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Eat here: Muddy Herts at Water Lane

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I’d been to Water Lane in Bishop’s Stortford for lunch a while back — and thoroughly enjoyed it — but they’ve taken on new chef and a brand new general manager recently, so I popped back to check out any changes.  Y’know, it would have been rude not to…

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In terms of how it looks, nothing much has changed.  It’s still classy yet casual — lots of exposed original brickwork and industrial chic, but harking back through the building’s history rather than just tacked on.  The building was a brewery as far back as the 17th century, history buffs, and has housed all sorts of goings-on in the centuries since — mostly food-and-drink-related.  I’m liking how it’s settling nicely into its current incarnation, though.

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I popped in on a rather horrid rainy and windy day — sound familiar? — and I could quite happily have curled up there all afternoon.  It’s not a cosy table by the fire sort of a place, but it is warm and relaxed and friendly — and you can forget that you’re right in the middle of town.

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I had a quick chat to the new chef and manager while I was there.  They’re both wildly enthusiastic about making Water Lane somewhere really special — and Harry, the manager, is ridiculously young (or looks it, anyway) and brimming over with energy when he’s talking about what he wants the place to be.

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The menu has always been good — but it’s now a bit more interesting as well as good and reliable.  And the Market Menu — 2 courses for £12.95 or 3 for £15.95 — is a nice-and-easy place to start if you’re in a hurry.  I plumped for the crispy squid a la Romana on top of a cannellini bean cassoulet, and it was hot and delicious — and just the right size.  I had trouble not forking into the roast chicken, pancetta and mushroom risotto that my friend Sandra chose, too.  Good thing I’m far too polite for that…

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There are some serious steaks, too — all British or Irish and aged 28 days, and with a range of sauces, toppings and more to spice them up a little, should you like a bit of spicing up.

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You’ve got to love a place, too, that offers something juicy for pudding.  Too often (IMHO) restaurants seems to run out of steam on the pud menu.  I mean, I like a sticky toffee pudding or a brownie as much as the next woman, possibly more, but seriously…  hazelnut praline profiteroles with salted caramel ice cream and hot fudge sauce?  At lunchtime?  Oh, go on then.

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One thing I love, too, about Water Lane is the cellar bar downstairs.  Upstairs, there’s a lovely stylish eating space — but the cellar is home to a serious cocktail bar, with the best ceiling you’ve seen in a bar in the long time and lots of nooks and booths that are just crying out to be filled with you and a bunch of your besties.  And a bottle or two of something lovely.

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I don’t make it to Bishop’s Stortford half as often as I’d like to, but when I do it’s so good to know that there’s the option for a properly lovely lunch right there in town.  If you’ve not found it yet, tucked away round the corner, then I reckon you’re missing a trick.

The Muddy Verdict:

Great for: lunch — whether you want to pop in and eat quickly or relax and take your time over three courses, it’s a brilliant and different choice with an interesting menu and lots of variety — and dinner, too, with sharing plates and the same range of deliciousness.  And definitely the place to go for your cocktails and nights out in town!

Not do great for: I’d take my Mudlings there, if I had to, but it’s got a lovely grown up feel that I do enjoy, too.

££

waterlane.co

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