Lunch Review: The Chequers, Bragbury End

Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne checks out Vintage Inns' new 'premium dining' concept...

About the restaurantVintage Inns is boosting the food offering in its collection of country pubs and the Chequers is one of three in Hertfordshire that have recently undergone major refurbishment to bring in the ‘premium dining’ concept.

Atmosphere and decorOriginally a farmhouse, the building dates from 1774 and its history is an integral part of the atmosphere. The refurb has been done sympathetically, with warm pastel colours on the historic print-bedecked walls, mood-enhancing lighting, new seating and a bigger dining area.

ServiceThings were quiet when we arrived on a Thursday lunchtime but warmed up quickly. After an initial greeting, we were left to ourselves to cope with the several menus on the table before it was explained that we ordered at the bar. Once we were in the swing of it, service was warm and friendly.

The menuTake your reading glasses – the main menu features six sharing plates, 10 starters, almost 30 mains sub-divided into pub classics; meat, game and poultry; grills and seafood, plus side dishes, nine puddings and a cheeseboard. Then there are the daily specials, the ‘lunch and lite bites’ and the fixed-price menu. It’s a something-for-everyone approach and it’s undeniably popular.

To startFrom the main menu, seared king scallops (�6.45) and button and forest mushrooms au gratin (�4.95) hit the spot, the scallops properly creamy and plenty of garlic to lift the mushrooms.

Main coursesWild Scottish venison steak (�16.45) was almost a foregone conclusion for me and despite what must be an industrial-strength kitchen still carried a whiff of gaminess, as it should. It was also perfectly cooked and the chestnut mushroom and herb sauce was a good accompaniment. Roast guinea fowl with apricot stuffing (�12.95) proved equally popular across the table and came with spiced sweet potato wedges.

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DessertsA good choice at around �4.75 each included a host of familiar favourites, ranging from spiced poached pears, apple and blackcurrant crumble and banoffee cheesecake to plum and almond frangipane.

The experienceVintage Inns is keeping a lot of people happy with a mid-market value-for-money product. The Chequers filled rapidly after our arrival and staff were enthusiastic about the refurbishment. The food was wholesome and quality control is clearly at work. Don’t expect cordon bleu but go for a cheery, comfortable meal.

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The ChequersBragbury End Stevenage SG2 8TH01438 817814www.vintageinn.co.uk/thechequersstevenageThe cost of this lunch for two was �60 including a bottle of wine and service.

This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

3 of a kind

The Crown in BroxbourneAnother member of the same family as the Chequers. Waterside setting off the beaten track in Broxbourne.Old Nazeing Road, Broxbourne EN10 6QT01992 462244

The Colney Fox in London ColneyThe third of the Hertfordshire Vintage Inns to be given a new look this year, the Fox is a favourite in the St Albans area.1 Barnet Road, London Colney AL2 1BL01727 823698

The Crooked ChimneyOriginally a farmhouse, the popular Crooked Chimney, another Vintage Inn, has been an inn since 1756. Cromer Hyde Lane, Lemsford AL8 7XE01707 397021

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