The Akeman, Tring
Sometimes you fail to notice a little gem on your doorstep and living so close to London with all it has to offer a foodie, it's too easy to overlook the bars and restaurants in a nearby town, Tring in Hertfordshire.This week however, invited by friends drawn by the Eat Out to Help Out offer, I enjoyed dinner at The Akeman located just off the High Street.
This popular pub/restaurant is just a few steps into Akeman Street, where further up this ancient Roman road you can also visit the quirky and fascinating offshoot of the Natural History Museum where case upon case of ancient taxidermy specimens provide an unusual glimpse into the natural world. (Don't miss the dressed fleas!)
The pleasant ambience of The Akeman is apparent from the second you enter. Evening lighting is as near perfect as you can get it - light enough to read the menu but subtle enough to create an intimate atmosphere. The acoustics are great too so despite having a decent number of covers in this spacious venue you don't get that empty barn vibe. I love that they've retained many of the building's original Victorian features too.
Good use is made of the outside courtyard space which is candlelit with seating and high bars for leaning on. Perfect for a pre or post meal drink.
Service is friendly enough to make even us infrequent fliers made to feel like welcome regulars whilst being formal enough to make a meal there feel like a special occasion. I was a little surprised to have my dishes passed over the table but coronavirus precautions have led to some odd changes in service in other places so maybe it was a new system designed to help staff avoid getting too close to diners.
Ambience aside, let's talk about the food. The Akeman can trace the food served from field to fork and chefs make good use of the charcoal-fuelled Josper grill -the med-inspired menu features many dishes utilising this fabulous asset.
The brunch/lunch menu is impressive offering Eggs Royale, Benedict and Funghi and the selection of avocado and sourdough dishes you'd expect in a commuter-heavy market town just outside London.
You can also get a BLT or a vegetarian Halloumi take on the classic sandwich with or without gluten free bread. In fact gluten free and vegetarian and vegan options are available across all menus throughout the day.)
The Akeman is popular with couples a great choice for families and groups of friends of all ages with an eclectic selection of dishes on offer in the evening ranging from burgers, pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas to a mouth-watering grill selection ensuring everyone is bound to find something to their taste.
The venue has a decent wine list and cocktail menu so I ordered a Cosmopolitan to savour while I perused the menu.
I debated the rump of lamb served with green beans, grilled gem lettuce, balsamic dressing, Fior di Ricotta and grilled courgette but ended up ordering British pork belly slow-roasted in cider & finished on the Josper served atop mashed potato, green beans and peas with a cute side dish of apple sauce and crackling.
The gravy alone was worthy of mention and it was all I could do not to lick the plate clean. The pork was fall-apart tender and the mash was buttery and lovely. Apparently for every pork belly dish they sell, 25p is donated to the Epilepsy Society so you get a warm fuzzy feeling along with a warm, full tummy.
We ended our meal with Belgian waffles served with chocolate sauce and divine strawberry ice cream and sticky toffee puds served with salted caramel ice cream.
With the government scheme discount my two course meal and cocktail cost just over £17. Bargain!
As to COVID-19 precautions The Akeman scored very well with a separate entrance and exit, multiple hand sanitising points, disposable menus and dividers between tables which in no way detracted from the ambience. My friend had booked so they had her details for track and trace purposes.
On the mainline out from Euston with the beautiful Tring park and Ashridge Forest on the doorstep, you could do worse than plan a day in and around Tring with brunch, lunch, dinner or Sunday lunch at this little diamond just seconds walk from the High Street.