Destination dining you’ll want to drive to
It was a grey old day when I rocked up to the Bricklayers Arms in Flaunden, but the fire was blazing away and the pub was warm and welcoming as I waited for my friends to arrive. One of those pubs you could quite happily sit in all afternoon reading the papers on a Sunday.
First impressions, it’s got a bit of an old-fashioned feel to it. Plaid carpets, farmhouse chairs, all very comfy and somehow familiar in a way. And full – well, filling up. When I got there, fairly early for a midweek lunch, the car park still had spaces – but it certainly didn’t when we left a couple of hours later. Always a good sign, I reckon.
The food at the Bricklayers Arms is anything but old-fashioned. It’s modern, stylish, interesting and – oh my giddy aunt – delicious. There was all sorts of eye rolling and groaning, all Masterchef-stylie, at our table all through lunch – and a determination to have pudding, even though we’d all practically licked the plates from our starters and mains clean.
The menu is fabulous. Loads of choice, lots of variety, and none of that run-of-the-mill pub dining that can get so dull. We went for a selection of starters that we proceeded to fight over… I mean, share – smoked fish (smoked on site), king scallops with smoked swordfish and basil cream, duck liver parfait (sigh….), and poached eggs cocotte with artichokes and blue cheese mornay.
I know, I know, that lot probably should have been enough but, well, there were all those lovely main courses to choose from and, well, it would have been rude not to. And I’m never rude….
Grey partridge breasts, pan-fried with lovage and a chestnut jus. Slow-cooked suckling pig cheeks with smoked bacon and mushrooms in a cider sauce. Duck breast and confit duck leg in a cranberry jus. And then there were the dauphinois potatoes and the cauliflower cheese topped with a luscious circle of goats’ cheese. Oh me, oh my. We were supposed to be chatting and catching up, but mostly we just ooo’d and ahh’d over the heaping plates of deliciousness in front of us – and kept nicking bits of each others to try.
No wonder it’s been awarded ‘Best Dining Pub in Herts’ in the Good Food Guide 2016. Seriously. It’s that good – or maybe even better. Proper destination dining. It’s not a place you’ll drive past on the way to somewhere else – it’s in the middle of, well, not nowhere, but you know what I mean. You need to decide to go there. And I’ve already decided that I’m going back. Soon.
Pudding? Of course we did. Richard bucked the whole only-women-choose-chocolate thing and went for the white and dark chocolate truffle cake with pistachio Chantilly. I played it safe (shame on me) with the lemon tart (which was still fab), but totally lucked out with the intense and utterly sublime (sorry… bit carried away there) cassis sorbet that came with it. And Debbie went for the dandelion and burdock sticky toffee pudding with date marscapone. I was deeply sceptical about the whole dandelion and burdock thing – I can’t stand it – but hers was definitely the best of the three. Should have been bolder in my choice…
The Muddy Verdict:
Great for: foodies – seriously, the food is well worth digging out the sat nav and booking a table; grown-up lunches and dinners where you get to take your time over a proper meal. Oh, and the wine list has some serious selections. I’d be back there for Sunday lunch like a flash.
Not so great for: not sure I’d take my kids there, but they are both notoriously boring when it comes to trying different food. And there’s only one vegetarian choice, which changes every day.
£££: starters range from £8-£12, with a sharing board at £15; mains are between £15 and £19, with a fillet of beef at £25; puddings are all around £7 or so. The wine list ranges from £4.55 a glass right up to – wait for it… – £375 a bottle. Interesting choices, too, and a good range of dessert wine (which I love).