High Street, LANE END, HP14 3JG
This was The Clayton Arms for nearly half a century, named after Sir Robert Clayton who built it in 1679 on becoming Lord Mayor of London. Today the house's spacious spick-and-span interior mixes cosy corners with comfortably furnished drinking and dining areas, to create a smart country town pub in the true British tradition. The staff's smiling faces, well cared for real ales, and impressive modern menus all combine to make the Grouse & Ale an inviting venue for family and friends. With a drink and a menu, relax in the sun-trap courtyard. Choice is extensive and high on comfort appeal, but attention to detail, top quality ingredients and beautiful presentation have won awards for the kitchen. Deal with hungry children first: home-made fish fingers and skinny chips is a firm favourite, while pasta with tomato sauce topped with cheese appeals to those with more grown-up tastes. Pub favourites list farmhouse pork sausages, creamy mash, rich onion gravy; Guinness-braised shin of beef pie; and beer-battered haddock with hand-cut chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce. With the variety and high gastro appeal on offer, choosing a three-course special occasion dinner is not difficult. Spiced tiger prawn and salmon fishcakes with pickled cucumber and pak choi salad makes a mouthwatering starter. Follow with pan-seared breast of Gressingham duck served with black cherry and balsamic sauce with carrot and potato rösti and sautéed courgettes. A mixed fruit crumble with a pot of custard rounds things off nicely - unless the artisan British cheese plate is too much of a temptation. As you would expect from an establishment that aims to please, the list of coffees and teas is exemplary.