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This classic British pub with rooms was voted the best in Hertfordshire in 2022. Helena Lang tries its traditional Sunday lunch
Situated just north of St Albans, Harpenden is an attractive small town with an eclectic high street and plenty of pubs to choose from. Just outside the main drag, opposite the leafy common, is The Silver Cup, so named as it’s situated at the end of the former race course, the winner of which was awarded a silver cup.
This nearly 200-year-old pub has been brought bang up to date with all the original features lovingly restored. Spotlessly clean and immaculate, clearly a lot of care and attention has gone into the finer design details – smart conifer-green tiles, a gleaming copper bar and fireplace, comfortable but casual wooden furniture and crystal tumblers on the tables. Half bar, half restaurant, it’s the food that the locals have been raving about, and it’s a celebration of the best British ingredients, whether it’s bar snacks you’re after, a leisurely supper featuring the tasting menu, or a traditional Sunday roast lunch. In the kitchen is local lad Matthew Reeder, whose CV boasts gigs with the revered Galvin brothers and the head chef role at Anglo in Farringdon. Front of house is best mate Michael Singleton, who makes warmth, great organisation and friendly service the order of the day. The pub has recently added four comfortable en-suite rooms for those who want to stay the night and make the most of the bar offerings, with single occupancy £80 and double £90.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon the courtyard garden was busy with locals – and their pooches – sipping pints, chilled rosé and treating themselves to some of the premium bar snacks – oysters, steak tartare and handmade Scotch eggs for instance. The restaurant is in a room to the left of the bar and is stylish and informal with well-spaced tables and light flooding in from the leaded windows. Service is relaxed and friendly.
There’s a set menu for Sunday lunch with two courses at £36 and three courses at £45. Our starters included a fresh and light Isle of Wight tomato salad, and a dish of salt-baked beetroot with goat's cheese and a sourdough crisp. The winning dish, however, was a pot of huge crevette prawns served with aioli and the essential finger bowl. These tasted super fresh and were meaty and delicious.
Roasts here are all served with duck-fat potatoes, buttered cabbage and a giant Yorkshire pudding. Two of us decided to share a 42-day aged cote de boeuf (with a £14 supplement per person) – a huge platter of rare and tender meat with salt-baked carrots on the side, horseradish cream, a jug of rich gravy and a pot of carrot purée. The combination of savoury meat with sweet root veg was hugely memorable. We washed this all down with a bottle of Foncalieu Piquepoul Rosé, a very pale wine with a refreshing acidity.
We chose two desserts, with four spoons for sharing: a classic crème brûlee and a spectacular lemon posset with raspberries and a raspberry sorbet. The perfect endings to a perfect meal on a perfect summer’s day.
The locals are very, very lucky to have this gorgeous pub on their doorstep. It’s a real treat. But I suspect many Londoners will be escaping the city during summer months to walk on the nearby common and rest their feet here too, and if they do they are in for a delicious and memorable meal. Plus, there are now rooms available upstairs for those not wanting to drive home.
That platter of beautifully cooked beef – we didn’t manage to polish it off and brought leftovers home for a smart salad supper.