George Street has always been one of the loveliest places to visit in St Albans, with its quirky buildings and independent shops and restaurants. There has been a pub here since the 15th century but not for the past 12 years – this has been put right by publican Sean Hughes, well-known from The Boot, and co-owner and chef Drew Knight.
St Albans people know their beer and will be pleased with the range on offer here, seen on the “craft beer wall”. Brew Dog and Brewers and Union (who Sean met at the beer festival last year) are the draft beers and there are over 40 bottled beers too. Look out for the unfiltered lager which is already their bestseller; Sean explained that it is crisper and has more flavour than other lagers and it goes really well with food – which I will come to in a moment. Dylans is also becoming known as a gin house – they are heading towards 30 varieties behind the bar, which must be the largest selection in the area! I was impressed by the soft drinks which are made in Dalston – apparently the lemonade changes flavour through the year depending on which variety of lemons are used.
Although this is definitely a pub, you have to go for the food. You can pop in for a snack at the bar or try and book a table in the dining room, where it is already difficult to get in at the weekends. The man behind the food is local Drew Knight who has an impressive background from The Connaught, Auberge du Lac and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. You might also know him from The Brocket Arms and The Black Lion, just down the road in Fishpool Street. Drew has focused on modern British pub food, done to a high level. He explained that he wanted a relaxed bill of fayre (note, not menu) that uses seasonal ingredients and that crucially goes well with beer. Look out for the Scotch eggs and ask for their home-made piccalilli to go with. Salt and pepper squid is also good or you can get a more substantial Sloppy Joe for a quick lunch.
I have been twice with friends and chose to sit in the slightly calmer eating area, where you can have a 2 or 3 course meal. The braised ox cheek was my stand-out dish, which was so delicious, falling apart and full of rich flavour. There are plenty of great choices if you want interesting veggie food or fish – the sea trout with caramelised cauliflower got good reviews. If you go soon look out for the spring scrumpet with broad bean and asparagus salad – a scrumpet is a crispy rissole for want of a better description, and also makes a nod to the seedy background of the pub many centuries ago… One vegan option I spotted was chargrilled vegetable salad with toasted peanuts and sesame dressing. Drew changes the bill of fayre all the time – he explained that when he runs out of something he just cooks something else; it keeps it interesting for him and for the pub’s regulars who know Drew from his earlier restaurants. There is a good wine list but the food does lend itself well to beer and suggestions are made so you can pair your food.
Dylans is a relaxed place, with reasonable prices, with everything done well. It’s a stylish place to spend time and it’s run by people who know exactly what they are doing. Sean has a history of running great pubs in the area and he and Drew have done an excellent job here. And if you were wondering where the name comes from – “Dylan” is Sean’s chocolate labrador.
7 George Street, St Albans AL3 4ER