Our local pubs really are outstanding and come into their own on drizzly Autumn days when you want to find somewhere cosy to eat a decent, affordable meal. Food continues to play a part in the success of our local pubs; here is the latest news.
The Goat Inn
The Goat Inn on Sopwell Lane was one of the first pubs I ever visited in St Albans and is one of the oldest, on one of the original roads to London. It tends to be a locals pub as visitors don’t stumble across it easily, but it is a gem of a pub and well worth discovering. The Goat has always been good at beer, real fires and creaky old beams and I am delighted to say that good food is now definitely part of the draw. Chef Danny Flowerdew has joined The Goat team to cook in the evenings (Landlady Kate Axford will continue to do the lunches) with a really sensible and appealing pub food menu. Danny cooks everything himself, from scratch, which does need to be explained, as this is not the case in many town centre pubs. The menu is exactly the sort of thing you should be able to get on a pub menu. A few choices to give you an idea: Smoked Mackerel Pate made with a little horseradish sauce (£4.95), Fish cakes (£8.95), Shepherd’s Pie (£7.95) were all delicious and obviously home-made with plenty of flavour. If you work locally or just fancy a pub lunch on a cold drizzly day, these are all good classic options. I tried a tiny amount of the Chilli made with locally sourced beef, four varieties of beans and tomatillos and thought it very tasty. A vegan option is available too (both £7.95). Child portions and prices from the whole menu are available – a sign that a kitchen actually makes the food rather than reheating pre-portioned food. Next time you are in one of the chains ask for a half portion just for fun and see them squirm!
Danny used to live in Brighton and has a fab background in hospitality, having worked as a dancer and as a chef at Jamie’s Italian. He was going to work on the super yachts until he found his way to The Goat during the St Albans Music Festival, helped out, and then decided to stay. Danny obviously loves to cook and provide for people; he bakes his own focaccia and his Sunday lunches are hugely popular. But interestingly, what is even more popular are his Monday lunch leftovers – a taste of real home-cooking obviously has appeal!
The Portland Arms
Across town another locals pub The Portland Arms is going from strength to strength. Landlords Neil and Julia Decker took over The Portland Arms just over a year ago and have made a huge impression already; last week they received the Fuller’s Pub of the Year award for Outstanding Achievement. They were chosen from the 383 pubs that Fuller’s run which is an amazing achievement. One of the reasons they won must be their good home-cooked food which uses local and seasonal ingredients. Both chefs are from St Michael’s Manor and Aaron has also worked at The Verulam Arms just down the road. The chefs make everything themselves including the burgers and the pie of the week, and sunday lunches are always popular. People who live in the pretty streets around The Portland Arms know their local is great and so it seems now does the rest of the country! Well done!
The Hare and Hounds
Delighted to let you know that the Hare and Hounds has now reopened. Hugely popular, this pub has had a rollercoaster few years but has now found a new direction under leaseholders Elaine and Paul Rainsford, who ran The Peacock ten years ago. Elaine explained that they have run pubs for 20 years and unlike previous owners, they will concentrate on running the Hare and Hounds only. Open a week they have already welcomed many old regulars with their real ales and new wine list. The kitchen will open on 8th November and chef Adam Sage will be cooking everything fresh, using locally sourced ingredients including meat from Hedges and Sandridgebury. The menu will be British and European tapas-style with a specials board. Adam will receive a twice weekly delivery of fresh fish so I’m hoping for some good fish and chips! I’m delighted that this lovely old pub will be serving good food again; I look forward to trying it.