REVIEW: The Russell Arms pub, Butler’s Cross (Aylesbury Vale)
4th Sep 2012
Then it dawned on me. Who cares?! The real question is: what do I want to do? And I wanted to check out The Russell Arms in Butler’s Cross (a few miles south of Aylesbury) bought this year by a group of local villagers and re-opened last month by the experienced No. 2 Pound St team in Wendover. So that’s what we did!
The pub is a mere stone’s throw from Chequers, and isn’t shy about shouting about its political clientele. Former PMs have their mug-shots on the wall (above), and today Tony Blair was reading from his autobiography when I was on the loo which was a bit disconcerting.
The pub’s position isn’t particularly fetching at the side of the road but it’s definitely been a successful refurbishment in the accepted mould of ubiquitous slate grey plus the occasional quirky touch. (Can someone please produce an off-the-wall decor like Les Trois Garcons in London? Just asking!). The pub/bar area particularly works well, with a brick fire just waiting for winter, and a nice line in modern cushions and acidic chairs. The main dining area is tight for seating, but for adults that’s no problem – sometimes it’s good to have that buzz and proximity. For smaller kids, well, maybe yours sit still better than mine.
As it was, we sat outside in a smallish but smartly landscaped garden. Basic picnic benches on the grass, and a large table on the main patio where we sat.
So the food. It’s very good in a local gastropubby sort of way. Nothing too fancy, just well-priced, well-cooked dishes. For once I managed to remember to take some photos before I started noshing so you can see for yourself my entree of egg on muffin with a creamy sweetcorn hollandaise, then a really fantastic mackerel on a waldorf-style salad. ( I didn’t write down exactly what I was eating so these may be approximate descriptions).
My sherry trifle was a bit light on the sherry (sorry, it’s been a long break at home with the kids) but by that point I was set to explode so it probably did me a favour. The children’s menu had the usual basics, including home-made fish fingers (either battered or grilled), and a choice of desserts for a reasonable £6.50. Nothing to stretch their gastronomic experience, but enough for them to choose something they liked.
Service was friendly and helpful, if a bit muted – I guess four children at one table might do that to you. God knows I’m a shell of the woman I used to be. It’s also worth noting that this has been a soft launch for The Russell Arms while they iron out the inevitable glitches. The official launch is later this month so well worth a call to check when that’s happening.
Best for… a lunch-time stop off if you’re walking around Coombe Hill or Chequers. There are some pubby options like eggy bread, fish and chips or steak to counterbalance the souffles and terrines. I imagine it’s good for a weekend pint and paper scenario. I’d eat here with girlfriends, and try it again for dinner with my husband. For kids it’s certainly welcoming , and older children will be fine.
Be warned… Love desserts? It was the weak point in an otherwise delicious lunch. Parents of young children may struggle slightly too - large buggies will find it hard to park up in the main dining area or go up the steps to the grass; tempermental toddlers might like to let off steam in a larger garden.
The Russell Arms, 2 Chalkshires Road, Butlers Cross, Bucks HP17 OTS. Tel: 01296 622 618