The Potters Arms is, at first glance, that most mythical of beasts. A quaint village pub, holding court over a wide open green, in the heart of Midsomer Murders country – all mature beech trees and chocolate box houses. But on closer inspection, it’s so much more. And that’s in no small part down to owner and landlord Richard Edwards who exhausted every conceivable avenue during lockdown to keep the pub open and available to the community. From shipping in pastries from Jungs in Beaconsfield and buying a griddle for bacon rolls so that they could provide takeaway breakfasts, to building a pizza oven and joining up to Just Eat, to devising online quizzes allowing people to interact when the ability to socialise was at an all-time low.
As luck would have it, Richard installed a huge patio (with 80 covers) in January 2019 and that must have repaid all effort and expenditure many times over by now. Because when arriving at the well-kept pub on a warm summer evening, there is really no reason why you’d want to sit inside. Solid, comfortable wood chairs and tables sit under pergolas and umbrellas, with fairy lights and olive trees interspersed between them. There’s a terrace bar (one of Richard’s smart lockdown additions) and an undeniable feeling of being on holiday in the south Med, not four mile’s drive from Amersham Station.
We arrive at 8pm in late June and the place is abuzz with older families having dinner, locals catching up with a beer or two, couples on dates and around 9 o’clock, four cyclists in full lycra rock up for a pint before heading home. Staff flit around happily; there’s an easiness to proceedings – but that’s not to say we weren’t looked after as our food and drinks arrived promptly – it’s just casual and relaxed, which is exactly what you want on a summer evening.
Because of the lateness of the hour, there weren’t any children around but families are very welcome and there is a dedicated children’s menu. And I suspect, in the middle of the day when food has been consumed, for kids, the village green just over the road will come into play. Winchmore Hill is quiet and completely off the beaten track; it’s not somewhere you ‘pass through’ so traffic is at a minimum and taking a drink over the road to oversee the kids playing will not be an issue.
The Potter’s Arms is equidistant between Amersham and Beaconsfield – but still in the middle of the countryside – so it is a classic destination pub. It’s Comedy Festival (this year taking place between 28-30 Aug) is a must-attend event and Richard has some live music teed up along with a huge screen for guests to watch the various sporting events happening this summer. So rooms where customers can spend the night are becoming a necessity. Happily, there are four B&B rooms (all en-suite, two doubles and two twins) already up and running and three more planned for 2022 – the builders are just starting onsite.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Variety. That’s the name of the game here. We were presented with three – three! – menus, which made it quite hard to choose. There was pub classics, a good range of pizzas from the oven and a Thai menu (served only on Fridays and Saturdays). We were advised that not all Thai dishes would be available as Whan, the Thai chef was off sick that night so we sadly waved goodbye to the six delicious-sounding curries and stir fries but couldn’t resist some duck spring rolls to start. They were fresh and crunchy and utterly moreish. And portions aren’t a problem here – a starter would work quite well as a light lunch. My dinner date for the evening chose bubble & squeak with poached egg, bacon and hollandaise and was suitably delighted.
For mains, I missed out on the last ribeye steak by 10 minutes (our fault for gossiping for over our Aperol Spritzes rather than ordering) so now with a hankering for chips, I was advised to order the pork loin ribs. And it was enormous. In fact, I think it could have fed an entire family and I only managed about 40%. But the meat was tender and the chips were thick and crunchy and although I did need half a pack of baby wipes afterwards, it was a satisfying pub dinner. My friend had a pizza from the newly installed pizza oven. She had suspended her no-carbs diet for the evening and had her final two slices boxed to go – so that’s always a good sign.
We chose to wait a while for dessert but in the meantime were presented with a pina colada slush cocktail each (they also do strawberry daiquiri slushies too) from the terrace bar and as the sun set, it really did feel like we could be on a Menorcan beach somewhere, sans the sand.
It was most definitely twilight when we thought we should give the dessert menu a try (I mean, you have to, right?) and between us we ordered the cheesecake of the day (lemon and lime) and the sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. Both were lovely but the sheer amount of food at this point had over faced us both and we had to admit defeat about half way through. We apologised profusely but the staff were lovely and charming about it so even as we rolled from our tables into the cab, we left feeling really well fed and really well looked after.
OUT & ABOUT
Winchmore Hill is regularly frequented by walkers and cyclists and little wonder; it’s high up on the Chilterns and there is a fab seven mile circular walk taking in the other two nearby villages – Penn and Coleshill – if you want to make a day of it. Other than that, Amersham is a quick drive away as is Beaconsfield if you travel due south, so a spot of boutique shopping could be the order of the day or perhaps make The Potters Arms your lunch destination after a morning at Amersham Museum or Bekonscot Model Railway.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: Just about everyone who wants a relaxed, enjoyable meal and drinks in a friendly pub setting.
NOT FOR: It’s not fine dining so if you have a hankering to dress up in your finest and feast on smoked abalone, you might need to go elsewhere. It’s also wise to think about travel if you’ll be drinking; its country location means you either drive or get a taxi. The nearest train stations are Amersham or Beaconsfield.
THE DAMAGE: Prices are completely reasonable. Starters begin at around £6-£7, mains start at £12 and dessert from £6. Children’s mains are £6.75. Wines being at about £20 a bottle/ £5.20 a glass.
The Potters Arms, Fagnall Lane, Winchmore Hill, Bucks, HP7 0PH; 01494 726222; pottersarms.co.uk.