Saturday, December 10, 2016

Herbie Awards – nominations for Best Pub Food

Welcome to part two of the awards.  During the intermission we’ve been up to Lancashire and back and I can confirm that the Lancaster canal looks fine and that Lancashire hotpot still tastes good.

Now it’s time for nominations for one of the most coveted awards.  Our dedicated research team has once again been scouring the canalsides of the land to seek out the finest culinary delights that nearby hostelries can provide.  This year the team has focused on the Grand Union and South Oxford canals to identify candidates for The Herbie Award for  Best Pub Food 2016

We start our journey at The Warwick Castle, just round the corner from Little Venice on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union where you can sit near a log fire or in one of the several nooks and crannies and enjoy unpretentious but lovely grub at (for London) reasonable prices.  Even the humble burger is a joy at this pub, served with some very good chips (sweet potato if you like) and some excellent chutney.

On the subject of chips, have you noticed places now saying they do twice fried chips? Well, in the old days at home ( before we turned to healthier foods) when we used to deep fry chips, Kath would twice fry them, leaving the oil to reheat between fryings.  The result was a super light chip, often hollow in the middle and crunchy on the outside.  I am, dear reader, sorry to report that most of the “twice frieds” we have tried in certain pub chains are woefully below that standard.  I suspect some of them are bought in as frozen twice fried and then heated in the oven – treat them with caution.

Having said that, our next pub doesn’t claim double frying on its menu but I’m sure they are proper twice fried and they are extraordinarily good.  So much so that I can’t recall what meal I had there this summer, but I do remember the chips were fantastic.  I think that at the time I thought they might have been the best chips I had ever had.  It is, our old favourite pub , The Folly at Napton.  Their food is pretty simple, but always good, andthey deserve the nomination for the chips alone.

The chef at the Great Western in Aynho never lets us down and deserves nomination, the food is always excellent, but the prices seems to be creeping up. £13 for a burger? £22 for a steak? Best saved for a special treat methinks.

We ate well in Oxford, and a great find, just a couple of minutes stroll from the boat was the Old Bookbinders Alehouse in Jericho where they serve unpretentious French bistro style food at reasonable prices in cosy and quirky surroundings. 


Being French inspired, the menu here is refreshingly different – on the provincial rustic side rather than the haute cuisine side.  Kath had Coq au vin and I had a pork chop in a lovely sauce.

Not far away, still in Jericho is the Victoria where the simple menu consists principally of very good hot pies (three of which are vegetarian) How about mushroom hazelnut, spinach and truffle oil, or lamb, chickpea and chorizo? The pub gets very busy but it has bags of character and the staff are good.

Finally we have to consider the Ye Olde Reine Deer in Banbury ( I know, it keeps cropping up, but it’s good).  Where the meat comes from the excellent butcher opposite and you can have a yummy Venison burger and a pint  for £11 on Thursdays, or decent steak and chips for £6 on Saturdays, or a good choice of interesting stuff from the specials board on any night.  If you fancy a civil war banquet for a special occasion (min 20 souls), they do that too.

This might sound like we’re always eating out, but actually I think we’ve now mentioned nearly all the places we’ve tried this year.  Anyhow, all these are well worth a visit .  They all have web sites with menus, so look ‘em up. Choosing a winner will not be easy.  Come back next time to find out who gets the cigar.

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