It isn't often that we make two visits to a pub on the same day but the John Barleycorn in Duxford was worth it. On arrival for lunch we found the the barman waiting outside to tell us that there had been a power failure. So we took his advice and booked ahead for the evening - which came in handy as the place was heaving!
Comprised of low slung old cob walls and topped with a neat mop of thatch the John Barleycorn seems almost unbearably atmospheric
cob walls and topped with a neat mop of thatch the John Barleycorn seems almost unbearably atmospheric. It dates from 1660 when it was a coaching inn and during WW2 it became a favourite watering hole for the brave young airmen in Douglas Bader's Duxford Wing. More recently however the dark interior has been given an up to date Farrow and Ball makeover of duck egg blue. Today low wooden beamed ceilings and solid farmhouse scrubbed pine furniture suggests gastro-smart décor. Yet the cream washed walls add a dash of earthiness with decorations of hops, collections of old jugs and a glass case containing an immense stuffed pike of prehistoric proportions.
Along the single long bar sat clusters of drinkers chatting away noisily. Next to them gleamed pumps of Old Speckled Hen, Ruddles and Abbot Ale. Good drink requires good fodder and the John Barleycorn certainly comes up trumps on that score. Wisely, the new management hasn't discarded the old totally in favour of the new and so in between the artichoke tart, beetroot and spinach risotto and pork loin with ratatouille and fennel you can still find Cornish sardines, chef's homemade pie and haddock and chips.
Our pie came stuffed full of chicken and leeks, covered in light and crispy pastry. Altogether it delivered, although we'd have welcomed a slightly larger helping of mashed potato. Meanwhile the pork loin turned out to be a pork chop, but it was meltingly tender, and the ratatouille was satisfyingly garlicky and tomatoey. Pudding maintained these standards with a summer pudding oozing with blackberries and raspberries, and a bakewell tart topped full of a warm almond flavoured filling and surrounded by an intense strawberry coulis.
Service was friendly and efficient, and the comprehensive wine list proved reasonably priced with several choices available by the glass. And what a treat to find green damask napkins on the table instead of the pseudo loo paper kind!
Considering the standard of food, service and surroundings the prices are impressive. The food is British, presented in a British way and the John Barleycorn is the epitome of a traditional English pub. Long may it remain so.