Lovely restaurant for a lunch date
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I actually managed two amazing things the other day. First, I persuaded my husband to take half a day off work and come out for lunch with me – and second, I bagged what I think was probably the last available table at The Fox and Hounds in Hunsdon. A food-loving friend of mine had recommended the Fox and Hounds a while ago, so I was looking forward to eating there – and, of course, to sneaking in a rare child-free hour or two with my husband at the same time.
And it was the perfect place for doing just that. It’s a beautifully refurbished village pub that is now a serious, but quite affordable, restaurant. James and Bianca Rix have been running it for an impressive 11 years now, but the re-decoration earlier this year has given the whole place a very new, contemporary feel to it. It’s all tiled walls and trendy-coloured paintwork, and I spent quite some time drooling over the wall of cookery books.
I’d heard of Michelin stars – I do watch Masterchef, after all – but not the Michelin Bib Gourmand. Apparently, it’s the mark of a restaurant that offers really special food at reasonable prices. The Fox and Hounds is – get this – the only pub in Hertfordshire to have been awarded one, and it’s hung onto its Bib for a second year. Good sign, now I know what it means.
The menu changes every day, reflecting what seasonal produce is available, what game the bloke over the road has on offer, and what seafood turns up from Cornwall. They installed a Josper oven when they refurbished, which (so I’m told) cooks the food over charcoal at very high temperatures, imparting a really smoky flavour and keeping everything all moist and tasty. Sort of like on the barbeque – when you do it right, that is. Think smoky and delish, not charred bangers.
I had smoked mackerel with beetroot, horseradish and watercress to start, and it was delicious – and enormous – followed by cassoulet featuring three types of French sausage and topped with a confit duck leg, which was also good – and enormous. Proper winter food.
Not to be defeated, mind you, I managed to squeeze in a slice of poached pear and almond tart, too. You know, it would have been rude not to.
The place was packed. Lots of regulars, I would say, by the chat – and people who clearly had favourite tables. Near one of the two fireplaces seems to be the preferred spot. As well as the main bar area where we ate, there’s also a separate dining room – there were a couple of what looked like office Christmas parties having a grand old time in there when we went. I’m now busy trying to figure out an excuse to book it for a private party.
They also do takeaway fish and chips on Thursday and Friday nights – shame it’s probably too far to drive to pick them up for us as I bet they’re great – and some fabulous-sounding take-home food for the festive season: home cured gravalax, spiced green tomato chutney, duck liver parfait, that sort of thing, as well as homemade ice cream. By the door, there was a massive loaf of focaccia – which was utterly delicious – and you can buy their bread to take home as well.
Hunsdon, east of Hertford, is a lovely village — lots of pretty cottages — and some lovely-looking walks through the surrounding countryside. The local council has recently done a bit of work on some of the local walking routes, making them a bit easier with children or if you’re not into wading across fields. The Fox and Hounds is right on the main street, just down from the village hall, and you could happily start and end a walk there.
The Fox and Hounds was pretty much perfect for our sneaky lunch date — and I reckon it would stack up nicely for an evening out, too. I’d probably leave the kids at home — much as I do love them — as it felt quite grown-up. Good recommendation from my friend. Might have to head back there with her before too long to say thank you.
The Muddy Verdict
Good for: Date nights, lunches with friends — sneaking off without the kids. Taking your time next to the open fire. Garden looked good (too chilly when we went, mind you) so I’d guess lazy summer lunches and long sunny evenings would be perfect, too.
Not for: Rushing in with the kids.
££: Starters are between £6 and £9. Main courses range from £13 to £19 or so. Puddings are all around £6 or £7. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely priced right for what you get.
The Fox and Hounds Restaurant and Bar, Hunsdon, SG12 8NH, 01279 843999. foxandhounds-hunsdon.co.uk