Best Part: The beer and pies!
CAMRA have rated the Mermaid, South Hertforshire’s best pub. Let’s see if it also gets a high rating from St Alban’s best food blog…
Being a comfortable, traditional pub doesn’t mean you have to be set in your ways. The Mermaid has its tail pointing towards modern dining preferences and its scales nestling together in happy cosiness. By juxtaposing traditional pies with tapas in its small but perfectly balanced menu the Mermaid grabbed my attention. They are not quite modern enough to embrace paying by card but I was prepared with a purse full of cash. This was handy as Mr Midweek Lunch had two whole pints of beer. In the middle of the day – how reckless! Why should every pub have a card machine? It was actually rather nice to have this act of defiance.
Had I been a meat eater and not in the mood for pies, I would have been tempted with the ‘build your own ploughman’s’ idea. This being the option of having a pork pie and adding cheese and crackers. However the vegetarian Heidi pie proved to be a great choice. See the cross section photo for the beautiful colours and textures. It was creamy, crunchy and sweet. The home made (possibly) mushy peas were zesty and comforting.
My husband ate a matador (in this context a type of pie). It was a delightfully Spanish affair, with chorizo, olives and sherry. He had some mashed potatoes instead of mushed peas and was happy with the option. There are a number of foods that work well with beer, because beer is super-awesome, but pies have to be way up there. There is stodge, pastry and big sweet chunks of meat. Also, unlike some charlatan ‘pies’ that you get in certain establishments the pastry went all the way around. Put a pastry hat on a bowl of stew if you want but don’t try and tell me this is a pie.
And talking about beer, this is in the upper echelons of beer pubs in St Albans. They have a range of colours on offer, with a handy little pot in front of the pot so you know exactly what it will look like. There are some classic breweries represented, as well as some of the young upstarts. And best of all, being a pub, they don’t mind if you order crisps which some of the classier restaurants would possibly look down on you for.
The service was great. There was a jolly bar man who seemed to know most of the punters and welcomed new faces. Our pies were brought within 20 minutes which showed they had been cooked properly but not sitting around for ages. Serving Pieminster pies seems sensible because it means the proprietor doesn’t have to overstretch his kitchen ambitions. It keeps things simple so that the focus can be on providing a good service with the focus on good beer, reliably good food and a relaxing environment.
Well done Mermaid. You are thoroughly deserving of your CAMRA award and we give you