4.43pm, Monday 13th September, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, England, UK
You should have been with us today!
Hurtling along the skinny high-hedge-lined country lanes and backroads of Hertfordshire county is what you would have been doing. And you would have been on your way to The Rusty Gun pub, on the old London Road, at the hamlet of St Ippolyts, between the towns of Hitchin and Codicote.
This is a magic age old eating and drinking house on several acres that’s just been taken over this year by Fiona and Chris Gerard, and completely taken back to its old stone and timber ‘farmhouse’ interior . When we arrived, Fiona had just been tracked down by Andre the pig man, who wanted a word about adding chooks and goats to the pub’s own farmstock – all destined for the kitchen one way or another. Turns out Andre’s wife is Australian with family that raise cattle in New South Wales, so we felt like locals straightaway.
One of the nice things about The Rusty Gun – besides the local beers on tap from The Old Cannon Brewery – is the seasonal menu that features as much local produce as they can find. On today’s menu alone was Wobbly Bottom (have to love it already, even before you know what it is!) goat’s cheese from just down the road and Quotidian bread from the bakery in nearby Hitchin.
Food is an absolute passion for the Gerards and everyone at The Rusty Gun, and we’re pretty pleased to say that they’ve chosen to use our wines exclusively at the pub. This means in the bar and dining room by the glass and bottle, and when the bottles are empty, they make them into the candleabra! We dropped in today to say “thanks a huge amount” and have lunch – and ended up buying a few locals a glass of Y Cabernet with their lunch – as they helped us pick some of the best things off the menu. You have to love a pub with such nice folks on both sides of the bar! I was travelling today with our man on the ground in England – Chris Unger – and this is the GQ cover shot out the front of the pub.
We chose to share “Le Rustique Camembert”, baked in its box, studded with whole cloves of garlic and sprigs of fresh rosemary, and sent out with a pot of kitchen-made pear chutney and the local Quotidian plain and olive breads. Yum! We sent the serving boards from the Yalumba cooperage, made from old barrel staves!
Then I have to be honest and say we couldn’t resist the blackboard special, which just said “Mint Choc Brownie – will take 10 to 12 minutes from order” – and the locals said to just do it.
I had to put a photo of this one in, as it was actually the chocolate fondant that’s made individually each time, and it comes out jiggling in the middle of the cake outer, then spills out like a mini dam burst. And folks believe me – it tasted as good as it looks! We had to get back to London, otherwise we’d still be there talking to Rob and Paul who look after the bars and kitchen – and us – so very well. It’s one of those pubs that make it really difficult to leave. So if you happen to be anywhere near Hertfordshire, chase the B656 down – the old London road – and make your own aquaintance with The Rusty Gun. Don’t be afraid of doing it in the depths of winter either, as they’ve already got a stack of wood split for the open fire – and there’s half a dozen big solid reds of ours to work through while you warm them bones!
PS … if you like the chutneys and stuff on the menu, you can take them home from the pub’s farm shop. The good stuff just doesn’t stop.
See ya tomorrow when I join forces with Lady Crowther – our southern England specialist salesgal – as we head for Dartmouth in the county of Devon.