I've been walking loads lately, and I tend to do the same route around St Albans. The problem is that as I've mentioned, there are loads of great restaurants around here, and walking past them at dinner time is a killer. They all smell amazing and I spend just as long gazing at the menus as actually walking. I tend to come home with a long list of 'Places We Must Eat' which gets longer every time I go out.
One such place is Dylan's at The King's Arms. I go past it pretty much daily, and it's rapidly risen to the top of my list of places I need to go to. Now. This instant. I'm hungry. Spoiler alert: I got to go!
Matt took me out to dinner a couple of weeks ago to celebrate me getting offered a new job, and it really didn't disappoint. It's part of The King's Arms pub - the pub is at the front, a lovely cosy spot with a great alcohol selection (they even sell a cider that I've only ever seen at Glastonbury before!), and then Dylan's restaurant is at the back. It's all very small inside, so making a booking is absolutely necessary. The food is absolutely excellent, and there's a set menu of 2 courses for £24, or 3 for £28, so it won't break the bank, either. They also have daily specials.
As I write this, their website is down, but if you tweet them they'll shoot you a picture of the current menu - this is what was on offer when we went.
To start, I had one of the specials - lamb croquettes, which were amazing. I love croquettes anyway, but I'd never had lamb ones before and they didn't disappoint. Full of flavour and the sauce went perfectly. Matt had the smoked haddock scotch egg, which he said was also delicious (I took his word for it, because bleuch, haddock).
I was spoiled for choice by the mains, but eventually went for the beer braised ox cheek with confit carrot, pak choi and pickled beetroot (and chips on the side, obvs). Matt had the guinea fowl, which was cooked three ways - a pan roast breast, a crispy thigh and braised leg croquettes (along with polenta and broccoli). This was handy, as my menu debate was between the ox cheek and the guinea fowl! I think we agreed that it was a draw on the mains - you guys all play Menu Wars too, right? However, I had a solid win on the starter.
The ox cheek was AMAZING. It was so tender, and completely fell apart at a mere nudge from my fork. I loved the sides, too - the carrot was so good, and it's not often I say that! And I was surprised how much I liked the pickled beetroot; I'm not a big beetroot fan usually, but it was sweet and went so well with the meat. The chips were also fantastic - triple cooked, lovely and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I was a little niggled that they cost £3 extra (this was completely clear on the menu, by the way), as some of the mains had a carby side included with them, but that's just a pet peeve of mine. They were great chips though, and to be fair, the portion was so huge that I didn't finish them!
Matt's guinea fowl was also excellent - I loved the idea of cooking it three ways, all of which were great. The sides were really good too - I'm not usually a fan of polenta as I find the texture a bit weird, but this was much creamier than usual and really nice. I'll probably be ordering this next time, the mouthful I had was not enough.
There's a great selection of beers on offer too - Matt chose one that met his seal of approval (here's where you might be realising I don't know much about beer apart from that craft beer is meant to be good) and my large glass of red went down very nicely, thank you. We didn't have any room for dessert (I KNOW!) but they gave us Smarties with our bill, so I was happy.
We're already talking about heading back there - this really was gourmet food, and reasonably priced, too. The service was excellent, and it has a cosy, friendly atmosphere. I'm going to have to revise my list of the best places to eat in St Albans, because Dylan's absolutely deserves a spot on there. Although next time I might have to skip the starter, because I'm going to need to try that Bailey's creme brulee. Damn.
Dylan's is at The King's Arms, 7 George Street, St Albans AL3 4ER. I was not compensated for this review.