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Al fresco lunching, Art Deco style

There’s something glorious, I think, about eating outdoors.  I’m a big fan of that whole European thing of pavement cafes and big umbrellas and so on.  The chance to get that whole feeling closer to home is not to be turned down, so on a recent sunny day, I grabbed my sunglasses, headed over to The Gatsby in Berkhamsted for a working (honest…) lunch and reveled in a spot of al fresco dining with my Dhrooti, who works with me here on Muddy Herts.

gatsby 6

The Gatsby is probably best known for it’s gorgeous Art Deco vibe and its extensive — and well-made — range of cocktails.  Think evenings out, martinis before dinner, that sort of thing.  It’s also got its jazz brunches on a Sunday, which stretch well into the late afternoon — my kind of brunch — and are a properly sophisticated choice for a grown-up weekend.  It’s also a nicely glamorous venue for events, weddings, that sort of thing.  I was at a wedding reception there last year, and it worked really well — champagne downstairs when you came in, dinner and dancing upstairs later on.

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To start: smoked salmon, feta and spinach tart, and courgette and basil arancini with sweet masala sauce

Lunch, maybe not so much.  But that’s got to change.  We spent a very relaxed couple of midday hours there — I mean, we were working, but y’know — and their set pre-cinema menu was a great choice.  (Pre-cinema?  Yes.  The Rex, one of the most beautiful cinemas I’ve ever been to, is right upstairs.)  We both ordered from that, despite the very considerable temptations that presented themselves a la carte.

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Mains: Pan-roasted haddock, crispy bacon and poached egg salad, and minced lamb souvlakia, tabbouleh and tzatziki

And sitting on the patio, we got to watch the world go by.  I know Berkhamsted isn’t a city — I get that, right — but there’s a very urban feel to being out on the terrace at the front.  And I love that.

The choices were great.  Yes, they make a great cocktail — no, we didn’t have one because we were working — but they also seem to have some real talent cooking up a storm in the kitchen right now, as well as attentive and friendly front-of-house people.  Everything we had was delicious and beautifully-presented.  The only thing that didn’t appeal to either of us was banana ice cream, but they were quite happy to swap that out for something else.  And I expect lots of people like banana ice cream.

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Dessert: Sticky toffee pudding with banana ice cream, and treacle tart with honeycomb ice cream (*lush*)

If you’re after a bit of sophistication, a bit of glamour, in your day, it’s a great lunch choice.  Combine that with dinner and cocktails — or with dinner and a movie — or cocktails and a movie — or brunch — or any of the above — and you’ve got a real gem.  If you’ve not been, head on over.  If you’ve not been for a while, you need to go back.  And if you go all the time, well then, you know what I’m talking about.

The Muddy Verdict

Great for: date nights — I mean, seriously great, girls’ nights out, celebrations, cheeky cocktails, long lazy brunches, dinner before or after a movie.

Not so great for: I’d leave the kids at home if I were you (and if I were me, quite frankly) — this is grown-up dining, even at lunchtime.  And they wouldn’t appreciate it anyway!

££: The pre-cinema menu is £14.95 for two courses, or £20.90 for three — and that includes a small glass of wine, half a pint, or a soft drink, or you can add in a glass of champagne for a little bit more.  A la carte, you’re looking at starters around the £8 mark, mains £15-£25, and desserts are all £7.95.  There’s a bar snacks menu, to go with your cocktails!

1 comment on “Al fresco lunching, Art Deco style”

  • Hilary May 22, 2016

    The talent in the kitchen is Matt Salt. He’s not a pushy chef but he’s absolutely unbelievable when it comes to feeding 100 wedding guests – all on time, hot wonderful food, perfectly presented and a handful of food allergies were simply tackled. Nothing was a problem and we had masses of lovely comments from our guests.

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Hertfordshire