What to do on the filthiest Sunday of the year?

It’s the last day of half term and for those of us not having been to Megeve or the Maldives, a week may be a long time in politics, but it’s a  lot longer with two children and driving rain.  Do we treat the kids to a Thai for Sunday lunch – a bit too urban – a Pizza – yes – if we want to spend £50 on a couple of Margheritas, a small salad, dough balls, three colas and a coffee.

So we ventured beyond the Henley comfort zone and looked for the “real pub” experience. Not another Gastro with steamed mussels and Penne Vongole at £15 - but a pub with a sandwich and a pint. Ca existe?

We tried the Dew Drop at Remenham – wonderfully welcoming by guests and staff – but full until 3pm (well done them and stupid us for thinking of going at 12.30 on a wet Sunday in February). The Horns, Crazies Hill was perfect too – except closed - waiting for new management.  1.30pm and the kid's idea of a pub crawl was not as fun as a the grown up version. There’s not a lot of I-spy you can do with steamed up windows.

We arrived at the Bell in Waltham St Lawrence – a Fourteenth Century, timber framed (what else!!) Inn in the middle of the village – picture pretty even in the horizontal rain.  No way would there be room.  The place was packed – mainly with locals – chatting, happy and out of the rain. Chris, the chef/ barman/ host was about 21 and the best breath of fresh air for a country pub. You could hardly move, but he would find us a table in 10 minutes he said.  He did.

We sat by a fire that Chaucer could have warmed his toes by and ate Bacon sandwiches (£5.50) and a perfect steak baguette (£7.50) with cheesy chips and cokes.  The kids didn’t fight and we talked about history and why wood didn’t rot when it was cut down and made into beams (I’m not sure I gave the right answer).

Chris came and asked my eight year old how old he thought the pub was. Correct answer from the genius (who had just been told).  What are those antlers on the wall – Munkjack came back the genius reply again (who’d just been told again).  Chris smiled politely and gave up – Smart Alex being muttered under his breath no doubt.

An hour and a half later, we had warmed up, stuffed ourselves, knew a little more about stuffed foxes (on the opposite wall from the Munkjack) and had a bill for £31 for four of us).  This is the way to spend a lazy half term Sunday lunch.  For the price of an undercooked Spaghetti Bolognese and half a bottle of terrible Merlot half way up a mountain in France, we finished our half term off in style.

Thank you to Chris (self-appointed skinny chef), the traditional chef (of more robust build) and to the locals at the Bell – best food of half term.    

The only downside is that I now have to look on eBay for a stuffed Bear for the sitting room.

Josephine home - 24 February 2015