The Old Orchard

20th May 2016

Park Lane • Harefield • UB9 6HJ • 01895 822631

Reviewed by Alan Cox

This popular pub/restaurant boasts one of the most delightful locations in the area. Tucked down a country lane, overlooking Broadwater Lake (with its fleet of sailing boats taking a midweek meander), this imposing building is the perfect destination for a social evening. The views are stunning.

On this particularly glorious sunny night (such an unusual experience) the place is packed inside and out, with the huge gardens proving just as popular as the inside areas.
The place has a really relaxed casual feel with diners mixing with those just there for a drink. Thankfully the interior is large and attractively rambling, and I can see the staff working in a businesslike fashion all evening coping with the volume of patrons.

The menu is typical pub fare with the addition of a few more sophisticated dishes. Here, ‘ham, egg and chips’ rubs shoulders with the more ambitious likes of ‘pan-fried sea bream fillets with crayfish, asparagus, peas and charred baby gem lettuce’.

For a busy venue like this I am pleasantly surprised by the presentation of both our starters: Pan-fried Trout with smoked trout mousse, lemon and dill crème fraiche, pickled cucumber and confit lemon, and Pan-fried Sea Bass with leek and potato rosti, butternut squash and carrot and vanilla cream sauce. Both are neatly and artistically arranged in bowls. My trout mousse has been substituted with a mackerel mousse, which does slightly overpower the taste of the trout in an otherwise, fresh tasting dish. The butternut squash gives a slightly sweet edge to the delicate fillets of sea bass: a light, satisfying affair.

Following reasonably promptly are my wife’s Seared Duck Breast served with sweet potato, beetroot, broccoli purée with a confit duck leg and pecan nut croquette and my 10oz Rump Steak served with watercress and horseradish butter, wild mushrooms, grilled tomato and chips – plus a jug of stilton and peppercorn sauce on the side. “Any sauces, mayonnaise, ketchup?” we are asked as our meals were delivered. Not sure either need it, but this is pub dining after all.

My steak is chunky, tender and cooked medium rare to my liking, although the sauce could have a bit more punch. The piping hot and excellent chunky chips (perfectly golden and crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside) draw attention to the fact that there is little consistency in the temperature of the other elements on the plate, which vary from tepid to scalding.

There are some interesting pairings in the duck dish. The confit leg croquette is undoubtedly the star turn adding texture and interest to some robust flavours. A little extra sauce on the plate would add that final flourish.

The half a dozen desserts on offer are as traditional as the venue itself. We choose Bread and Butter Pudding with apricot sauce and an Eton Mess. Be warned: portion sizes here are huge – ordering one and two spoons would be ideal. The Bread and Butter Pud is a little stodgy for our tastes and lacks that trademark crispy crunchy top. My Eton Mess is just as strawberry-creamy-gooey as you could wish. We wash both down with a chilled Sauternes dessert wine.

I’m sure much has changed at the Old Orchard over the years, but judging by its popularity at the moment, there’s no need to change its current formula. As they say, ‘if it ain’t broke…’

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