The Nav occupies an 18th century building and the cosy interior is a happy mix of old beams, exposed brickwork, painted panelling and part-tiled, part-boarded floors. Long ago the two rooms were opened into one but a split in levels helps differentiate the area devoted to dining from the more pubby part near the bar.
Onto the food and we were fortunate in our choice of nights as Monday to Wednesday you can get a starter an a main course for just £10 (or £12 if the latter features duck or seafood) The normal prices are pretty reasonable anyway with most starters at £4.95 and mains between £8.95 and £10.95. (back in 1998 I paid £6.90 for my main course here so given inflation.....). We began by sharing a Mixed Platter which soon materialised as a huge plate of goodies – Spring Rolls, Chicken Satay, Thai Fish Cakes, Prawn Toast, Tempura Prawns and Veg etc. - almost a meal in itself. As well as tasting great, it looked a picture, especially the carrots carved to look like flowers.
For main I chose Yellow Duck Curry; this came with potatoes and tomatoes swimming in a rich satay sauce. Now duck can be a risk and I've had some pretty tough examples over the years. No such problems here – the thick slices of dark meat were superbly succulent and the whole ensemble worked a treat. The menu rated the heat of the dish at 1 on a 0 – 3 scale and this was spot on – spicy enough to have that genuine Thai flavour but without overwhelming the tastebuds. I recall muttering “sensational” at one point so I must have been impressed.
Jane went for a Mixed Curry featuring chicken, beef, pork and prawns with coconut milk, bamboo shoots and kaffir lime. This was rated a 2 for heat and was certainly near the top end of her threshold though not to the point where it detracted from her considerable enjoyment. She praised the rich coconutty sauce, the tenderness of all the ingredients and, again, the attractive presentation.
Jeanette's Green Chicken Curry was even hotter but she likes it that way whilst Malcolm felt his Sweet & Sour Prawns achieved an excellent balance of conflicting tastes - “robust but not brutal”.
All told a terrific meal and great value too – the portions really were generous. The fact that the place was packed on a Wednesday night told its own tale
"And what about the beer?" I hear you ask. The Nav is a Greene King house and has Ruddles Bitter and St Edmunds Ale as fixtures alongside two changing guests. My Ruddles was in fine nick – this is a much better beer than IPA in my view.
Mark and Angela have been running the pub for nearly four years now. Mark's father used to run the aforementioned Railway Tavern Great Shelford and the Thai chefs at the Nav used to work there. Angela had the Plough at Great Shelford before joining Mark down the road. Some 18 months ago they also took on the Three Horseshoes in Harston which had been trading purely as a restaurant for several years. This also sells Thai food and Mark says that trade is picking up nicely. I asked Mark why he doesn't sell IPA (a rare event in a Greene King pub) and he said he just doesn't rate it as a beer – good on him.
The Navigator has had a few ups and downs since our 1998 visit do it's great to see it doing deservedly well. If you want to follow in our footsteps then booking is advisable and the pub only opens at 6pm on Saturdays and is shut Sunday evening.
I should mention in passing that Jane and I also recently had a excellent meal at the Hare & Hounds Harlton – the Moussaka in particular was to die for.