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!

Potted shrimps

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.

Broccoli and goats cheese souffle

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.

Steak and ale pie

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.


Scrambled egg and smoked salmon

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…

Bread and butter pudding

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.

Treacle tart

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

Further reading:

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
More cycling adventures


Simon said...

Great photos!

Just Cook It said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Just Cook It said...

A truly excellent choice. If only I'd known - it is less than two miles from my house! Found out a couple of weeks ago that the chef trained with Michael Caines as well.

natural selection said...

It all looks fantastic! And thanks for the informative tips!

Manggy said...

What's so casual about a 50 mile cycle?! Ha ha ha.

Aww! Looks like a wonderful Easter lunch. Lots of similes here, heh. My eye as usual gravitated towards the desserts, but there's something about that steak and kidney pie (which also has a pastry top, oops) that's calling to me!

Paunchos said...

@Simon - Thanks. Must be the camera.

@Just Cook It - Fancy that. I think it is co-owned by a guy called Steve Bull who is a top chef as well as being an ex Wolves striker!

@natural selection - My pleasure.

@Manggy - The only thing casual about the cycle was the fact that it was nowhere near as hard as similar bike rides. Luckily it was a lot flatter.

An American in London said...

Nothing better than "earning" a filling and delicious lunch, and I hope your parents gave you and Cowie a lift home. I definitely couldn't exercise after such a meal!

Good tip on Diana Henry's book. I'll look for it.

East Anglia Restaurant said...

Wonderful post, great photos. What you did not add is the trip home, how did you manage that after lunch and a couple of beverages, the A1 was not sooo scary then was it!

Paunchos said...

@An American in London - You're right. The satisfaction of having earned it makes it all the better. But woe betide the pub or restaurant that doesn't live up to expectations when you are this hungry! We definitely couldn't have cycled after this - my parents drove us home!

@East Anglia Restaurant - Glad you liked the post and the pictures. I mentioned that we drove home. Which was great. I certainly couldn't have cycled another inch!

Dan said...

Browners, I also love a good gastro pub, and have (on your recommendation) bought both the Diana Henry books - I've also found that I've rarely been steered wrong by them. So interesting to see somewhere I've looked at in the book, but haven't visited - and really good to hear it stands up to scrutiny. The food looks seriously good. When I'm next over that way, I'll definitely visit.

Paunchos said...

@Dan - They are excellent books. I would have thought they might be up for a revision at some point though. There must be some other good Gastro Pubs knocking around.

The Hole in the Wall was really good. Nothing fancy. Nothing over the top. A few things were a bit twee. But very hard to fault. It made for a great atmosphere to have a really enjoyable catch up meal with my family.

I imagine with their full menu things would have been even better.


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