For my last night in the UK, my parents booked us in for dinner at the Fox at Willian a pretty country pub & boutique hotel in North Hertfordshire.
The Fox has won numerous awards over the years, including 2 rosettes from the aa & the readers choice awards from the Hardens restaurant guide, and is regularly featured in the Top 50 British Gastropubs list.
We started with pre-dinner drinks in the bar which was suitably packed with locals on a busy Friday night, I’m not sure I trust a “gastro” pub that isn’t a hit with local drinkers so this was a reassuring start and I enjoyed my Botanist G&T very much.
The dining room was relatively quiet when we arrived although it certainly filled up over the night and I imagine they must have seated some 40 or so guests for dinner as the night went on. Thankfully this quiet start meant we had impeccable personalised service from the waitresses on duty who checked with Chef on the ingredients in a few dishes for us as we had allergies to consider.
I started with an appetiser from their bar menu, some lovely Pea fritters (£5) which had a slight resemblance to falafel (always a good thing in my book) whilst my sister chose the Sweetcorn & spring onion fritters (£7.50) with mushroom relish & sweetcorn veloute which were another huge hit, who knew mushroom and sweetcorn worked so well together? Special mention for the sweetcorn veloute which was absolutely packed full of flavour, and I also loved how daintily the dish was plated, and how pretty the flatware was!
My mum chose the Cider cured salmon & Cromer crab (£8.95) with beetroot gazpacho, avocado puree and chicory and was delighted with her beautiful salmon & crab tian with its splash of vibrant beetroot gazpacho.
For our mains, I chose the Grilled fillets of plaice (£16.95) with potato, pea and baby gem fricassee with warm tartare sauce and vinegar potato puffs. The warm tartare was a nice counterfoil to the delicate flavours of the plaice, with lovely little texture explosions coming from the potato “puffs” which were almost like crisps.
My sister also chose fish, Rarebit crusted hake (£16.50) with hasselback potatoes, roasted artichoke & spinach and was similarly impressed. The melted cheesy mustard topping worked perfectly with the earthy artichokes and spinach, and the hake was pearlescent and perfectly cooked.
From the specials, my Dad decoded to try the Roast duck breast (£18.50) with duck leg ravioli, paysanne vegetables and a soy-shiitake broth. I was really impressed with how well the little ravioli had been done, the pasta was wonderfully thin, yet al dente, and the subtle Chinese flavours of soy and shiitake really lifted the dish.
Our last main course was my Mums Thyme roast rump cap of beef (£17.95) with gremolata, beef fat & polenta cake, charred baby gem & red pepper jam. There were so many wonderful flavours packed into this, from herby gremolata to smoky charred sweet baby gem and the rich polenta cake, another absolute smash hit!
I was far too full for dessert, the plaice was a giant portion and I probably would have been fine with just one fillet, so skipped dessert in favour of an espresso and petit fours, whilst the rest of the table chose either homemade ice-cream (£4.95) or their signature Chocolate brownie (£6.95)
Dinner with pre dinner drinks, a bottle and a bit of wine & beer came to around £50 a head, more than reasonable for such a lovely night out, definitely the best (non home-cooked) meal I have eaten in Hertfordshire, and somewhere I would definitely return to.
Hertfordshire, SG6 2AE
T 01462 480233