Upstairs Downstairs at Water Lane

I don’t know Bishop’s Stortford and area very well yet, but I’m definitely enjoying having a bit of an explore over that end of the county.  And I know where I’ll be getting my lunch when I’m over there from now on.

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Water Lane Bar and Restaurant is tucked away a bit from the High Street – but cutting through the little arcade of some rather lovely shops in Florence Walk to get there is hardly a hardship.

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Inside, Water Lane has that brick-walls-and-industrial-lighting look – and carries it off very comfortably and with a healthy helping of cool on top.  I could quite happily have spent the whole afternoon there with a coffee and a book, it’s that relaxed.

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I was there for lunch with an old friend (I’ve known her for a long time – she’s not actually old), and we really enjoyed the balance of speedy, friendly but unobtrusive service and not feeling like we were being rushed at all.

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The lunch menu has loads of choices – some you’d expect, burgers and so on, and lots that’s a bit more adventurous.  We started off all Mediterranean – olives, hummus with flat bread, and squid.  All delicious, and a proper harissa kick to the mayo that went with the squid.

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Floss, my lovely friend, had the steak – and it was perfectly cooked and absolutely enormous.  I went for the pulled pork and apple sauce sandwich, which was delicious – a roast dinner sarnie, basically.

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Pudding?  Well, of course we did….  Floss was served her brownie, salted caramel and peanut butter icecream in a half pint mug, which was very sweet, while I tucked into rhubarb and vanilla cheesecake.  Now, I love cheesecake, but it can be a bit dodgy sometimes in restaurants.  This one was thoroughly delicious.

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The restaurant is lovely, very relaxed and great food, but the downstairs – the Cellar Bar – is definitely worth a look.  If not an evening spent sipping cocktails in style.  It’s been renovated into something completely stunning – vaulted brick ceilings, pillars, a gorgeous bar, and little nooks that give groups a little bit of privacy without cutting them off from the rest of the place too completely.  The cocktail list looks fab, too.  We agreed that we would love to spend an evening there – if we could only figure out a way to get home afterwards…

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The Muddy Verdict:

Great for: lunches, whether you’re racing in on your lunch break or taking your time and kicking back at bit; relaxed dinners  where you’re keeping it casual; and I’ve heard that the Sunday lunches are fabulous and great for taking the whole family.  And the Cellar Bar has to be the most stylish place in town for cocktails and such like.

Not so good for: the upstairs probably not a ‘hot date’ sort of a place, but seems great for pretty much everything else.

££: You’re looking at starters (‘Larder’) around £7 or so, mains between £12 and £16, steaks from £12 to £18.  Their Express Lunch deal is a good deal at £8, £12 or £15 for 1, 2 or 3 courses.  Puddings are all around the £6 mark, except the cheese board which is a couple of pounds more.

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Hertfordshire