Restaurant Review: The Fox, Harpenden
Tasty delights on offer at The Fox in Harpenden
HERALDING the open fields just north of Harpenden, The Fox gastro pub is tucked just inside the northern extremes of the county border. First impressions are strong with a spacious car park and attractive, part weather boarded frontage. Inside, the recent refurbishment has created a modern, open-plan feel with plenty of wood and light coloured walls decorated with Indian-style carved wooden panels.
A daily changing lunchtime menu gives diners the choice of three 'little dishes', as starters or for light appetites, along with a risotto and pizza of the day and two main course dishes. I opted for the cream of tomato and basil soup to start, followed by the main course duck breast, with buttered greens, herb mashed potato and a five spice jus.
While waiting for my starter chunks of poppy seed and sun-dried tomato cob arrived with a saucer of mixed olive oil and balsamic vinegar; a welcoming start in keeping with the mainly Italian themed menu. The tomato soup was hot and plentiful and promptly served. It had a healthy, fresh tomato flavour and good seasoning.
Whoever created the pub's logo of a smartly dressed fox (possibly in hunting gear), enjoying a tankard of ale, has to be congratulated on the wily design. The strong complementary colours and personality shine through. It is such an enduring image I wouldn't be surprised if it is a good part of the recipe for the popularity of this pub.
My duck breast was served sliced on top of shredded Savoy cabbage on stylish square china. A piping of herb mash was to one side of the rich, mahogany five spice jus. My waitress had been thoughtful enough to ask how I wanted the duck breast cooked and it arrived as requested. My only minor gripe was the slightly too strong five-spice flavouring, overpowering the duck, but overall a quite credible dish.
I finished my lunch with a mango, passion fruit and meringue fool. On paper it sounded an ideal teaming but in reality it came too rich on cream and too short on fruit. To me a fool contrasts sharp fruit with the richness of double cream, which is why gooseberry fool is such an English classic. The ingredients in The Fox's version are well chosen but the proportions need addressing.
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Overall it is clear a lot of thought has gone into the development of The Fox at Harpenden but as customers become ever more educated about what they like and want, pubs and restaurants will constantly have to raise their game with food in the hunt for continuing success.
The Fox469 Luton RoadHarpenden, AL5 3QE01582 713 817http://www.thefoxharpenden.co.uk/