It would be an incomplete picture of our trips up and down the southern GU if I failed to mention the pubs we visited, sometimes for just a drink and sometimes for food as well.
Twice on this trip we visited pubs which advertise real ales but didn't have any available! The first was the Coy Carp at Harefield, who admittedly did rustle up a barrel of London Pride when we complained. Had we not, I don't think they would have bothered putting it on. Sunday lunch there was OK - nothing more.
Then at the Fishery in Hemel Hempstead, which has three labelled real ale pumps, the barmaid said, "sorry, no ales today" and seemed surprised we cared. We didn't eat there as planned, but had the brilliant idea of catching the train back to Apsley to go to the excellent Papermill pub. Stations were only a minutes walk at either end and the train journey just 5 minutes. The Papermill, just opposite the BW Apsley marina is a spacious, comfortable modern Fullers pub in a converted industrial building. They offer very good beer, good service, and excellent food. We like their stilton cheeseburgers which are home made and huge.
Up at the Cowroast Inn (at Cowroast, 50 yards from the lock) the pub is run by a Thai family. You get free prawn crackers with your beer! It's a strange mixture of traditional pub and a very good Thai restaurant. Tasty food and good portions.
Regular readers will know of our liking for the Anglers Retreat at Marsworth. Suffice it to say it is a very modest building with no architectural charm, but the beer (including the wonderful Tring Brewery "Sidepocket") is well kept and the food is distinctly home cooked from fresh ingredients. The menu changes daily according to what produce they can get. We had the steak and mushroom pie - lots of meat, real shortcrust pastry, proper gravy, and no less than eight different vegetables. Lovely.
At the other end of Marsworth is the Red Lion, where we strolled up for a pint and stayed to watch the Grand Prix on the telly. What a gem this pub is. Flagstone floors, comfy seats, interesting beers including from local breweries. A quiet friendly traditional village local. Neat and tidy without being modern or posh.
Next was the Grove Lock at, you've guessed it, Grove Lock, near Leighton Buzzard. Another Fullers pub aimed at the diner, and popular for business lunches. The menu is comparatively pricey. We just had a shared appetiser of chunky bread (I forget what type but it was lovely), with toasted haloumi cheese, which toasts without melting, and peppers. I think it cost about £8, but was enough for a good snack between three of us.
On our final weekend, we met up with Pete and Rob, the other members of our band PRANK, and tootled from Bulls Bridge down to the Fox at Hanwell, near Brentford. What a great pub this is. Lively and friendly and likely winner of the Herbie Pint Of The Year award. Superbly kept Timothy Taylors Landlord. This was the first time we had eaten at the Fox, other times we had been there on non food days. We had bavette steaks (apparently a cut high on the thigh and near the fillet) with tarragon butter and chips and salad. £10.95 if I recall correctly. I fear the chips were probably cooked in beef dripping. Unhealthy but gorgeous. The steaks were perfect and the tarragon butter scrummy. The Fox is a strong contender for Herbie Pub of the Year.
If all this sounds like a pub crawl, don't forget we were out for 16 days, and our son Peter was with us for a holiday.