I've been going to the Royal Standard of England for God knows how many years now. It's supposed to be the oldest freehouse in England, and I have no particular reason to doubt it. The building looks old enough- a Quakerish brick and timber pub in the seventeenth century South Buckinghamshire style, bordered by a brick-and-flint wall, and found down a single track, pot-holed lane near Forty Green, Beaconsfield, on the outskirts of London, where the outer suburbs meet the mucky countryside of "Tinker Country". Here, the scrapmetal heaps of road-side gipsy encampments sit uneasily next to the cliquey golf courses of Bekonscot Man, where hearty middle-aged execs (clad in the latest polyester plaid and natty Pringle v-necks) practise their swings and entertain the Boss.
In the days when I was still wearing shorts and humouring my pyromaniacal tendencies with a magnifying glass and a pile of smouldering leaves, they used to serve 'Owd Rodger'- an especially dark and black bitter of superhuman strength with the density of pond water and, which, according to local lore, was limited to one pint per burgher. This was the stuff which put hairs on your chest. Those days are now past, and there is no sign of "Owd Rodger" on the menu, which is a pity, as I look back to those days of inebriated discovery with nostalgia.
In a world now dominated by Farrow & Ball and its many acolytes, I am delighted to say that The Royal Standard is a rare example of a pub which has actually improved with age. The interior is slightly grotty, with muzak and dubious sub-Rothko contemporary paintings banned. The food is excellent, too- which helps.
Mrs Aitch ordered fish and chips (£12), and that is exactly what she got- a beautifully cooked, generous helping of cod wrapped in a thick, traditional batter, served with chips of the chunky persuasion. I ordered the Steak and Kidney Pudding with cabbage (£12), and a pint of the local Chiltern Ale. Again, it was properly cooked, with a suety pudding crust as your dear old Grandmother might have made, with thick, meaty gravy, and a verdant cabbage. It's always a good sign when pubs stock local beer, and the Chiltern Ale lived up to expectations.
The Mutton Shepherd's Pie (£10), Buckinghamshire Bacon Badger (£12), Braised Elwy Valley Welsh Lamb Shank, with sauteed potatoes and roasted vegetables (£16), and Bramley Apple Crumble (£5) all looked excellent. The Malt Whisky list looks interesting, too with Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, Dalwhinne and the Welsh whisky, Penderyn at £2.75 a shot.
How wonderful to find a pub serving Apple Crumble!
The Royal Standard of England is Pub of the Year, 2009.