Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Wicked Lady, Wheathampstead

We didn't renew our cherry tree rental this year. We still have a lot of preserves, frozen fruit and a couple of pies left from last year and Paul decided that he really doesn't like cherries enough to go through all that again. What he does like is the occasional weekend dessert of fresh, unsweetened berries, bathed in a hefty slosh of cold double cream.

I did some research and found a really nice-sounding Pick Your Own farm a pleasant drive away from us. It had the advantage of a variety of soft fruits, whereas the ones closer to us seem to mostly be strawberries. I liked the idea of some red and black currants and some raspberries as well.

What with one thing and another we weren't going to leave the house until late morning, so we felt that the best thing would be to find a pub for lunch before we went fruit picking. It wouldn't have done at all to have a car full of berries languishing in the sun.

The Wicked Lady is not far from the PYO, and both the pub name and the menu sounded pretty good to me. And then as we pulled into the car park we saw a Hendricks Gin bus which I thought was an excellent omen.

They were fully booked inside, but were doing table service outside, where they were having a summer party. As well as the Hendricks bus, they had a little gazebo set up with a waitress pouring Pimms, there were giant games of jenga and battleship and children were having their faces painted.

I had a Hendricks and tonic while Paul had a pint of Doom Bar. As soon as I spotted the guinea fowl kiev on the menu I knew Paul was lost and that we would not be having a quick sandwich.

So I started with a crab and crayfish pot. It was a bit too mayonnaisey, but the flavour was excellent. Paul had brie in a pumpkin seed crust. The crust was crisp and greaseless but there was too much over-sweet chutney for his taste.

I dithered for a while over my main course before choosing corned beef hash topped with a fried egg. The corned beef was excellent, punctuated by little coriander seeds, but I think in a perfect world there would have been half the amount of potato and the rest of the bulk provided by some shredded kale or something. It was a lot of potato per bite.

And in a perfect world they would not have committed the sin of halving the kiev. The whole point of kiev is that sensuous moment when you cut into it and the garlicky butter pours out. But the guinea fowl was moist and tender and the sauce, roesti and veg were all just what he wanted.

Just as the band were starting up we left. Unfortunately we took one look at the queue of families at the PYO and headed home - far too many people had the same idea as we did. We'll try again another weekend and I suspect we will have another lunch at The Wicked Lady.

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