Hertfordshire's best restaurants and pubs for alfresco dining

Alfresco dining at The Grove, Hertfordshire

Al fresco dining at The Grove, Hertfordshire - Credit: Chris Tubbs Photography

Brits love nothing more than getting outside on a sunny day, so Herts Life has picked 21 great pubs and restaurants in Hertfordshire with pretty al fresco gardens and terraces.

Words: Victoria Purcell & Julie Lucas

1. The Grove, Chandler’s Cross

There’s 300 acres of countryside and outdoor terraces overlooking magnificent grounds at The Grove hotel, which underwent a substantial makeover during last year's lockdowns. With dishes from award-winning chefs, dine on The Glasshouse terrace with views of the formal gardens and enjoy the Estate to Plate à la carte menu, or overlook the golf course with a light bite and a refreshing cocktail on The Stables terrace.

Alternatively find a place in the acres of grounds and relax in a sunny spot with one of the hotel’s picnic baskets. Afterwards walk off a few of the calories with a wander through the formal gardens, woodlands and kitchen garden. 

Address: Chandler’s Cross, Hertfordshire WD3 4TG

Website: thegrove.co.uk

Dine on seafood in The Stables at The Grove (Chris Tubbs Photography)

Dine on seafood in The Stables at The Grove (Chris Tubbs Photography) - Credit: Chris Tubbs Photography

2. The Fox & Hounds, Hunsdon

The Fox and Hounds is the only Michelin BIB Gourmand restaurant in Herts and it was a runner-up for best Sunday lunch in the UK in the 2019 Observer Food Monthly Awards. The stylish pub-restaurant in the pretty village of Hunsdon has an attractive garden in which to relax with a drink and a large terrace to enjoy al fresco dining.

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Crab tacos, Cornish native lobster and steaks from the Josper oven are all popular choices from the seasonal menu. The heated and sheltered patio garden means it stays warm into the evenings. There are lots of great walks in the vicinity or take a visit to the excellent nearby Henry Moore Foundation which has reopened post-lockdown.

Address: High Street, Hunsdon, Ware SG12 8NH

Website: foxandhounds-hunsdon.co.uk

The Fox & Hound (photo: Bianca Rix)

The Fox & Hound (photo: Bianca Rix) - Credit: Bianca Rix

3. The Jolly Waggoner, Ardeley

Ingredients for the menu don’t travel far at this village pub, it’s part of Church Farm which grows more than 100 different fruit, vegetables and herbs. It also traditionally rears animals with a butchery on-site.

Park yourselves under umbrella-shaded benches in the pretty pub garden, listen to the sounds of the countryside and enjoy simple and incredibly fresh food complemented with a glass of real ale or artisan wine. A draw on summer Saturday afternoons is the hog roast. Afterwards, take a wander round the not-for-profit farm. There’s a woodland fairy trail and farm shop, open seven days a week, to buy seasonal veggies and more to take home.

Address: Ardeley (opposite Church Farm), near Stevenage SG1 7AH

Website: jollywaggoner.co.uk

Relax in the countryside garden at The Jolly Waggoner, Ardeley (photo courtesy of venue)

Relax in the countryside garden at The Jolly Waggoner, Ardeley (photo courtesy of venue) - Credit: The Jolly Waggoner

4. George IV, Great Amwell

This traditional pub tucked away in the charming village of Great Amwell is one of those places you would rather keep secret. Here you can enjoy table service from the pretty garden terrace area and spacious courtyard. There’s an a la carte menu or try the popular small plates with friends.

Marinated halloumi, butter milk fried hot wings and home-made Scotch eggs will have you wishing you had not agreed to share. 

