F THE RAIN abates long enough for a bracing winter walk, you’ll be needing a stop to refuel and warm up at a country pub. Or you could just skip the walk and hunker down to some comfort food.
Plenty of pubs with a suitably rural feel are within easy reach of north west London. Aldenham’s Three Compasses (
has such a relaxed vibe that you feel laidback the minute you step through the door. Refurbished by small chain — The Aspirational Pub Co — in March last year, it has a boutique, country hotel feel, with dark grey walls, dark wood floorboards, antique books lined up on shelves hung with a horse stirrup at either end, a display of old fashioned cloches and plenty of 19th century-style portraits on the walls.
Thaw your tootsies in comfy chairs, clad in plaid fabrics, in front of open log fires. The menu offers sharing platters including the Med board of mezze dishes and whole-baked Camembert with truffle oil, roasted garlic and artisan bread.
All was calm, efficient and friendly at Friday lunchtime. Halloumi chips with grilled veggies and a sweet, chilli dipping sauce were easily polished off and a pile of warm pitta with hummus went down similarly well.
My kedgeree with a poached egg and poppadom balanced on top (a special that day) was perfect warming fare and too big a portion for me to finish. My schoolmum chum’s vegetable pie was piping hot, slathered in mash and molten cheese and filled with a mixture of different veg.
Puds include a different daily crumble, bread and butter pud, sticky toffee pudding with London stout toffee sauce, as well as a range of ice creams schlepped in from Callestick Farm Cornwall and an English-centric cheeseboard.
You’ll need to go for another walk afterwards to burn off your meal.
Travel just a littler further north east and have a mosey around the shops of Harpenden, Herts, then lunch at The Fox (
which is a fiveminute drive up the road towards Luton.
Do book — as when we visited for a late Sunday lunch, the place was packed and the car park overflowing.
The menu is contemporary — there are sharing platters of all the usual suspects, including artisan breads, mezze and a crisp garlic pizzette.
Starters include a Croxton Manor cheddar and Bramley apple tart and mushrooms baked in a white wine and black garlic cream sau.
Mains might be pizza — super-thin, Italian style — or dishes ranging from the super-indulgent (battered halloumi or cod with chunky chips) to the hearty but wholesome (panfried sea bass with tenderstem broccoli, Romano peppers, Portobello mushrooms, feta and a pineapple and sesame dressing, or roasted vegetable and olive tart).
You could even go for the detoxworthy wholefood salad, to which you can add a hunk of salmon, grilled halloumi or goat’s cheese.
As well as the usual selection of puds (treacle tart, crème brûlée, crumble and ice cream...) there is a tempting “house sharer”, which allows you all to enjoy a whole range of puds, including the rum and raisin crème brûlée, a chocolate brownie,