High St, ARKESDEN, CB11 4EX
The Axe & Compasses is the centrepiece of this sleepy, picture-postcard village, whose narrow main street runs alongside gentle Wicken Water, spanned by a succession of footbridges giving access to white, cream and pink cottages. The thatched central part of the pub dates from 1650; the right-hand extension was added during the early 19th century and is now the public bar. It's run by Themis and Diane Christou from Cyprus, who between them have knocked up a good few awards for the marvellous food they cook here. Easy chairs and settees, antique furniture, clocks and horse brasses fill their comfortable lounge and, in winter, there's an open fire. The pumps of Greene King and a guest ale hold sway in the bar, or it might be with a pint of Thatchers Gold cider that you have a sandwich or light meal, such as crunchy squid with lime and chilli mayonnaise. In the softly lit restaurant area, which seats 50 on various levels, and where agricultural implements adorn the old beams, the slightly Greek-influenced menus offer a good selection of starters, including feta cheese parcels with sweet cherry tomato dressing; and king prawns and green-lipped mussels grilled with garlic butter. There's a good choice of main courses too, examples being lamb kebabs with Greek salad, chips or rice and pitta bread; fresh salmon and smoked haddock fishcakes with dill and lemon butter sauce; lamb's liver and bacon; and a large pancake filled with mushrooms cooked in cream and parmesan cheese. Round off with a dessert from the trolley. The wine list is easy to navigate, with house reds and whites coming in at modest prices. On fine days drinkers and diners head for the patio.