Muddy Eats: The George of Harpenden
This recently updated pub has had a serious facelift, shedding its rep as a dingy old boozer, and appealing to a far more refined Harpenden crowd with its Med-inspired all-day menus and luxe interiors. I booked in for Sunday brunch with friends.
With a plum position on Harpenden High Street, sharing a postcode with the likes of brasseries and bistros, as well as a smattering of boutiques, florists, salons and gift shops, The George didn’t really fit the upmarket Harpenden vibe in its former life as a dingy sports bar. So as of June, it reopened its doors, following an extensive overhaul.
Now it feels bright and airy (no darts boards or sticky carpets in sight!) and its all-day dining menu is central to its social dining concept – the idea is that it works for groups of friends, families, couples, who want to pop in for anything from coffee and pastries to pizza and cocktails.
Of course I nobly volunteered to step up to the plate, and recruited a couple of friends (and Harpenden locals) to join me for brunch.
First impressions are of the a lovely spacious outdoor terrace, where locals are sipping on their morning coffees and reading the papers – so far so good – they even have their own branded dog bowls (it’s pooch friendly – another tick from us!)
Inside it’s cavernous. A stylish bar area leads to a more formally set up dining area with an open kitchen, (which makes a feature of the Josper grill and pizza oven), ever-so-chic marble topped tables and green leather and velvet chairs and banquettes.
And it carries on around the corner into the bright and postitively verdant garden room, which is overflowing with greenery (ok, ok it’s not real, but it looks the part, doesn’t it?)
Add to the mix some exposed brickwork, statement lighting and de rigeur bifold doors and you’ve got yourself a super swanky brunch spot. I bet it looks gorgeous by night, lit up with all those metallic accents, too. An excuse to come back for a cocktail or two, methinks!
SCOFF AND QUAFF
Breakfast and brunch is served until a veeeerry leisurely 3pm from Monday to Saturday, but only until 11am on Sundays (so no dawdling about in the morning if you want your Full English fix).
There’s a decent choice, ranging from fresh pastries, muffins and smoothie bowls, as well as home roasted granola, (for those looking for something light), to heartier options like a Full English, Shakshuka eggs (baked in a tomato sauce), buttery French Toast with Maple syrup and streaky bacon, and Eggs Benedict/Royal/Florentine or haddock with bubble and squeak all served with lashings of silky Hollandaise.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the Sunday menu is a little more limited, so if you had your heart set on those Shakshuka eggs you’d be best booking in another day.
I opted for the Full Vegan English (holding the tofu scramble for the real thing!). The Baked Beans were homemade, not from a tin – butter beans in a tomatoey sauce – the eggs were rich and golden, the mushrooms were perfectly roasted in the Josper grill (not at all watery or greasy), and the homemade bubble and squeak was a nice addition. I added halloumi on the side, too, because, let’s face it, what meal isn’t improved by squeaky cheese?! I washed it all down with a latte and a tropical smoothie.
My friends plumped for the regular Full English with tasty sausages, crispy bacon, and black pudding. And my toddler was catered for too, with a very generous half-size portion.
OUT AND ABOUT
Harpenden is a lovely town for a leisurely mooch. There’s a selection of high street stores, like Boots and WHSmiths as well as Mint Velvet, Space NK and Wine Rack for spontaneous indulgences, plus a good mix of indie businesses, like Threads gift shop, Harpenden Books (OK, it’s actually a Waterstones but with the look and feel of a local store), and a homeware pop-up that caught my eye, Map Stores – unfortunately it wasn’t open when I visited, but it’s a good excuse to go back.
And if you need to walk off that brunch, there’s Rothamsted Park to explore, just off the main drag (no need to get back in the car), with 56 acres of green space, a sports centre, children’s play area and a skate park for bigger kids.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Groups of friends looking for somewhere with a fresh, chilled vibe to meet up for brunch, lunch, dinner or drinks. It was pretty quiet when we went on a Sunday morning (all the more space for us!), but I bet it comes alive by night when the cocktails are flowing.
Not for: Those after a traditional boozer – you won’t find big screens showing the sport or pork scratchings to wash down with your pint here. It’s a much fancier establishment than in it was in its previous life. In fact it doesn’t really feel like a pub at all with its chic décor and Mediterannean inspired menu.
The damage: Under a tenner for a Full English and £7-£9 for the other hot options. You’re looking at around £30 for a couple if you add coffee and smoothies.