The George IV, Great Amwell
An elegant refurb and a new menu have brought a contemporary gastro vibe to this trad village pub. Muddy took a seat at the dining table, but did it step up to the plate?
The George IV is something of a surprise – it’s a contemporary gastro pub tucked away in the picturesque village of Great Amwell (just over a mile from the bustling commuter hub of Ware). You’d be very lucky to have this gem of an establishment as your local – its cosy but cool interior and varied menu make this village pub a real find.
And this is very much down to owner, Head Chef and local boy (he’s from neighbouring Broxbourne), Oliver D’Arcy, who took on the 450 year-old pub just over four years ago. D’Arcy was inspired to become a chef after a summer working at – you guessed it – The George IV (when he was supposed to be training as a quantity surveyor!) After three years training at Westminster he went on to the Auberge du Lac at Brocket Hall, which at the time had one Michelin Star, before returning home to take the helm at the pub which first inspired him. Aww, sweet story, right?
A huge refurbishment (giving it an almost Shorditch-esque vibe) paired with D’Arcy’s extensive menu, has helped put The George IV a cut above the average country gastro pub. But D’Arcy’s not resting on his laurels and has plans involving a few ‘rooms’ and a front terrace face-lift… bring on afternoons quaffing rosé in the sunshine!
The pub (parts of which date back to the 17th century) is tucked away beside the quaint John the Baptist Church in the middle of the village. I bet the outdoor seating area is buzzing on a balmy summer’s evening. Inside, the spacious bar area has plenty of room for the regulars and a few high bar tables – perfect for girls’ drinks. I have it on good authority that there’s a lively atmosphere at the bar Thursday through to Sunday night, with a quieter crowd (mainly families) throughout the week and during the day.
The bar area is contemporary yet cosy with a refreshingly modern slate, aubergine and black colour scheme. Adjacent is an understated dining area. There’s a beaten, but beautiful, cast iron fireplace (we are already on the lookout for similar in local reclamation yards…) set off by the industrial lamp hanging above it. In fact the George’s décor is all about these clever contrasts – traditional finds alongside contemporary filament bulbs for example – and the Champagne bottle prints on the walls (Veuve Clicquot anyone?) allude to the more glam local clientele.
It’s easy to imagine settling in for an long, lazy Sunday lunch with mates, cosying up on the cushioned benches with a large glass of red while you deliberate between succulent pork or rare roast beef. Taking the brood? There’s an excellent kids’ menu and plenty of space for them to run around outside in the safely enclosed lower beer garden if you want to let them loose after lunch.
Watch this space – there are plans to expand to a B&B very soon.
SCOFF & QUAFF
There’s excellent range of small plates (think Padrón peppers, crispy whitebait and halloumi fries), something we might be seeing more of here in future. And, of course, you’ll find the usual chip-related pub fare – burgers, battered fish and the like – but there are also more high-end dishes, such as Roast Rump of British Blue Beef, Baby Turnip, Glazed Shallot & Peppercorn Sauce and Butter Roasted Fillet of Hake, Cauliflower, Raddichio, Samphire and Split Jus. Naturally we plumped for this end of the menu (I know, tough life), with the idea that if the chef could master these dishes, then the rest were sure to be fab too.
The feasting began with a ceviche-vibe crab dish, complete with fresh tomato, onion and a smooth avocado purée, all topped with a delightful (and aesthetically pleasing) spiced popadom-like structure, with great crunch.
Perfectly cooked buttery plaice was to follow – served with samphire, plump mussels and the rather alternative addition of sprout leaves (don’t be a hater, they are now officially a superfood). Incidentally, all the fish is couriered up from Cornwall, arriving fresh every morning – quite a treat. On that note, D’Arcy only uses meat from English rare breed farms (the steak on the menu is ‘British Blue Beef from the Keltey Family’) and the veg hails from London markets. This chef certainly knows how to source his produce.
The Chocolate Peanut Fondant Pudding was the pièce de résistance – if a little more Reese’s Pieces than Raymond Blanc! Peanut extravaganzas aside, the 54% Milk Chocolate Mousse with Poached Blackberry & Hazelnut caught our eye. And for the traditionalists amongst you, there was also a Blackberry & Apple Crumble, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Baked Alaska on the menu, too.
OUT & ABOUT
There’s a beautiful walk along the New River – the pub is the perfect starting point – and Great Amwell is also only half a mile from the pretty town of Ware, with its riverside vibe and famous priory. Want to make a family day out of it? Ventura Wildlife Park, whose residents include pythons, zebra, lemurs, kangaroo, wallabies and emus, is within spitting distance. Weekend sorted!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: Whether you’re after a quiet pint, girls’ drinks, a family lunch or a gastro dinner this place ticks all the boxes. Equally you could pop in for a quick sandwich, chips and a babyccino with the little ones.
NOT FOR: Those after a seriously traditional vibe – D’Arcy has brought The George VI roaring into the 21st century, and will continue to do so.
Given the broad ranging menu, the prices do vary considerably. You’re looking at £15 for fish and chips, with small plates coming in at around the £5 mark, whilst a Chateaubriand for two will set you back £62.
The George IV, Cautherly Lane, Great Amwell, Ware, Hertfordshire, SG12 9SW, 01920 870039.