12 FEBRUARY 1960, Page 33

ThouOt for Food

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Nobly, Nobly, to the North-West.


First, then. on the way towards Oxford. I think there is little doubt you should stop at Milton C°mmon. which is on A-10, at a ,cross-roads formed by a branch to Thame. Here there is a seventeenth-century inn called Brill-111ton Grange, Which was taken over and completely redone— redone gastronomically, that is, not rebuilt—by .1r.and Mrs. Brooks Pilling. They watch the cook- ing and the service personally (which is the only formula for good catering), and the menu is large and attractive. It is up to good West End stand- ards, and I am told the preparation of the food is always just what it should be, which is a strong Phrase. It isn't cheap—main dishes run from 8s. 6d. (trout) to mixed grill at I 5s., with vegetables extra--but is worth it. The proprietors, treating the. French language as violently as one of my eminent colleagues does, announce they have _everything to offer the bon viveur.' A man who likes his food is a bon vivant; a viveur is a forni- cator, a roisterer, 'a gay dog, a rake' (Mansion's • dictionary) 'eelui mene one vie dissipee er ne

songe qu'aux plaisirs' (Larousse). But do not be alarmed; your wife will be safe at Brimpton Grange.

In the direction of Birmingham, if you follow AS to a little beyond Bletchley, there is a restaurant which advertises itself in bright blue as 'the inn that is different,' so loudly and widely that you can scarcely see the name, which is the Fountain. I suppose the stridency was needed before M I siphoned the lunatics off this route, and everyone was haring along madly. Anyway, the 'Shall 1 chambre them for you, sir?' cooking is, in fact, well above the standard of anything near by—mixed grill, Viennese escalope tested and approved in particular. Though the prices against each item seem as high as Brimpton Grange, they aren't, because they are for a three- course meal. Sound wine list with a couple of cheap items. A pleasant old building, too.

A little farther round to the north, on the Northampton road, try the Newport Pagnell inn which used to be called the Swan, and is now named the Swan Revived, I presume to indicate a reinvigoration. I get very good reports of cold salmon and steak Diane, and a sound St.,Estephe at 12s. 6d.

Swinging round yet a little farther toward due north, you will find two places in Bedfordshire which, while they mayn't justify a special journey (I am open to correction here, as everywhere else) are assuredly worth stopping at if you are going out that way anyhow. They are the sort of places where the prices start at 6s. 6d. and 7s. 6d. and don't run up to 15s., and where the beer is good. The food is straightforward and well cooked. The Falcon is at Bletsoe, north of Bedford, just off A6. The Swan is at Biggleswade on Al, and they say it has been in the same family's hands for some forty years.

If you are driving on the Al, or just off it any- way, there is something.which is indeed quite un- expected. St. Neots is a mild Huntingdonshire town with a parish church that has what the guide books call a 'noteworthy oak roof,' The New Inn is a sad-looking hotel in a main street. which, externally, has nothing noteworthy about. it at all. Enter it, and you can go through the ,darj: bar to an unexpected lounge which has something oddly French about it—red plush seats, as I remember, bric-a-brac, and very simple-minded -French comic cartoons on the wall. The restaurant, be- lieve it or not, is called Chez Nous-, and the clumsy menu (a long stiff thing, handwritten and then heetographed) justifies the name. The onion soup, for example, is properly gratinee, with toasted crusts and cheese. The main dishes are genuinely French bourgeois and a brief phrase of explanation is attached to them. (`Steak Maison- extravagant sauce with GARLIC,' 16s. 6d.) There is only a handful of dishes, all of which are cooked specially. This is as it should be, and I am told that esurient dons drive out here regularly from Cambridge, headed, of course, by Glyn Daniel. The wine list has not received the same careful attention as the food, but there is a drinkable St. Emilion at 15s.6d. This is the place which has most surprised me of all that I have tried in recent months.

Completing the circuit, if you go almost directly north from Hertford, you will come to a N;illage called Walton at Stone. Here, again, the George and Dragon is an example of a pub completely renovated by an energetic couple, in this base Mr. and Mrs. Stirling Field. They have, or had when last visited, a young chef who quite recently learnt his job in Blackpool and intends to rise in his pro- fession. Scampi in sherry sauce (5s. (x.) a distrust- ful friend of mine found to be 'what it claimed, not hake rissoles, not fried in batter, but Dublin Bay prawns swimming. in sherry.' The most individual dish is Hawaiian chicken which has a curry-like sauce, and so should be taken with beer. This is as well, for the wine list is weak, though the sherries are good and there is a 1914 Hine brandy.