Kirsten Rawlins and her parents sampled the food at a traditional inn on a commuter route.
Situated on the outskirts of Stafford on the main A34, the Chetwynd Arms is a landmark venue on a busy route – and a hidden gem.
From the outside, the pub looks little more than a small watering hole, but upon entering guests are greeted by a spacious dining area and bar decorated in a contemporary, yet rustic style.
With carpeted and tiled floors – and a beautiful view from the back overlooking the sprawling, green countryside – this pub is certainly inviting based on its inner appearance.
But, being Marstons owned, we were painfully aware the pub is part of a chain – and worried this may mean the food was less than the standard of independent eateries.
And while the main menu offers largely standard pub grub – such as steaks, burgers, pies and ribs – the Chetwynd Arms also boasts a large specials board, which offers far more range.
And, best of all, whether you order from the main menu or the specials, it’s all buy one get one free.
Options on the specials menu when we attended (on a Monday evening) included a pulled pork burrito, fish pie and Hawaiian gammon. The most tempting dishes for myself – such as ribeye steak, or the mixed grill (which my dad really wanted) – were sold out however, which left me scouring the main menu for something which took my fancy. And it did take a while.
We had considered starting the meal with a sharing platter, but as the options available (such as a garlic bread selection and a cone of popcorn chicken with onion rings) were somewhat unappealing, we decided to choose from the starter menu instead, which looked far more appetising.
So once said perusing was complete, we settled on three starters – my dad opted for the halloumi and harissa hummus dish, but due to this being sold out, settled for the crispy bacon ribs. Mum, meanwhile, chose the ham hock terrine, while I went for the three cheese and red onion tart.
Dad wasn’t hugely impressed with his ribs but, I must admit, they were polished off quickly nonetheless. In his words they were simply too ‘skinny’ and he suspected they may have been microwave heated, as they were not crispy as advertised either.
Mum, meanwhile, was a little suspicious of her starter when it arrived (given it is shaped, as terrines are) and said its appearance was not overly inviting. When she tucked into it, however, it was a different story entirely. Huge chunks of ham hock ran throughout the tasty, meaty terrine, with split peas and mustard seeds adding the extra delightful flavours.
My cheese tart looked delicious as it arrived – a crispy pastry case filled with golden melted cheese and slices of red onion. And it tasted as good as it looked. I also feared the dish may be a little too rich, but it was anything but, though the portion was huge for a starter (no complaints here, mind).
For mains, mum and dad opted for choices from the specials board: the fish pie and the double stack burger. As my first option was sold out (sob!), I eventually settled on the chicken, gammon and mustard pie.
And well, my parents ended up with two very delicious dishes – each with barely any room for improvement – while my dish was simply average.
Mum was completely bowled over by her meal which, I must admit, looked really great. Topped with melted cheese and mash, the pie was rammed with chunks of delicious (if a little strong) pieces of smoked haddock and a creamy sauce. It was accompanied by a collection of veg – green beans, mangetout and broccoli – which were crisp, tasty and cooked to perfection. Mum also said she believed had the veg not been included the dish may have been too rich, but the greens balanced everything perfectly.
Dad’s burger was a total success too – he really raved about the meal, even saying he would return simply for the burgers in future. And he’s a picky eater too.
The burger was made up of two thick, perfectly-seasoned juicy beef patties, with cheese and bacon sandwiched between them, all presented on a seeded bun. It was served with French fries, which dad remarked were a little dry, and a small pot of coleslaw.
If there were any improvement to be made, dad would have had his burgers cooked slightly less. But the patties were far from dry, so this is just based on personal taste.
My pie, meanwhile, came with a small (but ample) jug of gravy, peas and standard chips – frozen, I think.
The pie was nice; packed with chunks of chicken, smaller bits of gammon and a creamy sauce. The sauce had supposedly been seasoned with mustard, but I couldn’t taste any. The chips were simply mediocre and the pie’s pastry a little dry. An okay meal, but nothing to write home about.
Though my food wasn’t the greatest, the staff were very efficient and pleasant throughout – and my parents left the Chetwynd Arms raving about the place; with my mum even saying ‘I don’t know why we don’t go out more often’.
The pub is certainly one we plan on revisiting, but next time I think I’ll be ordering my main from the specials board.
By Kirsten Rawlins