There are debates raging amongst people with time on their hands about which is the oldest pub in England/in London/in Britain/ in Hertfordshire/ in the Northern hemisphere etc etc etc. Blah blah blah. I suppose it does matter if you are building a reputation on it, but I can't bring myself to care as long as the atmosphere is nice and the food is good.
One establishment that claims to be the oldest Freehouse (which isn't a pub or a coaching inn but something else, apparently) is the Royal Standard of England. In the past we've tried to drop in for lunch and been turned away so this time we booked.
They lay on the "rustic charm" a bit thick, with garlands of dried hop flowers and fake tapestries draped all over the place. But there is an open fireplace with a wood fire and a black cat with thick fluffy fur to give the charm a little bit of authenticity. You have to order at the bar - and the bartender seemed a little put out that Paul wanted to pay with cash and not leave his card behind the bar (the last time I did that my card got cloned and they got £200+ before the bank spotted it).
We started with a charcuterie plate. The slightly gormless waitress asked if we wanted a knife or fork to eat it with. I suggested that a knife would be a good thing for spreading the potted pork with. The potted pork would be called rillettes in an establishment that was less invested in Englishness. And it was wonderful. The serrano ham was very good, the salami was pretty standard but none the worse for that. The slab of brawn was mediocre. Really insipid with chunks of overcooked carrot and lots of parsley in a bland over-firm aspic - not at all the savoury delight I was hoping for.
My roast pork would have been better if there had been half as many slices of pork but cut twice as thick. The potatoes, crackling, kale, mashed parsnips, carrots & turnips and applesauce were all absolutely top-notch though.
Paul's roast venison came with all that PLUS an enormous, fluffy yorkshire pudding. And not realising that all those vegetables were coming with the meal, he'd ordered a dish of red cabbage (so good!) and some roasted peppers and onions as well.
There was no possible way I could fit in dessert but I was a bit intrigued about the Chiltern Hills pudding. The waitress said it was a sort of sponge pudding with raisins and tapioca in it. Which sounds too horrible for words. I can see why they don't let the waitresses take the food orders - they'd never sell anything. So is it the oldest pub in England? Don't know, don't care. But it is a fine place for a Sunday lunch!