Living on the outskirts of Epping Forest we made the most of the late October sunshine this weekend, when we went for lunch at the Duke of Wellington at High Beach.
The pub was originally built in the middle of the 19th century, at a time when the Iron Duke used to visit his friend General Grosvenor, who lived nearby in the then sleepy little Essex town of Loughton. Today it’s a very family friendly little boozer that is very popular with the local riding set, so there are plenty of folks in boots and jodhpurs propping up the bar. Drinks are reasonably priced for a pub the London area and its the only one I have come across where the house lager is Asahi.
Being quite hungry we ordered some starters, chicken sticks and baked cheese straws.
The chicken sticks were very tasty, but I thought the baked cheese straws were a bit bland. Perhaps cutting a bit of chilli through the cheese would have just given them a little extra bite, however they were very nicely presented. When it came to the mains I wish I’d plumped for the Merlot and steak pie that Nick had.
It was a proper full crust pie, packed with meat and served with a mountain of chips, crisp of shell with a fluffy heart. Instead I went for the cheeseburger,
perhaps I have been spoilt recently, but what I am looking for in a pub or restaurant burger (and for the price) is an artisan bun, a homemade patty and certainly not a Kraft cheese slice. This fell on all three counts, but on the plus side, there was a lovely crispy salad and a mountain of chips. Mab’s spinach and ricotta cannelloni, on the other hand, was one of the best I have sampled in a long time.
The Powder Monkey had a very substantial tuna mayonnaise baguette, which the chef chopped red onions through by special request, so extra points there and more points for replacing the erroneous tuna mayo baked potato that had arrived first, without any fuss at all.
On balance for our £57, including drinks and a couple of extra buckets of those ‘oh so good’ chips, I thought it was pretty good value, the food was beautifully presented and I’d certainly eat there again, only next time I will avoid ordering a burger.
Hunger satisfied we went for a wander in the forest. Most of the trees around High Beach are beeches, but there are also a few oaks. As you can see they are still green of leaf, thanks to the unseasonal weather.
There is also a lot of wildlife to be seen. We spotted dragonflies, magpies, jackdaws and loads of grey squirrels, while trying to avoid the numerous rabbit burrows underfoot.
I have seen the odd deer in the forest, they are mostly a dark form of fallow deer and muntjac, but they are much shyer than the red deer of Richmond Park and I think on Saturday we were far too close to civilisation for them.
Sadly many of the trees are suffering from old age, pollution and disease,
but while that may be bad for the trees it’s good news for fungi and the wood boring beetles, and the woodpeckers who like to eat them.
High Beach is a fair walk through Epping Forest from Loughton Underground Station on the Central Line. Don’t get High Beach’s Duke of Wellington confused with the Duke of Wellington pub in Epping, they are completely different boozers.