Archive for the ‘Hertfordshire’ Tag
Leaving the Watford Junction station you can’t miss the Flag, a gigantic edifice just to the right of the exit. Walking around for the obligatory signage shot I found that it was quite a bit bigger, still. Wow.
The bartender pulled a Mole’s Mole Catcher which was surprising to find (Mole’s is a small-ish Wiltshire brewer) and even more surprising at the reasonable price of £2.69. “Happy days,” said the barkeep as he returned my change and pushed the beer my way before disappearing.
The house is loud even at lunch and I bet it is absolutely rammed in the evenings. There are signs everywhere about zero-drug-tolerance and how you are subject to spot searches; but, at lunch it seems very much a business-persons pub judging from the suits everywhere. It also has some marvelous wood floors and good architectural features at every turn. Shame it is what it has become…sometimes I feel that way, too.
Having stayed over to pick up a few ancillary items from the trainer at the instrument manufacturer’s site where I spent the working week, I found a deep desire for a decent breakfast before starting the journey home. The Full House, a Wetherspoons in Hemel, would do nicely.
Inside I found a multitude of locals working on drinks subsequent to their first round, maybe even after their first several rounds. Perfect. I got a breakfast wrap and a Brewster’s Aromatic Porter (which was only £1.69 per pint). I found nothing about the house’s past listed anywhere in the premises and the clients all seemed lost in solitude, especially those sitting with someone. I’ll just assume, for now, that it was a gymnasium or cinema in the past.
[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 50th entry for the 2013 Challenge]
Okay…I have hit 28 pubs in the last week (work out-of-town means fresh hunting grounds). I point this out for comparison since it took 46 weeks to minimally complete the 50
Burger Kebab Challenge. This was a stupid and frightfully unhealthy event to participate in and there are still 6 weeks in my greater quest to hit at least one every week this year. Madness.
The fare from Kebab Point was fine but I wouldn’t seek it out again. The meat was dry but the elephant leg it came from had all the appearance of a lard column so drained dry was probably a blessing. The meat was also spiced well and tasted vaguely of lamb so was probably made up less from connective tissue and more from some sort of mammalian meat.
The chilli sauce was brilliant but there could have been more. Veg, as is standard for the great British kebab stand, was amazing and could easily have been a healthy option on its own for a less adventurous diner.
Still, I wish I was finished with the project. But, there is a saying: “always do, after sobering up, what you said you would do while you were drunk.” I could escape this rule on some obvious technicalities, but I believe in the spirit, not letter, of the law. Speaking of spirits, a spot of Turkey might cut through the film this ‘bab has left on my teeth.
For this post, I shot one of the photos of the Rose and Crown while sitting in the White Hart my first evening in Hemel. The sign shot came as I left the Olde King’s Arms, where I was staying, on my way to a Thai dinner. Each night I saw that the house was heaving with customers so it was surprising that the night of my visit I only found the landlady.
“Do you do food?”
“No, sorry, we shut the kitchen except for the weekends…no trade.”
“Mind if I grab a kebab and bring it back in?”
“No problems, love.”
The White Hart had karaoke on but wasn’t packed. The Old Bell and the Hart had the UEFA Cup match on but so did the R&C. Eventually, a couple of guys that had been playing football came through the car park doors and another came off the High Street, but it was still deathly quiet.
Too bad, too. It is a great two-bar house with a spectacular collection of malts and the feel of a good, 19th centruy ale house (albeit dating back to the 16th Century and missing the ale, from what I could tell–but, lager suited the kebab better, anyway). Their website does a good job with the history of the place, as well, so I won’t reprint that here.
On the trail back from the Red Lion I split off on a side road that I hoped would short cut to the High Street, where I was staying, via Piccott’s End, an ancient neighbourhood that promised — and delivered — quiet streets and interesting architecture. It did, in fact, connect to the High Street but not before putting the Marchmont Arms in my sights. Needs must, it can be said….
Inside, everyone was dressed like they were going to a semi-formal party for the birthday of a petty criminal or a footballer (at the risk of repeating myself). Well, not everyone. The blokes with wives tended to be in various levels of yob-casual outfits: bright and very clean trainers, Superdry tee-shirts, mom jeans…you know the outfit. Their significant others, on the other hand, tottered along on fetishisticly high pumps or boots that made their exposed bosoms ripple hypnotically.
The staff members were great. The bar seems a bit cocktail-intense as befits the faux-posh/nouvelle-posh atmosphere. I paid with exact change and the non-plastic transaction seemed to throw the tender who put two 10 p coins back in my hand and retrieved a 20 p. When I protested that “it is the same except I’m mid-run with crappy sweats-pockets,” he re-exchanged the coinage and asked, “do you always stop mid-run for a beer?”
“Oh, this is actually the end of the run; mid-run was between my stops at the Martin’s Pond and the Red Lion.”
“What is this? Some sort of running pub crawl?”
“Funny you should ask.”
Watching people here, I got the distinct impression most of the middle-aged couples were looking for some sort of swingers’ hook up. I’m usually not wrong about this, so, to those of you (we all know who you are) with such an interest remember to thank me for the tip-off.
The first half of the run to the Red Lion in Water End from the Martin’s Pond was on pavement and much of the next quarter was on a flat, wide verge, as well. Then, just as the road tipped downhill there was no verge at all, just steep, muddy, brambled embankment. As it was downhill and pitch dark out, I used my torch to light a way to sprint most of it and with 100-200 yard bursts (interrupted by moments clinging to shrubbery as cars passed) I eventually found the Leighton Buzzard Road a hundred meters from the pub. Invigorating.
The Lion is a nice old coaching inn on the outside but inside has a completely modernised feel. However, unlike most of these retrofits the Red Lion’s architects made something completely modern that feels sturdy, looks pretty, and still doesn’t detract from the ancient character of the house. Well done.
They have a reputation as a pizza place and if I didn’t have so long a jog back into Hemel I would have given it a try. The wood fired pizza oven is authentic and the cooks throw dough like pros and everything smells like it should.
Sitting at the bar with my Tring Side Pocket ale I spotted Wild Turkey 101 on an upper shelf then noted that the spirits stock was absolutely grand…Patron, several craft bourbons, malt from EVERYWHERE (an intriguing Japanese beckoned, but ‘not tonight’ I wisely decided).
I ran on pavements along the dark highway to Potten End and found myself at the Martin’s Pond, a posh little gastro pub on the Village Green. Grabbing a beer and trying to be inoffensive I studied my map but soon realised I wasn’t sure how to proceed. “How do I get to Water’s End from here?”
“Where are you parked?” the helpful couple both asked.
“No, I’m not driving?”
“Oh, then you can’t get there.”
“No, it’s fine. I got here from Hemel, so to there doesn’t look any farther than going back.”
“What? Are you cycling? Madness!” Calling back to the bartender he said, “bring this man my high visibility jacket, he can drop it off sometime later.” His partner offered, “oh, just let me drive you. It’s not far.”
“No really, I’m fine, as long as there is a pavement.”
“You’ll be killed. Don’t try it, lad.”
“Trust me, I’ve run over 10,000 miles in this country, much in the dark. I know what I’m doing.” I know they didn’t believe me but the number is actually closer to 12,000 miles.
This went on for 5 minutes and I finally promised that I would just go straight back to Hemel the way I came out, although they weren’t happy about that, either. “It’s too dark, you’ll never make it.”
Finishing my beer, I crossed the Green and headed down Water’s End Road. How bad could it be?