My wife celebrates her birthday in early January and every year I search for restaurants not taking a well earned break after the December peak. This year we were looking for a homely, country pub where we could relax with good honest home traditional food and that’s where I came across The Fox and Hounds in Hunsdon, Hertfordshire.
The Fox and Hounds is owned by it’s Head Chef, James Rix. According to his biography he spent much of his early years learning from some of the greats, with time at Waterside Inn and La Tante Claire. James took over The Fox and Hounds in 2004 with his wife Bianca and in 2008 was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand, “offering exceptionally good food at moderate prices”, which is how we discovered it.
The Fox and Hounds is located around 10 minutes drive outside Harlow, and around 20 minutes drive from the M11. Having never been to Harlow before, its pretty much a New Town built after the second world war to free up space in London. It’s certainly not the prettiest place but as you get outside it the small village of Hunsdon is very much a traditional village located on one main street with two pubs and a small village green.
The Fox and Hounds is a large, double-fronted building located on the main road through the village. The pub consists of a main dining area and bar which stretches across the front of the property. A roaring, log fire greeted us on a cold winter’s day. The pub also has a large, separate room at the rear which can be used for functions, which opens onto the large beer garden and car-park. I forgot to take any pictures of the outside, sorry.
The front of house team seated us on a large table (normally used for four people) right in front of the roaring fire.
The Saturday lunch menu certainly has a lot of choice with a large selection of dishes. Much more than you might expect from a place so small. The main ‘differentiator’ on the menu being that the pub is proud to own a Josper Grill, and celebrates this with a number of dishes.
As we were seated we were presented with a basket of what felt like, ‘home-made’ bread, very much like a focaccia. We later saw that the bread was cut by the front of house staff and located in a corner of the bar area. It was a great start to the meal, soft and satisfying.
We both opted for starters and I had the Devilled Lamb’s Kidneys on Toast, while my wife opted for the Grilled Squid. I really enjoyed the kidneys, which I know will not be to everyone’s tastes — but they are something you don’t get to eat everywhere. The grilled squid was also lovely, presented as two large rolls with a vivid green garlicky chermoula. The portions were certainly generous!
For mains my wife opted for the Bone-in Rib Eye and I opted for the Veal T-Bone. Triple-cooked chips and bearnaise sauce with the steak were perfect accompaniments. While both of these dishes are quite pricy the amount of meat was huge. The veal was served with a cheesy Roquefort butter, which gave a lovely flavour — although the smell was quite pungent! The meat is obviously of a high quality and the chefs are clearly very capable as they were cooked to perfection.
We both couldn’t resist a dessert and I opted for the Pannacotta with Rhubarb. I love the taste and texture of freshly poached rhubarb and find it hard to not order it when its on the menu. Rhubard is certainly something that takes a lot of effort to cook at home so I try to eat it when I’m out. My wife opted for the Coffee Profiteroles. Again both portions were generous and tasted great. In my opinion the photos really show off how pretty, good simple cooking can be.
Throughout our whole experience service was really friendly. Both waitresses who served us were experienced, attentive when needed and always served with a smile — what more could you ask for. It was obvious that some of the other tables were regulars and The Fox and Hounds really feels like visiting your local pub.
Our food arrived swiftly throughout the meal and we at the three courses in around 1.5 hours — which felt exactly right. There is nothing like arriving at a place to have to wait 25 minutes for your starters to arrive, hungrily gnawing at bread — this certainly wasn’t the case at The Fox and Hounds.
The decor of the pub is generally pretty traditional. There are certainly areas that are more modern such as the bar area covered in modern tiling. The overall vibe is traditional, mismatched wooden tables and chairs. This is not the sort of place to have a dress code or to make you feel ‘posh’ or ‘stuffy’. The only sight disappointment for me was that the toilets were very much like traditional pub toilets. These could probably do with a refurb over time.
We really enjoyed our meal at The Fox and Hounds; which should come as no surprise if you’ve read this far. The Fox and Hounds really felt like a friendly, relaxed, local pub where you could treat yourself to a simple, traditional meal cooked to perfection. You can only book by calling the pub, which seems a little old fashioned these days; but I guess that adds to the local vibe.
If you like more traditional cuts of meat or offal then you’ll certainly enjoy your way working through the menu. There is still plenty of choice if this isn’t for you. We would certainly visit again to sample many of the other dishes on offer.