(Chris Squire and Alan White)
We were invited to lunch with Karen & Bill, our daughter and her husband. After meeting at Bluewater a few times, and after last week’s journey home (forty minutes to get to Bluewater, two hours forty to get home) we agreed to try somewhere like St Albans as a mutually inconvenient location.
Karen lived at London Colney in a previous life, so I suggested the Colney Fox. We’d dined there a few times during heraforementioned former life and had found it to be a pleasant enough, if slightly tired venue. In the intervening years it’s become a ‘Vintage Inn’ and we enjoyed an excellent Sunday lunch with friends at their ‘Running Mare’ restaurant in Chelmsford last December.
So it was with high hopes that we arrived on a cold, blustery, Saturday lunchtime.
The first thing that is immediately apparent is that the car park is ‘Pay & Display’ – £2 for three hours or a fiver all day – something I’ve never encountered in a pub before – even for disabled drivers. I duly paid, displayed and walked in.
The next thing we noticed is that the whole place has been extensively refitted, using old beams giving a ‘vintage/soon to fall down barn’ vibe that doesn’t fit particularly with the building as a whole. There’s a tiny seating area just inside the entrance (a bit like you encounter in certain pizza chains ‘please wait to be seated’) but we were swiftly whisked off to our table.
I couldn’t begin to count the tables; there are plenty, crammed in slightly more cosily than is perhaps comfortable, old trendily mis-matched furniture with worn upholstery that demonstrates that this is a busy venue – as it was the day before Mothering Sunday.
We ordered and were served our drinks before our daughter and her husband arrived, but that gave us plenty of time to review the extensive menu.
Once our party was completed we ordered our starters – Salt & Pepper Calamari for three and Chicken Liver Pate for the fourth. The Calamari was okay, if uninspiring. Not over-cooked, and not over-hot. The Chilli Jam was above average, but the tiniest of portions. The Chicken Liver pate was similarly ‘okay’.
For mains, three of us ordered the Wagyu beef burger, Val felt under the weather and skipped her main course – she’d ordered Cod & Chips (despite a little hint from the waitress ‘Would you prefer the sustainable fish?”)but cancelled the order (we weren’t charged).
I asked my usual question about how well the burgers are cooked and received a different lecture from the – clearly well briefed – waitress about the perils of Listeria.
The burger was tasty enough, although over-cooked to my taste, accompanied by a small bucket of chunky fries and the tiniest of portions of cucumber relish, a bit like you used to get in the eighties.
Val enjoyed a large glass of Rioja, Karen a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Coke for my Bill, while I enjoyed a couple of pints of well-kept Timothy Taylor’s ‘Landlord’.
We skipped desserts, but ordered coffees, my wife ordered a hot chocolate that came served in an alpine decorated enamel mug.
The final bill was reasonable enough and we all wended our various ways home, back round the M25.
Overall, lunch was pleasant enough, if uninspiring, but it’s a useful location, literally a couple of minutes from the M25, we’ll be back, but maybe for the Sunday lunch menu.