Restaurant Review: The Three Horseshoes, Harpenden

An aggressive marketing campaign draws food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne to an 18th century hideaway in Harpenden

AS with London buses, you can wait ages for an interesting restaurant to come along and then several arrive together. This review originally had a venue for Father's Day in its sights but events intervened and the four of us turned instead to The Three Horseshoes on Harpenden's East Common. This has been clamouring for attention for a while with a series of special offers, the latest being 50% off dinner if you went on one of three 'training days' to launch the new a la carte summer menu. Normal cost is �16.95 for two courses and �19.95 for three.I discovered the place rates a mention in the 2008 Michelin Great Britain & Ireland guide, which praises its 'peaceful rural location, open fire and low ceiling' and the 'eclectic mix of European dishes, seasoned by the pub's herb garden'.The peaceful location is off to one side of the common. The building is an 18th century inn now almost wholly given over to the restaurant. The overall impression is one of cosiness, with white walls and exposed beams, though, as Michelin also notes, the small interior - the restaurant musters 40 covers - could get claustrophobic.So far so good, but that business of 'training days', not to mention 50% off, can give rise to all sorts of problems. It is therefore pleasing to report we found little to complain about. Of the six starters listed, crayfish and apple cocktail took the fancy of two of the party, while the rest ordered tomato and mozzarella salad with rocket and pesto. All was as it should be, both dishes finding the right balance of flavours and all arriving at the correct slightly chilled temperature for a summer's evening. Among the eight mains was grilled pollock, but the offered accompaniments of mushy peas and fat chips put me off and I chose instead confit of duck leg with puy lentils and bacon. It worked. The rest of the party went for roasted rump of new season lamb with summer vegetables and a redcurrant jus and are still raving about it.The dessert menu branched out enough to offer white chocolate truffle torte with a black cherry compote but there was a strawberry frangipane on special, which settled the argument for half the group, while the traditionalists went for treacle tart with clotted cream.A round-up of opinion revealed everyone liked the place and the food. It was a fun, unpretentious evening that would have been enjoyable even at normal prices.


The Three Horseshoes136 East Common,Harpenden AL5 1AW01582 713

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