Each year along with at least one pub guide, I'll buy a copy of the Good Food Guide. And each year, I'll turn first to my home town - Oxford - and then to my parents part of the world - south-west Cambridgeshire. The former is a trove of pubs and restaurants, the latter seems a culinary waste-land. Void of anything ranked within the top anything, I've often spent idle moments dreaming of opening a restaurant nearby. Unfortunately, I can't cook.
Well this year I looked slightly further south in to Hertfordshire, and I'm pleased I did. Named as one of the top 50 gastropubs in the UK The Fox at Willian is a modern yet warmly presented pub which must have undergone a near-total renovation from it's 19th century past (I'm guessing here, I really have no idea of the building's age).
The bar seemed busy as we passed through, and not just full of waiting dinners: real locals drink here, something that most gastropubs tend to sweep out of the door as quickly as possible.
Our table for was nice and large, so no squabbling with elbows. A good sized plate of warm bread arrived quickly, followed by slight slower drinks and an interesting, yet well received, beef teriyaki salad. Another slight wait for the main course (this was in the prime of Sunday rush hour though) was well worth it. One of my greatest dislikes is food arriving on novel 'crockery' - burgers on bread boards, chips in buckets, meat on a long thin plate, with 'serve-yourself' vegetables and potatoes which inevitably fall on the floor. My pork with crackling, cabbage, carrots, and roast potatoes filled the round white plate in front of me, and was covered in an ample amount of gravy (thumbs up). It was gone in minutes. We finished off with a treacle tart, coffee, and a drive through a flooded stream.
The Fox is well deserving of it's place in the top 50 list. It truly is a great gastropub and with competition scant across the boarder I imagine it will continue to feature in the Good Food Guide for a few years yet.