience – no extensive play equipment outside or space within to accommodate a ‘spirited’ toddler. The bedrooms don’t accommodate children either. The rural location might not suit those looking for a more convenient meeting point – it’s a 15 minute cab from Princes Risborough or Saunderton train stations.
££: An 8 course tasting menu for £45 per head is excellent value. Mains at the £20 mark are on the expensive side, but you can’t fault the quality of cooking and service, so in my opinion it’s well worth that extra couple of quid.