Take a certain route on the back roads between Rickmansworth to the Chalfonts and you’ll pass a curious old pub called the Dumb Bell. We’ve spotted it a few times and have long intended to pop in to see what this somewhat remote hostelry has to offer.
At the weekend we finally did just that. Inclement weather drove us to escape the house but not venture too far, so recalling this pub we drove the three miles or so for Sunday Lunch. It’s a somewhat rambling establishment with a sizable beer garden and a front dining room capturing all the charm of an eccentric’s living room.
A particular attraction of the Dumb Bell was its Ploughman’s Lunch. Tara is already a fan of the Ploughman’s in the Old Orchard pub in Harefield, and we were keen to see how this alternative offering compared.
The Dumb Bell Special Ploughman’s Lunch: £6.95
Menu description: “A hearty platter of freshly prepared salad and coleslaw with mature cheddar cheese and honey glazed ham, spicy pickled onions and homemade chutney all served with the bread of the day”
Tara’s view: Plentiful portion, nice salad, tasty homemade bread
The Old Orchard Ploughman’s: £8.95
Menu description: “Mrs Appleby’s White Cheshire and Colston Bassett stilton with bread, ham, pickled onion, apple, celery and chutney”
Tara’s view: Good cheese variety, nice thick ham
So two rather different culinary interpretations of a classic, each with their strengths. Which would you prefer?
The Dumb Bell is also worth mentioning for its generous Sunday carvery. £7.95 for slices of as many as 4 meats, if you like, and all the trimmings. Great value.
The recent absence of blogposts might have been making you think that married life has put an end to our usual weekend trips out and pub exploration. Not so. In fact we’ve no less than three recent discoveries to bring you.
The Swan, Ley Hill, nr Chesham
This pub was recommended a few months ago. We decided to pop over there on the August Bank Holiday, not realising that it’s a time when many villages and towns hold special events. Ley Hill was no exception, with live music and stalls set out around the Swan as part of the Ley Hill Festival 2010. Fortunately we decided to call ahead, so did have a table secured, although were completely bemused by the level of activity greeting us on arrival! Despite being so busy there was good food and service to be had.
When cycling along the Grand Union Canal to the south from Ricky, the first water-side pub I encounter is the Coy Carp. After many months we finally got around to trying it out for Sunday lunch.
Each of the roads leading to Harefield seem to be quite small and narrow. Although not unusual around these parts, Harefield is larger than some of the other villages we’ve encountered yet seems somewhat tricky to reach. On arrival however, there’s a very good size pub car park, able to cope with even the busiest of Sunday lunchtimes it would seem.
From the car park the pub is accessed over a small pub which crosses a small river, running parallel to the canal. There’s both a sizeable seating area inside the pub and outside, however the weather made the outside off-limits to all put the hardiest of patrons.
The Coy Carp’s interior is fairly standard pub, fairly comfortable without being either modern or historic. Despite some poor comments on beerintheeventing.co.uk we found the service to be fine. It’s primarily ordering at the bar, although waiting staff did take our order directly for dessert.
It’s been quiet on the blog recently but we’ve been continuing to make some great local culinary discoveries.
Few restaurants in the area so regularly feature in top food guides as the Artichoke in Amersham. Being closed on Sundays, we booked in for Saturday lunch a few weekends ago. It quickly becomes apparent that this is the home of fine dining; the service is top notch from the moment you walk in while the menu exudes quality. It’s priced accordingly without being prohibitively expensive. Definitely worth a visit for a special occasion.
Another weekend took us again over the border to Buckinghamshire; this time to Chesham on the Metropolitan Line. Curiously, Chesham is the largest town on the Amersham branch of the Met Line, however the path of history has meant that rather than a mainline stop is it an infrequently served station at the end of a single line spur of track from Chalfont & Latimer. Despite the relative inconvenience of reaching this farthest flung outpost of the tube network, our visit revealed some surprises. Chesham’s high street isn’t bad, but it’s the old town which is the biggest highlight. Based on recommendations we tried out the Queens Head, famed around these parts for its Thai food. It lived up to the reputation and was a fine old pub with it. Round the corner there’s also a Chess River walk to be had.
I was entertaining my parents this weekend and having given them a book of local walks they opted for a circular walk of the countryside from Heronsgate. This was a good choice as we’d not been to Heronsgate before and I was keen to see what was there. Google maps seem to indicate many large houses with swimming pools, whereas Beerintheevening highlights a CAMRA pub.
We parked on the road near the two pubs and headed on a walk, which due to some slightly off navigation took us past a farm with some attractive old buildings.
