Royal Standard of England
Want to impress the rellies? Take them to the oldest freehouse in England - at 900 years old with resident ghosts, The Royal Standard in Forty Green has character in spades.
With a 900-year history, The Royal Standard of England is the oldest Freehouse in England and wears the badge on its sleeve proudly. Despite being out of the way in Forty Green, between Beaconsfield and Penn in South Bucks, and the danger that you might bump into one of the resident ghosts, it’s still clearly a very popular place.
The nooks and crannies that cleverly disguise that the pub can seat up to 200 people were filled with walkers, locals and tourists when I rocked up for lunch on a cold and drizzly Friday. It has also hosted Mary Berry and Ozzie Osbourne in the past (I love to imagine they were on a night out together with Paul Hollywood joining them later for the karaoke).
The outside of the pub is charming and looks every one of its 900 years – in a good way! – and the newly built hall to the left of the original building is totally sympathetic from the outside as well as in (but more about that later). It distinctive looks mean that The Royal Standard also moonlights as a set for TV and films, appearing in Morse, Hot Fuss, The Theory of Everything and my personal favourite Midsomer Murders.
Relaxed, comfy, homely – made more so by the fluffy grey pub cat that wrapped itself around my legs and actually snuggled down next to me while I ate my lunch. Great for cat lovers but probably not so enjoyable if you’ve got a raging allergy or a feline phobia.
There are large tables for big groups and numerous smaller ones hidden away for a more intimate chinwag. The décor has loads of totally original touches throughout and Matthew the current owner moved the bed head from an inbuilt four-poster down to the bar and hung it on the wall as well as relocating a stain glass window to make the most of these features.
The new hall is light and airy with a huge inglenook fireplace for hog roasts, which you can gnaw at Henry VIII- style on a long refectory table, the perfect space for a private party or large lunch.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The owners wanted the menu to be comforting and nostalgic made with top quality ingredients so the extensive menu has some real old school classics such as devils kidneys on fried bread and welsh rarebit. We plumped for a pot of fried whitebait to start – fresh, crispy and delicious but even to share we couldn’t get to the bottom of them.
This is a place with hearty portions to feed an appetite worked up by a proper walk or a big cycle. My husband drank a pint of Chiltern ale, which seemed the natural choice given the surroundings, and I had a nice sauvignon. Some of the wines I fancied weren’t sold by the glass, which is always a bit disappointing.
For the mains there were so many things I could have happily eaten such as the fish and chips (half portion was available) or the Penn Porker sausages but in the end I went back several decades and had lambs liver, bacon with onion gravy and mash. It delivered exactly what it promised, tasty, filling and reminded me of home.
My husband had a seriously good fish pie with loads of salmon and prawns and very fluffy mash. He said it was filling but light and incredibly tasty. Apols for the pink on the photo – it’s from the stained glass window!
Despite being full (when was that a barrier?) I squeezed in an Eaton Mess and it was the perfect creamy end to a meal of perfect winter comfort food.
OUT & ABOUT
This is prime walking territory and helpfully The Royal Standard provides printed walking routes. The National Trust’s Hughenden Manor is a 15 minute drive, Bekonscot Model Village is 10 minutes drive (little kids will go wild for it), and if you’re into shopping, head to Amersham for the best local indie and high end fashion boutiques – the likes of Iris, Whistles and Chattertons competing for your buck.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Goof for: A large group of friends or family for lunch looking for an unpretentious, relaxed venue, or a more intimate ‘date’ in one of the small tables for two nestled in the little hideaway areas.
Not for: Those who love a minimalist wine bar experience with chi chi cocktails and a wafer thin bit of salmon. This is hearty, traditional food and drink with big (I hate this word but…) portions!
The damage: It’s probably a bit more expensive than your average pub grub about £6-8 for a starter and between £14-£16 for a main up to £22 for a steak but worth it given the quality and the size of the (there we go again with that word) portions.
The Royal Standard, Forty Green, Beaconsfield HP9 1XS. Tel: 01494 673382.
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