Kath and I are not bad cooks, I tend to be more adventurous and experimental and when I get it right Kath sometimes takes over the recipe so that I don’t alter it next time. I mention this because you might think that we eat out all the time, and we certainly don’t, but if we are in the vicinity of a good eatery then we can easily succumb to temptation. This year we ate out here and there and had meals ranging from indifferent to very good, so in the spirit of passing on recommendations to fellow canal travellers here are our nominations for the Herbie Award for Best Pub to Eat at - 2013. (Please remember these are selected only from pubs we have used from the boat this year. Oh, and I suppose it is pubs only, so non pub restaurants are excluded.)
I won’t dwell on the fine detail of the menus because each pub this year has it’s own web site with sample menus so you can see for yourselves.
We’ll take them in chronological order based on the date of our visit.
1. The Great Western Arms at Aynho. (S. Oxford canal)
We were introduced to this pub by Bones last year and we were happy to go back there with our Peter, who is a veggie, this year. It’s such a comfortable place. Warm and cosy on a cold spring evening and welcoming too. The service is very good and you can enjoy your meal in a relaxed way. The menu is not especially adventurous, but the chef knows his stuff and food is prepared really well. Check out the menu. It’s all good and nicely presented. The highlight of the meal was the sampler board of puds. So pretty good food and an exceptionally nice place to spend an evening. What else can I say? They have lovely water jugs shaped like ducks, and the beer is Hook Norton.
2. The Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton (S. Oxford canal)
Although this is a large and lively pub, there is plenty of space and the menu is extensive. If you are particularly carnivorous you will like this place for they have it in abundance including, in season and “depending on the landlord’s aim” a variety of game dishes. Nevertheless our veggie Peter ate well too. But the pies, oh the pies, they are really real. Proper home made pies with shortcrust pastry all over, you get a big slice cut from an even bigger pie. We liked the atmosphere. Not especially cosy but plain and comfortable. As I recall they had a good selection of beers and ciders too.
3. The Greyhound at Hawkesbury. ( N.Oxford / Coventry canals)
Their menu is ever changing and has items quite different from the usual fare, and the food we had was very good. I recall I had monkfish tail thermidor with saffron spuds and samphire. Doesn’t that sound posh! It was delicious, and perfectly cooked and I can’t remember the exact price, but it was about 13 quid. Alright that’s dearer than the average pub meal but not extortionately so, especially for a dish like that. They always have well kept and interesting beers there too. If I had to find a fault with the Greyhound it would only be that it is not that big and they get very busy, so you do tend to feel you ought to eat up and go.
4. The Narrow Boat at Weedon (Grand Union canal)
I should really dock them a point because it’s not exactly at Weedon, but at Stowe Hill on the GU. We didn’t really intend stopping here but we were tired and we decided we didn’t want to go any further that day. Well, we were very glad we did stop because this pub was surprisingly good. It has had quite a smartening up in recent years, but you don’t need to dress up. It was a cold evening and they found us a seat by a radiator then went off to get us a complimentary plate of warm crusty bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The main dishes when they came were very pretty to look at and delicious to eat. I think I may have had the belly pork again. No wonder I’m not losing weight. Beer was well kept and the service was extremely friendly and efficient. Another very comfortable evening. They do a 20% off voucher on their web site. Although we had no printer to print one off, we still got the discount.
Well there you are. Four canal side places for a good meal out. They do all cost a bit more than yer average boozer, but not a lot. I’m sorry I haven’t included any very cheap pub grub places. I don’t recall any this year that were Award worthy.
Maybe you have tried some of our list. Your comments do help us decide, so let us know if you have a favourite from the short list.