Saturday 19 March 2022

RESTAURANT REVIEW: The Alford Arms, Frithsden nr. Berkhamsted

I’ve not blogged for ages and ages, and I thought I should come back with a whole big explanation and stuff but honestly: life got busy, I realised I missed it, so I’m gonna dive back in with some local restaurant reviews. That okay with you? GREAT. 

The husband and I had a rare joint Friday off recently and decided to try The Alford Arms, a lovely country pub in Frithsden, just outside Berkhamsted. It’s in the Michelin Guide so I had high hopes for a really good pub lunch, and said hopes were met. It was lovely. 

Inside it was more traditional than I expected – dogs were heartily welcomed and I spotted several diners with pooches at their feet. There’s a nice outside area, but as the heavens opened just as we pulled in, we opted for a spot in the cosy dining room instead. 

The menu was quite mixed. Not in a bad way – it felt as if half of it was catering to the traditional country pub vibes, with dishes like prawn cocktail, bangers and mash and tiramisu on offer, and the other half was the chef’s chance to push the boundaries a little more. One touch I really enjoyed was that on the back of the menu was a list of all the local suppliers they’d got their food from – I spied honey from Berkhamsted Bees, rapeseed oil from P.E.Mead farm shop in Tring and meat from Native Beef in Sarratt. Even their Christmas turkeys are sourced from Leighton Buzzard, less than 12 miles away. It really showed the commitment to buying local and also showed me a few new foodie places locally that I want to try! 

To start, Matt went traditional with a prawn cocktail. Do you remember my old school reviews? I don’t eat fish – still! And he likes to order it when we go out just to spite me and so I can’t steal it. I assume. Or maybe he just likes it, I don’t know? Anyway, he enjoyed it. A classic done well, was his review. 

I had the goats cheese mousse which was runnier than I expected – I thought it would be a bit more solid and, well, mousse like. But it was delicious, I love goats cheese and when I realised it was drizzled with honey and not oil like I initially thought, I was in heaven. It was lovely with the crunchy croutons although I wish I’d had a bit of bread to mop it up with. 

For our mains we decided to order two things we were both considering and share, although we ended up just having bites of each other’s and not doing a full halfsies. I do enjoy doing halfsies, but sometimes you end up not wanting to give up your half, or getting a bit short changed. It just doesn’t work with all food, does it? Not everything is pizza, basically. 

Matt got steak, which I was seriously considering – I bloody love a steak, and I figured that the Alford Arms guys would know how to cook one really well. And they did, it was perfectly pink inside as per Matt’s request and smothered with garlic butter, served with skinny fries. They didn’t offer a sauce on the side, but then they’re not a steak house and honestly, a dollop of peppercorn would have overpowered that lovely garlic butter. 

I got the short ribs, which usually I’d expect to be served with a side of mash and some rich gravy, but instead they were served with a sticky Asian-inspired sauce and a rice noodle salad. I wasn’t quite sure about this combo and ordered chunky chips on the side because I wasn’t sure if it would be filling, but actually it really worked – the freshness of the salad went really well with the fatty ribs, and it was more filling than I expected. The chunky chips WERE good though, I bloody love a chunky chip with a pot of mayo to dip, and I am not ashamed.

You’d think we were far too full for pudding, and to be honest, we kind of were… AND YET. Matt got the tiramisu, a dish he finds hard to ignore if it’s in the dessert section. I thought I didn’t like tiramisu for years, but now I’ve come around to drinking coffee it’s opened up a whole world of coffee-based desserts. It was lovely and creamy and fluffy – not super strong on the coffee, but I enjoyed the shortbread base, and am now wondering if tiramisu cheesecake is a thing and if not why not?

I had the special, which was rhubarb and apple crumble with custard. It was such good crumble weather, wet and cold, and it went beautifully with the end of my glass of red wine that I’d been nursing throughout as I’d lost the designated driver debate with Matt. The custard was incredible, sweet and creamy, and I would have been happy with just a pint of that! But the crumble was great too, lovely and crunchy on top and tart and sweet on the bottom. I bloody love crumble and custard, and people who serve it with ice cream are wrong ‘uns. I will die on that hill.

We ‘shared’ a lovely bottle of Tuscan red called Brunito *side eye at Matt* and made it home with about half an hour to flop before we had to pick up the small person from nursery. It was such a lovely, filling lunch that neither of us wanted dinner, and I’m pretty sure we were both asleep by 9.30, because we are just that fun.

I felt like the Alford Arms does pub food really well. They balance the classics with some more experimental dishes, so there’s something for everyone, the portions are generous and the prices are pretty good – they are a little higher than your average pub meal but not ridiculous, and I felt that was reflected in the quality of the food.

The Alford Arms is at Frithsden, Hemel Hempstead HP1 3DDI was not compensated for this honest review.


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