Featured Restaurant: Bricklayers Arms

17th May 2019

Hogpits Bottom • Flaunden • HP3 0PH • 01442 833322

Reviewed by Lisa Botwright

The Bricklayers Arms is no more than fifteen minutes from my house, but after driving through lanes that wind through idyllic Chess Valley countryside and entering the beautiful village of Hogpits Bottom (a name that could be straight out of Tolkein), I feel like I’m on holiday; so far removed is the stress of urban life.

Inside this award-winning pub, it’s incredibly cosy; traditional beams are festooned with fairy lights, and there’s a cheerful hum of Friday night conversation. We receive a friendly welcome, and are shown to a table next to French doors overlooking a garden suffused in golden early evening light.

The menu is full of modern European classics with a few cheffy twists (like cauliflower cheese with camembert) that feel playful and intriguing rather than pretentious.

I’m drawn to the Bricklayers Arms Home Smoked Fish Plate with crusty bread and tomato chutney to start, and my husband (H) chooses Duck Liver Parfait, roasted pistachios, pear chutney and toasted focaccia. The fish dish is a triumphant trio of salmon, swordfish and tuna, with the salmon earthy, smoky and tangy and the swordfish (which I’ve never tried smoked before) lighter and saltier. The tuna is the star of the show: sweet and moist, it’s the most umami of the three and has the most lingeringly tasty mouthfeel. I’m not sure about the chutney though – I feel the tomato overpowers, rather than complements. A simple squeeze of lemon does it for me.

The duck parfait is delicious. It comes in a dinky little glass jar, accompanied by the pear chutney served in a little fold of greaseproof paper. The smooth and creamy savouriness of the duck kicks in first, then the pistachios come through moments later. It works amazingly well. A little dollop of the sweet chutney adds another dimension.

Next up is Roasted Boned Quail stuffed with chestnut mushrooms, chicken liver mousse, marsala jus (for me) and Fish Pie with sea trout, smoked haddock and smoked salmon, chardonnay cream, mash top and buttered vegetables (for H).

The quail has the look and texture of a small chicken thigh, but is much richer and tastier. I open it up and an abundance of mushrooms spill onto the plate, TARDIS-style. Fabulous; I adore mushrooms. The liver mousse served on a little puff pastry disc is tasty and decadent, while the marsala jus offers just the right touch of sweetness to bring it all together. Each component is very rich, but the overall effect is still light. It’s a very clever dish.

H is enjoying his pie, which offers hearty chunks of perfectly cooked fish showcased by a delicate sauce and a fluffy mash top. Some fish pies can be all about the mash, or dominated by too thick a sauce, but this is divine.

The dessert wine list is extensive, and each pudding is paired on the menu with its perfect alcoholic match. Sweet wine has never much appealed, but I’m ready to have my mind changed. We try a glass of ruby red ‘black’ muscat Elysium along with a warm, dense and sticky Mixed Nut Brownie and (local Chiltern) maple walnut ice cream – and yes, I’m converted. Each sip of wine brings a complex hit of blackberries, and each forkful of dessert brings a rich nuttiness. My only complaint is that, so pleasing is the combination, I eat far more than usual.

Our meal is finished, but we’re reluctant to leave the snug and comfy confines of this delightful country pub. Shall we stay for just one more drink? Why not…

STARTERS: £6.95-£12.95 • MAINS: £15.95-£27.95
DESSERTS: £6.50-£9.45 • HOUSE WINE: £20

Find Your Local