The Harpenden Arms, Harpenden

I used to drive through Harpenden every day on my way to school and sixth form, so it’s a place I know rather well. On the left hand side, just as you exited the town centre, there was a very grey, sombre looking place – which largely attracted a clientele of old men. It wasn’t somewhere that was ever really on my radar as a place to visit – but you always noticed it, because it was so large.

Fast forward several years and my journey through Harpenden, was no longer needed. So I hadn’t seen the place for a very long time. Neither was I even aware of the transformation that was going on there. That was, until I saw the new and very much improved Harpenden Arms Pub for the first time a few weeks ago. Long gone was the dark grey exterior, welcoming a bright, white and light building in its place. And what lay inside, was also rather spectacular.

David and I were lucky enough to have a sneak preview of the place before it opened, tasting their new menu and sampling their wines – which made for a very lovely Saturday evening!

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The Harpenden Arms has been re-vamped by the Fullers chain, so everything is very plush and well thought out – with a selection of areas to cater for every kind of guest. You have the ‘snug’ on the lower floor, perfect for catching up with the girls over a glass of wine, the Orangery – a gorgeously bright open space ideal for family lunches and picturesque dining and then you have the upstairs restaurant, serving food overlooking the beautiful green surrounding spaces. It’s everything Harpenden called for – and so much more.

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Decor wise, whoever has designed this place has certainly had a field day – as there’s an eclectic mix of colours, patterns and woods – but it all comes together and really works. They have restored the building to reflect its roots (being a pub – and still retaining original brickwork and character features) but there’s also teal tiles, mustard wallpaper and an array of artwork. Even the ladies bathroom (which I did snap a few pictures of) offers some amazing design elements, with gold taps and plush white tiles.

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When it comes to food, the restaurant certainly doesn’t disappoint either. There’s a plethora of choices to suit all tastes (I consider myself a fussy eater with my selection of intolerances but I still had a number of options and our waitress was very helpful at finding out which items contained dairy) and a very helpful pairing board on the wall, which helps decipher which wines compliment which dishes best. Fancy!

Eventually (after much deliberation, as always) David and I opted for a selection of mini starters and we honestly, couldn’t fault any. I particularly loved the rosemary bread dipped in oil and balsamic (bread can be a bit boring but this was far from it) and David enjoyed the Smoked Trout and Lamb Kofta. Oh, and the sweet and sour peppers and chorizo. Nothing was overly greasy or overpowering – they were all perfectly balanced starters, whetting our appetites for the main course.

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And talking of main courses, these were pretty spectacular. We both chose from the ‘Meats’ menu, which allows you to mix and match your meat, sides and sauces. This way, you can build up your perfect dinner and know for sure that you’ll enjoy every aspect. I opted for the marinated spatchcock chicken with fries and red wine jus, while David chose the hanger steak, with fries, greens and peppercorn sauce. And, as I’m sure you can tell from the pictures. We were in for a feast!

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Unfortunately there weren’t any dessert options that I could indulge in (the perils of being lactose intolerant) but luckily, David was willing to step up and taste two – just for, you know, the purposes of the blog review.

There were some pretty spectacular looking desserts on the menu but eventually (with help from me) he opted for the maple and pecan cheesecake and the chocolate brownie – both with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

When said desserts actually arrived, my eyes were green with envy as they looked absolutely incredible. The slightly warm, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate brownie had a layer of white chocolate melted into the bottom, complimented amazingly (or so I’m told) but the ice cream. The maple and pecan cheesecake was apparently equally as delicious – and when the plates were collected, both desserts had mysteriously disappeared (despite an initial declaration that ‘I couldn’t possibly manage a dessert, let alone two’), so I suppose that’s telling of their success!

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We whiled away the remainder of the evening chatting and admiring our surroundings, with a view to return in the very near future.

So, if you’re in the market for a relaxing summers evening – with great service and fabulous food, then The Harpenden Arms might just be the place for you. It’s around 22 minutes outside of London (on the train) and so it’s a popular choice for a day out away from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you try it out for yourselves, do let me know what you think!

The Harpenden Arms | link

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