Monday, 19 April 2010
Casual 50 Mile Cycle for Lunch at the Hole in the Wall in Cambridgeshire
At 8am on Easter Saturday when most sane people are safely tucked up in bed dreaming of not doing very much and about to tuck into a leisurely breakfast, Cowie and I set off on a 50 mile bike ride in search of lunch. We left my parents’ house near Bedford and headed east to Cambridgeshire. I’d been convinced by Cowie that it was going to be far easier than our previous trips because everything is downhill to Cambridge.
We zoomed through Bedford and romped towards the A1 where we had a fairly hairy moment crossing the A1! So far so flat. Then as we left Sandy what appeared to be East Anglia’s tallest mountain loomed in front of us. Within moments I had dropped into my lowest gear and was panting like a shaggy dog in the sunshine. But when we got to the top of the green sands ridge the view was epic. The trees had changed from deciduous to coniferous and the air seemed clearer.
We were blessed with glorious weather that belied the predictions by the met office and arrived in a small village called Little Wilbraham spot on 1 o’clock. We felt very smug, exhausted and ravenous as we waited for the Brown-brigade to arrive.
The Hole in the Wall is featured in Diana Henry’s Gastro Pub Cookbook, that has become our bible. It has almost always been spot on with its recommendations and this time was no exception. It has also has recently been awarded a Michelin Bib. The pub is run by Jenny and Chris Leeton who pride themselves on the pub's friendly atmosphere, wooden beams, fabulous beer and proper pub food. Even though the menu was tragically truncated due to a serious traffic accident, we had a great meal. The short menu didn’t let us down.
After a restorative few pints of lime and soda water and a pint of local ale, we ordered pretty much everything on the menu!
The shrimps were served slightly warm and tasted every bit as good, if not better, than the ones I’ve previously had at The Anchor and Hope.
Those who had the soufflé groaned and only very reluctantly offered me a nibble. It was perfect balance of flavour and texture with a walnut sauce that added an extra dimension. And for my parents who are trying to avoid carbs at the moment, it was a great treat to find such a dish on a pub menu.
When my steak and kidney pie arrived I let out a little squeak of delight. After 50 miles of cycling it was just what I needed. The pastry flaked like an anorexic Hollywood star and yielded to reveal a scaldingly hot meaty goo. Tender beef and perfectly cooked kidney mingled with a thick beery liquor that kept me quiet for at least 10 minutes. I often find kidney a bit overpowering, but not this time. Having been away from the UK for three weeks this pie captured the spirit of the English food that I’ve been missing. The bacon and spinach on the side was terrific. As was the silky parsnip mash.
Dad’s sausages with onion gravy and broccoli tasted good, as did Cowie’s scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
By this point I’d normally be feeling pretty full and very unlikely to order pudding. But with 4 hours of cycling in the bank I unshackled my greed and let it take over…
Sticky toffee bread and butter pudding with butterscrotch sauce is not going to win me any prizes from anyone in the medical world, although I might make me a contender for a Darwin Award. It was stodgy, sweet, gungy, and so naughty it should have been made to stand in the corner. What a pudding.
Cowie’s pavlova with passionfruit sorbet was delicious. Tart, sweet and light. Just like a wannabe pop star.
And Suz’s treacle tart with toffee ice cream was great too. It had been made with milled oats, which gave it a coarse but satisfying texture. Not that I could even manage any more than the smallest mouthful!
For many reasons that are far beyond the scope of this blog, this meal was incredibly heart warming. It’s a lunch that I won’t forget for a long time. As we drove back home I felt overcome with happiness. And it made me realise the importance of family, how much I enjoy our amazing cycle trips, the joy of the British countryside and just how good proper British pub food can be. It's definitely true, distance makes the heart grow fonder.
2 High Street, Little Wilbraham, Cambs CB21 5JY.
Tel 01223 812282
Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook on Amazon
Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook Another Helping on Amazon
The Hole in the Wall on Square Meal
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