This week’s Sunday lunch sent us back onto the local narrow, winding and pot-holed roads that criss-cross the Herts and Bucks countryside. Our destination has been well written up, most recently by Giles Coren in the Times. Yes, we were bound for the Bricklayers Arms, located in the wonderfully named hamlet of Hogpits Bottom in the village of Flaunden. Distress at the lack of necessary punctuation aside, it’s a fine hostelry in a pleasant part of the countryside.
These country pubs are notoriously popular so we were booked in for 12:15, when the pub was largely empty. It didn’t stay empty long, however, and as 1pm approached the tables filled and the pub was suddenly bustling with activity and custom; not bad for a village that from any direction is down some narrow, and in places, rather potholed roads. The clientele had clearly come specifically for the pub; the muddy boots by the front door identifying the walker fraternity; while the pub also seemed quite popular with families, although as the table opposite discovered it didn’t offer any child specific meals, just half-portions of the main menu.
For this week’s Sunday lunch jaunt we headed off to Chenies, another picturesque rural village in the Buckinghamshire countryside, all but equidistant between Rickmansworth, Amersham and Chesham if the signpost in town is to believed. The Bedford Arms is a little way off the A404, so easily reached, which is more than can be said for some of the currently seriously pot-holed back roads we later discovered when exploring more of the area.
But first to the food. The Bedford Arms had received a good write up and certainly lived up to expectations. We had a seat reserved in the bar as the restaurant was already fully booked. It has nice period features with some modern stylings too. Service was fine although the food took a while, which was, to be fair, peak Sunday lunch time. Fortunately the food was more than worth the wait. The Roast Beef was absolutely delicious; every bite a pleasure. Tara’s black sea bream was the same. The dessert – we both opted for the marble cheesecake – also hit that spot. That makes it two weekends in a row where we’ve come across top notch country pubs for food.
We had a quick walk around Chenies village and like many of the villages in the area it’s a beautifully picturesque corner of the world. Period buildings, a village green, winding country lanes; just what you’d hope for. Unlike Chalfont St Giles last week, Chenies is much too small for a high street, but for the quiet country life it’s all you might hope for. However both villages are located near cross-Chiltern walking trails and the Bedford Arms seemed to have something of a regular clientele, if the partially overheard conversations are anything to go by. We were though, it has to be said, some of the youngest in the pub by a considerable number of decades. Chenies isn’t for those after a racey life; it’s a place to relax, chill and take life at a slower pace. For a Sunday it’s just what you want.
This week’s destination for Sunday lunch was the Buckinghamshire village of Chalfont St Giles. One of the string of villages comprising the ‘Chalfonts’, its main street is everything you might ask for in a country village: historic buildings, a selection of shops including a bookshop, a clutch of decent pubs and even a village pond.
Over the few weeks we’ve lived in Rickmansworth I’ve been in search of a decent Sunday Lunch. So far I’ve tried two of the swankier, but nevertheless reasonably priced pubs in the area in my search.
The Feathers, Church Street, Rickmansworth
Open just four months in its current incarnation, the Feathers is probably my favourite hostelry in central Ricky. The pub is a part of oldest Rickmansworth and has the fine stone and wooden beam clad interior you’d hope for. The Feathers has been given a modern refurbishment, giving a comfortable mix of dining, drinking and outdoor areas in very pleasing surrounds. The service is good, with the staff clearly having been training to ensure guests enjoy the new venture. The Feathers, price-wise and in terms of appearance, places itself at the classier end of the pub food spectrum while not straying into Gastropub territory.
The Sunday Roast is £9, which to my mind is mid-to-high for a non-Gastropub. Unfortunately the Sunday Roast I had last weekend was distinctly mediocre. The beef was not at all generous in quality and was clearly of the ‘been sitting there for sometime and overdone’ variety. The trimmings were fine but of a similar unremarkable quality and quantity. It’s the quality you might expect at Wetherspoons but which you’d only expect to pay similarly £5 for.
This is, I feel, where The Feathers may have trouble in terms of retaining food custom, as I love my Sunday Roasts but I certainly wouldn’t rush back for this one. When you have a new venture and you’re pricing and presenting yourselves as being reasonably well presented and classy, the whole product needs to delivery to estabish a customer base and here it simply didn’t. Others around us were also unhappy with their food; a table who ordered burgers and had requested how well it was cooked along with expecting the cheddar topping and potato wedges promised in the menu instead received standard well-done burger with a processed cheese slice and what can only be called a stingey number of standard chips. Again, if you’re promising quality in the menu the product has to deliver.