Best Part: The Service!
We first visited Dylan’s soon after it had opened and were impressed with the upmarket take on pub dining. The meal was slightly impaired, however, by a misunderstanding about nut allergies (and we all know how easy those are, see last week) that left me eating my baguette in solitude whilst my wife searched frantically for a pharmacist. Things have changed since then, with Craft and Cleaver also offering classy but indulgent food and a wide range of unusual beers. Dylan’s has responded by dialling down the pub side and making more explicit claims to restaurant-hood. After we were seated in the dining area at the back and handed the menus we were actually contemplating leaving as the two or three course menu was not really what we were looking for either in quantity or budget.
Luckily the attentive (but not embarrassingly over attentive) and friendly waitress came to our rescue, offering us the snacking menu usually reserved for the front “pub” area whilst allowing us to keep our nice table with proper upright chairs. This was especially welcome as my wife gets freaked out by taxidermy and was not relishing the prospect of eating her meal under the glassy stare of a badger being ridden by a squirrel.
I think the beer selection on tap has become less experimental since my last visit, but range is less important when what you have is top quality. I went for a glass of Brewdog Doodlebug, at 2.8% the perfect strength when you have to return to work in the afternoon. It also tasted so nice with an almost grapefruit hopiness that my wife had to order one after having a sip, despite already having a perfectly adequate pineapple juice.
For the food I went for the Beef Dripping Chips, with slow cooked beef and blue cheese, and I have to say in my slightly hungover state they were pretty much “the best thing ever” (though most things are in that state, so I would concede that there are other things in the universe that are at least as good). The chips were full of beefy flavour, thick but not floury and quick to fall apart. The beef was the same, if anything a trifle beefier, and the blue cheese added a richness to proceedings.
As a side we shared some Halloumi Fries. I know what you are thinking as it is what pretty much everyone at work said when I told them about my lunch, ‘you had fries as a side order to chips?’ Well, yes I did, but as these were halloumi fries so the only similarity was the shape and as you’d know if you were paying attention the beef dripping chips were quite thick anyway. And besides, the halloumi fries were so good that even if they had been identical to my other course I still would have ordered them. I once ordered 32 chili cheese bites at a Burger King, so I would think nothing of getting halloumi fries with a side of halloumi fries.
The vegetarian section on either menu was not extensive, but you really only need one good thing, and if you are my wife that one good thing needs to be without nuts. Unfortunately that was not the case here, but the nice waitress lady very kindly offered to provide the cous cous Burrito without Pine nuts. The chef had to stuff it with another filling but it ended up being really imaginative mix of flavours that we couldn’t fully pinpoint. There seemed to be squash, beetroot and cheese involved which my wife is always pleased about.
My dining and life companion has one negative comment to make, and that is about the strange dead (stuffed) animals in the bar area. Sorry to come back to this point but it needs to be said. She challenges even non vegetarians to feel relaxed with the cast of the Wind in the Willows frozen in time by her elbow. Mr Toad and his car were lacking and I do feel that their presence might have helped to ease the tension somewhat. Consequently we would not go to Dylan’s together for the pub area alone. In fact on the occasion we tried it one Saturday night it was so busy with taxidermy loving St Albanites that we couldn’t get to the bar anyway. Clearly lots of people like stuffed animals or are happy to go to the Dylan’s bar and look at them for free rather than drive out to the Tring museum.
There are enough little details (that had never been alive) to make it seem like they could be from an actual old pub, which gives you the illusion of continuity back to St Albans’ coaching inn heyday, but with a staff that are far more attentive and helpful than I would imagine the historic bar-wenches of old would have been. The final indication of just how much this gets everything right was when they bought a shot glass of mini eggs along with the bill (a bill that they accepted payment for speedily, I may add). Dylans stands proudly as one of our town’s culinary gems, and I recommend it to you as I do to most everyone I talk to.