Wednesday 9 April 2008

The Amersham Arms

A combination of circumstances ("I can't be bothered to cook, shall we eat out?" and the fact that the Royal Albert doesn't do food on Monday nights) led us to try out the refurbished Amersham Arms for the first time. Yes I know we are a little behind the times, but it's just that step further from our door, and the ambience of the Albert usually tempts us in before we get that far.

I was very pleasantly surprised with the refurb of the bar area, they now have lots of large tables with sturdy chairs and comfy built-in seating, as well as a few curvy sofas forming an intimate little area in one part of the bar.

The decor is funky and pleasingly eccentric, I'm not sure why they have half a dozen rows of keys hanging above the back of the bar, and some of the other items of decor are also slightly Montague-esque, but it's not cluttered or overbearing by any means. We did find it rather dark though, which is fine for the later hours of the night but when food is being served, can be slightly disconcerting (and as for knitting....!)

Which brings me to the purpose of the visit. Firstly, beer selection. I had a very pleasant pint of Spitfire, and the woman behind the bar topped up the slightly lively pint at my request without any question. In fact she apologised for the fact that the pump wasn't great. One up on the Albert for that! (see 8 March). The Geezer had his customary continental lager, and I was nicely surprised to be charged just less than £6 for the two! Most bars that serve real ale seem to think it's acceptable to charge £3 a pint these days, which I think is excessive. Especially when the Dog & Bell regularly serves wonderful ales for around £2.50 or even less!

The food menu revealed the answer to a question that has been bugging me for some time. Where have all Bill's pies gone?! The last few times I've been down for pies on a Saturday, the selection has been woefully thin on the ground. What happened to the lamb and veg, the chicken and ham, and the chicken and mushroom? It seems they are all going to the Amersham Arms, to be served with chips or mash, peas and gravy for £5.95!

In retrospect, I should have gone for a pie. I know I can depend on Bill's pies to be crispy, full of succulent filling, and unashamedly naughty on the calorie front. But I made a BIG mistake, choosing the veggie burger. It sounded so good, and homemade, that I was taken in by the description, thinking of all the wonderful veggie burgers I've had at Mildred's in Soho over the years.

It must have taken a lot of work to make something that could have been so promising, turn out so bland! And it was huge! I know I shouldn't complain about portion size, but you can definitely have too much of bland veggie burger in my book. It was dry, tasteless and the bun was soggy at the bottom, which added to the lacklustre nature of the dish. I won't be having it again, I will go for the beefburger, which the Geezer told me was 'fine' (high praise from him).

I'll just put in a word for the chips - they were great. Not chunky, but not your French fries either, and they had bits of skin still on so rather rustic in appearance, and tasty!

Yes, we will be going back as I very much enjoyed the ambience, was impressed by the standard and price of the beer, and there is plenty more to choose from on the menu. But will be steering clear of the veggie burger!

The Amersham also has a gallery upstairs, which I'll be checking out when I have more time, and an extensive programme of bands and DJs in the area at the back. Can't comment on them myself, as my bag was the folk bands that used to play there, er, must be a decade or so ago, but the Inspector wasn't hugely impressed by his visit. The clientele we experienced at 7pm on a Monday night didn't really match with his description, I guess it changes depending on the bands.

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