Address: Cautherly Lane, Amwell Lane, Great Amwell, Ware SG12 9SW

Website: georgeivpub.co.uk

The outdoor dining area at George IV in Amwell (photo courtesy of venue)

The outdoor dining area at George IV in Amwell (photo courtesy of venue) - Credit: George IV

5. The Cricketers of Redbourn, Redbourn

Overlooking the very large village common, The Cricketers is ranked among the best in Herts in The Good Pub Guide. The garden has a mix of benches and bang-on-trend rattan seating where you can enjoy a range of freshly cooked dishes including pub classics and daily specials.

The barbecue sticky beef short ribs with potato and lovage cakes and slaw has our vote. Plan a stop-off as part of the many cycling and walking routes around the area including the Nicky Line and Ver Valley.

Address: East Common, Redbourn, St Albans AL3 7ND

Website: thecricketersofredbourn.co.uk

The Cricketers at Redbourne (photo courtesy of venue)

The Cricketers at Redbourne (photo courtesy of venue)

6. The Grandison, Bramfield

There’s not one but two sunny terraces to choose from at this pub-restaurant in the picturesque village of Bramfield. The menu is diverse with the homemade full puff pastry pies a popular dish, but be sure to save room for the salted caramel or double chocolate waffle.

You could try one of the numerous walking routes through woodland connecting to neighbouring villages and finish with a meal on the terrace. With large gardens it’s a beautiful outdoor space (and a stylish restaurant to boot). One reviewer called it ‘a little gem in the countryside’. 

Address: 18 Bury Lane, Bramfield, Hertford SG14 2QL

Website: thegrandison.com

7. Sopwell House, St Albans

Secluded in 12 acres of Herts countryside on the edge of St Albans, Sopwell House is an ideal spot for dining al fresco. Take advantage of the gardens with afternoon tea served on the terrace or front lawn. There’s an option with a chilled glass of Taittinger Champagne.

You can enjoy lunch or dinner from The Brasserie on the terrace. Take in the relaxing views of the gardens and pond while enjoying delicious dishes such as a light summer salad starter with asparagus and French beans or seed crusted Scottish salmon. 

Address: Cottonmill Lane, St Albans AL1 2HQ

Website: sopwellhouse.co.uk

Enjoy afternoon tea in the gardens of Sopwell House (Art Is Life Photography)

Enjoy afternoon tea in the gardens of Sopwell House (Art Is Life Photography) - Credit: Art Is Life Photography

8. The Boat, Berkhamsted

This attractive pub in Berkhamsted has a commanding position right next to the Grand Union Canal and in summer the raised outdoor space becomes a hub for both locals and visitors. It promises a fresh take on pub food, with real ales ‘served with a smile’.

Try the Chalcroft Farm beef burger, vegan chilli and roasts on a Sunday with cauliflower cheese and sticky red cabbage, all freshly made. Climb aboard with friends and family and watch towpath life pass by.

Address: Gravel Path, Berkhamsted HP4 2EF

Website: boatberkhamsted.co.uk

The Boat, Berkhamsted (photo courtesy of venue)

The Boat, Berkhamsted (photo courtesy of venue) - Credit: submitted

9. The Red Lion, Water End

Serving food from breakfast ’til late, The Red Lion at Water End is an 18th century pub with a very stylish feel. Outside is a spacious garden with comfortable seating and a lovely terrace.

The Mediterranean-inspired menu has wood-fired pizzas, so good you will think you’re in Naples. There's also burgers, steaks, bottomless brunch and comfort foods such as fish and chips, Shepard's pie and a Sunday roast. 

Address: Leighton Buzzard Road, Water End, Hemel Hempstead HP1 3BD

Website: redlionwaterend.co.uk

The garden at the Red Lion (photo courtesy of venue)

The garden at the Red Lion (photo courtesy of venue) - Credit: The Red Lion

10. The Black Horse, Brent Pelham

Set among the deep winding country lanes of East Herts, this community-owned pub dates to 1866 but alongside its rustic charm you’ll find modern cuisine. The family-friendly pub garden has a children’s play area and there’s a charming horse box bar for the adults.

