A nationally-renowned roast, modern and inventive takes on classic pub grub, and a pub named after a Labrador: Herts has it all.
The Fox at Willian
Very much an inn for the 21st century, The Fox is in a tiny village in North Herts which makes for a quiet retreat. People, clearly, are prepared to travel for good food: in this case, meat and two veg done to modern tastes, like the pork tenderloin with charred spring cabbage and shallot puree, or roast lamb with truffled mushroom relish.
The Tilbury’s kitchen isn’t afraid to experiment when they recognise a dish could do with a hot new take. Beer battered English halloumi and chicken with clam Veronique sauce is all part of the welcome inventiveness from the Bainbridge brothers – Tom and James – who run the pub.
The White Hart
Another project undertaken by the Bainbridge Bros, The White Hart has been an institution within the village of Old Welwyn (and regular travellers through it) for centuries. Expect classic pub grub, but with a few surprises of the sort described above, along the way.
Dylans – The King’s Arms
Dylan, if you were wondering, is the landlord’s chocolate lab, so fellow canines are well looked after here. The pub has a healthy approach to modern beers, such as those of Beavertown, And Union, Wiper & True, and Thornbridge, while the food is just as pleasing. Expect dishes like butter roasted chicken livers, slow-cooked ox cheek in port, and pot roast cod Grenobloise.
The Bricklayer’s Arms
Hertfordshire’s Dining Pub of the Year according to last year’s Good Pub Guide, The Bricklayer’s has had awards virtually thrown at it in recent years. A suggested approach is to burn off lunch – from a menu cleverly merging British and French influences – with a walk in the beautiful surrounding countryside.
There’s a little of something for everyone here, from the 28 day-aged steaks from one of Britain’s best butchers (Aubrey Allen, that is), to pizza from the wood-fired oven. Their terrace is the perfect place to dine al fresco during the sunnier months.
George IV was widely accepted to be a man of taste. His namesake pub follows a similar line of thought, with monk’s beard, salt baked celeriac, and hispi cabbage – language not often seen outside of London these days – turning up on the menu.
A live music go-to round these parts (take special note if you’re into 80s tribute bands), The Oaks are also particularly proud of their pies. Keep an eye out for the beef with Guinness and stilton.
The Fox and Hounds
While The Fox and Hounds’ relatively concise menu has earned recognition nationwide, special attention must be paid to the Sunday roast – the 30-day dry aged Black Angus Chateaubriand, off the Josper grill, in particular.
Kite at the Red Hart
Non-locals might not be familiar with the market town of Hitchin, but here it’s all happening. As a dining destination, you’ve got to be on top of your game with the likes of Lussmanns and the Farmhouse at Redcoats around. Fortunately for the Red Hart, they are. Just make sure you leave space for pud, be it the salted caramel bourbon tart or blood orange ‘jaffa cake’.
The guys and girls at the Alford Arms have something against the word ‘gastropub’. And perhaps within reason – the serve-food-or-die context in which it originated is hardly reflective of the pressingly modern, hyper-aware, locally-focused ethos many, like the Alford, uphold today.
This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.