Dylans The Kings Arms, St Albans
There's far more to this cosy 16th-century St Albans pub than meets the eye, as Muddy's Jo discovered when she embarked on a culinary jaunt through the menu.
Built in the sixteenth century, the black and white timber-framed Dylans The Kings Arms sits prettily on George Street in St Albans’ attractive and popular Cathedral Quarter, with a smattering of quirky independent shops, salons, restaurants and cool cafés as its neighbours.
Having been closed for nearly 15 years, the Old Kings Arms has been given a new lease of life by Andrew Knight and Sean Hughes, who had a vision to create a vibrant yet relaxed and informal eating and drinking destination. And it’s obviously paid off given that they’ve already got a number of awards under their belts – great going lads!
So, why Dylans? It was the name of Sean’s well-loved chocolate lab, and if you’re wondering, yes, well-behaved pooches are welcomed in the bar at quieter times. Plus you can book Dylans table if you want to dine with your pampered pup – awww!
If you were passing by and peaked through the window, you’d see a cosy pub – dried hops hang over the bar from rustic beams, and a lively, inviting ambience that almost begs you to come in for a drink. But dig deeper and you’ll discover Dylans is far more than a casual boozer. Some subtly quirky touches (like the, err… taxidermy squirrel riding a badger on the bar) is the first giveaway, but then there’s the food…
Wander through the bar to the back of the pub, and you’ll come to the dining room, which has a lovely feel, decorated in subtle blues and greys with a mix of contemporary and traditional artwork dotted around. There are eight tables, (plus an extra one in its own cute little alcove), which fills the space perfectly without the feeling of being stacked on top of each other, or as if you’re earwigging on the next table’s conversation.
And that ambience I mentioned isn’t just for the evenings and weekends. It was palpable even during a mid-week lunch when I popped in to check out the menu. There were three or four tables of diners from couples to small groups, and even as a single diner, I was made to feel super relaxed, thanks to the friendly staff.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Pub grub this is not – the gastro-style ‘Bill of Fayre’, as it’s called here, would be worthy of the fanciest establishments but it’s also simply about modern British food, cooked really well. The menus, which change weekly feature produce sourced from local suppliers and there’s also a snacking menu available in the bar if you fancy something lighter. Naturally I jumped in with both feet and ordered a selection of dishes from both menus (all in the name of research of course!)
First up was a White Onion and Cider Velouté, Lincolnshire Poacher and Sourdough Croutons. Creamy and warm with just a hint of sweetness from the cider, this was delicious without being too rich, and the croutons added a satisfying crunch in contrast to the velvety velouté. I was so eager to get stuck in that I forgot to take a pic!
My second dish was grilled Cornish Mackerel, Anya Potatoes, Dill and Horseradish. Having a fish-averse husband, I don’t eat much of it at home, so I always make a beeline for seafood dishes when I go out. Thankfully this one didn’t disappoint. The mackerel was tender and well-seasoned and the homemade horseradish added a nice kick without being too punchy.
Next up were Ham Hock and Parmesan Croquettes with Parsley Liquor. My mouth is watering just writing about them! Tender, salty ham hock encased in golden breadcrumbs – crunchy on the outside and then so tender in the middle – just melted in the mouth. The vibrant green parsley liquor was perfect for dipping and the sprinkling of parmesan on top just finished off these moreish morsels perfectly.
By this point I was glad I hadn’t opted for the skinny jeans, but I (ahem) valiantly soldiered on… My penultimate dish was 35-Day Aged Sirloin, with Beef Fat Dripping Chips (definitely no calories in that one then!) It was cooked perfectly to my preference (medium rare) and the chips were naughty, but oh so nice. Crispy on the outside, giving that resounding crunch followed by pillow-soft potato inside. The little jug of gravy on the side added to the indulgent perfection.
Time for dessert. My waistband was saying ‘no’, but my eyes were definitely saying ‘yes’. A Peanut Butter and Sea Salt Brownie with Peanut Butter Fudge. What’s not to love? I was in heaven before the spoon reached my mouth. It was everything a brownie should be and more – rich and moist, with a hint of salty nuttiness, all topped with a fairy-dust like sprinkle of fudge shavings. Divine!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: If you love the vibe of a cosy and buzzy pub but don’t want to forgo amazing food, you can give Dylans The Kings Arms a big fat tick in both boxes. It really is the best of both worlds here for those who appreciate fine dining but don’t want the formality or fuss of a white-tablecloth restaurant.
NOT FOR: If you’re after a cheap and cheerful ‘fish and chip’ lunch, you might prefer to save a booking here for another occasion. You’ll want to settle in for a couple of hours to really digest and savour the fabulous dishes here – trust us, they deserve your full attention!
THE DAMAGE: The Bill of Fayre costs £35 for 3 courses or £29 for two per head, while dishes from the Snacking Menu range from £3 to £10.95. There’s also an extensive and reasonably priced wine list as well as a great range of real ales and craft beers, with a daily changing beer wall, too.