Pub favourites include seafood linguine with king prawns, squid, chilli, garlic and spinach. On Sunday, roasts are cooked on the Argentinian barbecue and do try a glass from the notable wine list. This great country pub was once in danger of closure, we’re very glad it was saved. 

Address: Brent Pelham, Buntingford SG9 0AP

Website: blackhorsebrentpelham.co.uk

11. The Alford Arms, Frithsden

Tucked away in a secluded wooded valley with the backdrop of the Chiltern Hills. This lovely little pub-restaurant with an immaculately hedged outdoor terrace has been awarded Hertfordshire Dining Pub of the Year by The Good Pub Guide 10 times. As a FreeFrom Award winner it’s a favourite of those with dietary requirements but just as good for those who eat everything.

Try bubble and squeak with oak smoked bacon, free range poached egg and Hollandaise sauce, or Bombay spiced roast cauliflower with coriander couscous, pea pakoras and mint yoghurt. It also offers ‘smaller plates for smaller people’. Once you’ve found this place, you’ll want to return, well if you can find it again.

Address: Frithsden, Hemel Hempstead HP1 3DD

Website: alfordarms.co.uk

The Alford Arms (photo courtesy of venue)

The Alford Arms (photo courtesy of venue) - Credit: submitted

12. The Golden Fleece, Braughing

This award-winning pub in one of Herts most charming villages has been run by Jess and Pete Tatlow for more than 10 years. Jess is a renowned chef – try her Golden Fleece Smokey with hot melted cheese, smoked haddock and toast on the side. The pub and dining rooms have a large raised terrace overlooking the garden which has a play frame for children.

Address: 20 Green End, Braughing, Ware SG11 2PG

Website: goldenfleecebraughing.co.uk

13. Saracens Head, Ware

On the banks of the river Lea in the heart of Ware, this pub has been owned by Hertford brewing family McMullen since 1938. Here you can sit on the long waterside terrace and enjoy family-friendly small plates including halloumi fries, crispy duck wings and garlic mushrooms or try the favourite beer-battered cod fillet (McMullen’s ale of course) with chips and homemade mushy peas. Wash it down with a homegrown ale or one of the many speciality gins on the gin menu.

Address: Saracens Head, Bridge Foot, Ware SG12 9BS

Website: mcmullens.co.uk/saracenshead

14. Rising Sun, Berkhamsted

This traditional pub is accredited by CAMRA for its selection of real ales and ciders including locally brewed choices. But it really comes into its own in summer as it’s perched beside a lock on the Grand Union Canal. Take a walk along the canal then sit outside with a drink and views of narrowboats navigating the waterway. This no-frills pub also serves ‘proper food’.

Address: George Street, Berkhamsted HP4 2EG

Website: facebook.com/risingsunpubberkhamsted/

15. Brocket Arms, Ayot St Lawrence

You’ll find this charming village pub dating to the 14th century in the equally charming village of Ayot St Lawrence. Modern British cuisine is served at a safe social distance supplemented with a wide range of real ales and wines. Enjoy ribeye steak served with chips, mushroom, tomato and onion rings with a choice of sauces or go for the popular Brocket Arms fish and chips.

The old building is lovely but what makes the place stand out in summer is the large orchard garden complete with aviary, the odd chicken strutting about and apple trees. It also has a play area for little ones.  

Address: Ayot St Lawrence, Welwyn AL6 9BT

Website: brocketarms.com

16. The Tilbury, Datchworth

An 18th century village pub with charming bucolic surroundings, The Tilbury is a great spot to soak up the country-side setting while dining on A-grade nosh. 

Michelin Guide recommended and awarded two AA Rosettes, the pub offers casual fine-dining and a menu where British produce and European cuisine are king. There's elevated riffs on pub classics as well as seasonal mains such as pan-fried salmon with champ, cockle, braised spring vegetables and a carrot butter sauce, and the goats cheese & truffle bread pudding, asparagus, Jersey royals, crisp goats’ cheese, wild garlic velouté. 

