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Modern European Food in Hunsdon Hertfordshire.
One of the most exciting things for me about the British food renaissance of the last 25 years is the creation of a culinary diaspora across the country of young chefs who have won their spurs in the top London restaurants, then moving on to set up their own centres of culinary excellence and in turn training a new generation. Chef-owner James Rix and his wife Bianca left London fifteen years ago to set up the Fox & Hounds and are now celebrating the 15th anniversary of their pub and modern European restaurant near Ware that holds the only Michelin Bib Gourmand award in Hertfordshire. For foodie nerds like me, James’ impressive CV includes stints as head chef at Alastair Little’s legendary eponymous Soho joint and at Tom Conran’s The Cow in Notting Hill. Bianca runs front of house with a confident sense of friendly efficiency. The stylish interior combines wooden beams, tables and chairs with calming pistachio and cream walls set off by attractive prints on the walls. The menu is modern European and makes a special feature of local game cooked on a Josper grill. We unwound after our drive from London over an impeccably made Bombay Sapphire and Fever-Tree G&T and some delicious rosemary focaccia. A starter of buffalo ricotta and spinach ravioli with truffled pecorino was a plate of luxurious, silky pasta slathered in a rich cheese sauce perfumed by the truffle. It genuinely made me very happy! A grilled goats cheese salad was beautifully composed with cobnuts, olives, green beans and tomatoes creating a wonderful mix of textures. It was finished off with a good quality olive oil. There is a generosity of spirit at the Fox Hounds – portions are on the largish size and prices are very reasonable. My plate of two Dover slip soles was a case in point. The fish was perfectly cooked and covered with buttery capers and sweet little brown shrimps with a handful of waxy Ratte potatoes on the side being the perfect foil for the protein. A dish of braised beef on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes was totally appropriate for the season – the meat was rich, tomatoey and succulent – it was the kind of comfort food we all need in an imperfect world. Fig and almond tart with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side was light and full of flavour. And the Mirabelle plum compote with a creamy vanilla ice cream and shortbread had a delicious acidity to match the sweetness of the fruit.
The Fox & Hounds is only about an hour out of town and is a great base for a country ramble and pub lunch as well as being close to the lovely Henry Moore Studios & Garden. It’s worth a trip for The Fox & Hound’s Sunday lunches – twice voted by Observer Food Monthly readers as finalists for the Best Sunday Lunch – if you are in the area you should really support it!
The cooking is on the level of Soho joints such as 10 Greek St or Ducksoup with the added benefit of very reasonable pricing and fresh air!
The Fox & Hounds,
2 High Street,
Looking for something different in Hertfordshire? We also recommend The Glasshouse at The Grove Hotel near St Albans