Jim Davidson’s ears were probably burning. No, scratch that. His ears had been filled with two small oxyacetylene cylinders, whose valves had been fully opened.
Rating: 7/10. Jim Davidson’s ears were probably burning. No, scratch that. His ears had been filled with two small oxyacetylene cylinders, whose valves had been fully opened.
A small box of fire lights had been placed on the running stream of gas and a creme brulee torch had been used to ignite the pyre. Poor old Jim.
A group of four had gathered for lunch at the Mytton and Mermaid, in Shrewsbury, including the managers of theatres from both Shrewsbury and Telford.
The conversation had turned, inevitably, to entertainers and poor old Jim’s tarnished reputation. The, ahem, ‘funnyman’, a term used in the loosest possible sense, was famously banned from Telford some years ago after making disparaging remarks about a hotel and local theatre.
A year later, during a gig at Wolverhampton, he’d reignited the flames, telling Telford where it could put its theatre. Five years on and his outbursts remain a subject for debate.
Happily, Jim didn’t take up all of the airtime at the Mytton and Mermaid. Our party arrived at different times – the pressures of working in deadline-sensitive industries – but we were attended to with great skill by the Mytton and Mermaid staff.
As each of us arrived, we were shown to a set of comfortable sofas. Menus were presented to us and a small bowl of olives was placed alongside our pre-lunch drinks so that we could enjoy appetisers while making our selection.
The venue was pretty full with tables packed with business people, friends out for a cordial afternoon and, it being Shrewsbury, plenty of ladies who lunch.
The Mytton and Mermaid has long been established as one of Shropshire’s best loved restaurants and it has a loyal clientele. It is similar, in some ways, to The Armoury, in Shrewsbury, in that it combines a vibrant bar and bustling al fresco seating area with an all-singing, all-dancing restaurant.
Though the Mytton and Mermaid offers a similar selection of bistro-esque choices and gastro pub classics, it goes a step further. There are numerous fine dining choices and the venue has good connections with local suppliers, enabling its kitchen to showcase the best of local/seasonal ingredients.
Our party had gathered to chew the fat while chowing down on uncomplicated fare and the restaurant’s kitchen was untroubled by a double order of fish and chips and a club sandwich. I held out to test the chef’s prowess by ordering the brill, which was served on a pea and crayfish tail risotto.
Conversation flowed as we pondered the following million dollar questions: Did Paul Zerdin nick Roger de Coursey’s act? Is Keith Harris the most miserable man in showbusiness? Will Strictly’s Camilla Dallerup bring her pet pooch to Telford and, best of all, a rambunctious joke involving the late entertainer Ray Alan, his upper class puppet Lord Charles and blind blues piano player Ray Charles. Go on, join the dots. It’s not that tricky.
After being shown to our table, we were brought a small platter of bread with butter, oil and balsamic vinegar and we tucked in with gusto.
Service was good throughout the afternoon, with the waitresses attentive to our needs and also making sure they didn’t make too many visits to our table. They were discreet and brought our food to the table with brisk efficiency.
The food was greeted with enthusiasm by all four diners. The club sandwich – a veritable behemoth that filled the plate and oozed layers of flavour and taste – was devoured in a flash. The fish and chips were presented delightfully, with huge chunky fillets of tender white flesh wrapped in a crisp golden batter. Vast chips, which looked like mini potato girders, were wrapped in a cone of paper.
My brill was a classy dish, with a thick fillet of delicious white fish being brought to the table atop a wonderfully filling risotto. It was encased in a thick, golden coat. It had been lightly seasoned, the flavour combination in the risotto was spot on and the rice was perfectly al dente.
A perfectly-cooked fish should have the faintest trace of translucence; it should be on the delicate point at which it becomes white-through.
The fillet that arrived at our table had been ever-so-slightly overcooked, though not by much. Certainly, it didn’t diminish the quality of a hugely enjoyable afternoon.
The bill, including two rounds of drinks and coffees, came to less than £20 a head.
The Mytton and Mermaid is a charming venue that pulls off the difficult trick of being all things to all people. Its bar is well stocked, for those seeking liquid refreshment. There’s a hearty list of gastro pub classics, for those seeking light bites or food on-the-go. It also offers an impressive array of fine dining choices.
Those seeking high-wire gastronomic thrills will find slightly better venues nearby – for my money, Matthew Strefford, at The Lion & Pheasant, is presently Shrewsbury’s best high-end cook – but it’s impressive nonetheless.
And, should Jim Davidson ever be passing, I’d have no hesitation in recommending it to him, too.
Mytton and Mermaid: Atcham Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY5 6QG
Telephone: 01743 761220
Food: Good. Wide variety to cater to all tastes.
Service: Good. Discreet and attentive.
Local/seasonal: Again, good, though some room for improvement. The venue has good connections with local producers and changes its menu to reflect the ingredients that are in season.