Address: 1 Watton Road, Datchworth, Knebworth SG3 6TB

Website: thetilbury.co.uk

17. Choppy’s Restaurant, Great Amwell

Locally sourced ingredients comprise the food at Choppy’s Restaurant at The Waggon and Horses, from fresh fish to steak with green peppercorn sauce. The summer sees guests enjoying the sun in the gardens, whether shaded under the umbrellas on the grass or sipping a glass of something on the inviting decking area. 

Address: Pepper Hill, Ware SG12 9RQ

Website: choppysrestaurant.com

18. Craft & Cleaver, St Albans

Drawing inspiration from the cookhouses of Brooklyn, New York, Craft & Cleaver is a meat-lover’s heaven. Meat is smoked in the onsite wood smokers before being turned into mouth-watering dishes such as the Black Angus beef brisket served with two sides of your choice - which include mac ‘n’ cheese, giant onion rings, barbecue pit beans and buttermilk slaw.

During summer evenings, fairy lights are strung up overhead in the courtyard garden - an atmospheric backdrop to enjoy a cocktail or craft beer before tucking into a plate of tempting meat. 

Address: 62 Catherine Street, St Albans AL3 5BU

Website: craftcleaver.co.uk

19. Bushel & Strike, Baldock

With many rave reviews online, the Bushel & Strike in the village of Ashwell is a pub that serves fresh, exciting food hailed by one customer as 'very good pub grub in lovely surroundings'.

The manicured gardens make a clean and pleasant spot to bring your food and drinks outdoors and enjoy the village atmosphere in Ashwell.

Address: 15 Mill Street, Ashwell, Baldock SG7 5LY

Website: bushelandstrike.co.uk

20. The Three Tuns, Baldock

Traditional British food is on the menu at The Three Tuns, a stylishly decorated yet homely gastro pub that has earned high praise for its "lovely" food and staff.

With the gorgeous red brick building as a backdrop, sitting in the garden with a cold glass of ale or Pimms feels like a hidden sanctuary.

Address: 6 High Street, Ashwell, Baldock SG7 5NL

Website: threetunsashwell.co.uk

21. The Elephant & Castle, Amwell

This lovely 18th century pub in leafy Amwell has oodles of character and truly picturesque views. The pub has a huge amount of space across its two beer gardens, with a wild flower area, kids play area and a heated giant Tipi to the front.

The food is locally sourced and the menu features fine food such as pan-fried loin of cod on crushed new potatoes with sauteed spinach and a white wine caviar velouté, The Ele Beef Wellington with fondant potato and sautéed kale in a red wine jus, and a spring arborio risotto with broccoli, sundried tomatoes, peas and Parmesan crisp.

Address: Amwell Lane, Wheathampstead AL4 8EA

Website: theelephantandcastle.co.uk

22. Auberge du Lac, Welwyn

This glorious two AA Rosette lakeside restaurant at Brocket Hall, is housed in a charming red brick former hunting lodge, and   is lauded by satisfied customers who praise its location and delicious gourmet food.

For a meal with a view, Auberge du Lac is hard to beat, set overlooking the water and the grand hotel beyond. 

Address: Brocket Hall, Marford Road, Welwyn AL8 7XG

Website: brocket-hall.co.uk

23. The Verulam Arms, St Albans

The Verulam Arms serves good quality pub food like burgers, fish and chips and rib-eye steak, all elevated to restaurant quality in terms in ingredients, embellishments and presentation.

Think steak with white pudding and Tenderstem broccoli, pan-fried calamari with Thai spices, sesame seeds and mango puree, and pan-fried seabass with potato croquettes, pak choi, samphire and creamy prawn, capers and parsley sauce. There's also a lovely festoon-lit beer garden to the rear. 

Address: 41 Lower Dagnall Street, St Albans AL3 4QE

Website: verulamarms.co.uk

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