Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Wycombe Bites - Heidrun

Like the old adage about buses, we’ve seen two ‘craft beer’ bars springing up within a stone’s throw of each other in Wycombe in the latter half of this year. Which is pretty revelatory for a town who’s drinking culture was until recently (like many other towns in England) dominated by ‘Spoons, Stella and Strongbow – the very beverage that bought me and my wife together, in the pub garden of the Antelope, July 2008.

The first of these to open was Heidrun, which, I presume, is named after the goat in Norse mythology who consumes the foliage of the Læraðr tree and produces mead for the warriors who have died in battle. I’ve yet to see any mead on their regularly changing beverage list, although they do always have Thistly Cross elderflower cider, which I first got into on a trip to Glasgow and remains dangerously drinkable. They also have a cute little courtyard garden that somehow manages to invoke a feeling of the South of France rather than South Bucks on a warm evening.

Inside is bijou but equally swish, with white and green tiled booths and a central horseshoe-shaped bar with stools covered in powder grey suede; soon, no doubt, also to be covered with stale beer and sticky fingerprints. The bar itself is dominated by their 20 keg and cask taps which regularly change - ergo so does the beer menu, which seems to have just been reprinted every time I visit as I seem to be perpetually hunting down the most up-to-date one.

One thing you can be sure of, once you’ve got hold of it, is there’s going to be some good beers listed. It's not just a mecca for hop heads either, as they offer a large selection of wines and cocktails from (very good) spritzes and sours through to Manhattans and margaritas and bloody marys to wash down brunch at the weekend.

Some of the keg beers I’ve sampled so far include; Burning Sky l’ete; Mikkeler's Ich Bin Berliner (the raspberry version); Buxton and Omnipollo's Lemon Meringue Pie and Thornbridge Lukas; all solid summery choices. There's normally some Kernel, Beavertown, and Magic Rock on offer and I’ve also drunk a lot of Siren, including Pompomocello, their Proteus IPA and the delightful Caribbean Chocolate Cake stout.

Cask beer, following a theme in this town, is less successful; a friend found their half of Brighton Bier pretty much undrinkable while the Ewing’s Arbor Umm Bingo and Stealth's Jaipur were served flat and too warm, making it taste incredibly sweet and syrupy. All beers, regardless of type or method of dispensation, are reserved in the same stemmed glasses, which might also upset the purist.

One thing that definitely won’t disappoint are the freshly baked sausage rolls. A giant cylinder of juicy fennel seed-flecked pork wrapped a carapace of crisp pastry, served with a homemade beer ketchup. Originally the aforementioned ketchup was more like a bowl of Heinz tomato soup, something I actually quite enjoyed, but it seems to be getting a little more substantial on each visit. The magnificent sausage roll itself remains peerless even if it is a proper knife and fork number, taking it out of true bar snack territory.

The scotch egg is equally swanky, coming encased in black pudding and served with mustard mayo and watercress. It looks very tasty, though - even for a vowed egg-avoider like myself. Oeuf fancier, Stealth certainly made quick work of it.

There is, however, a notable absence of crisps and scratchings, although you can get a tumbler of warm nuts for four quid. As nice as they are (and they are nice, as I got to sample a complimentary taster during one afternoon spent propping up the bar), I’d be just as happy with some posh crisps (preferable Pipers chorizo flavour, which I've discovered taste exactly like a saveloy). 

The rest of the menu is also on the spendier side for Wycombe, although they are clearly trying to lure in a different calibre of clientele than most of the surrounding establishments. I’m not sure how many takers there are for the £28 steak or the 18 quid pork chop, but the burger - at 13 quid, served with good parmesan truffle fries and more of their beer ketchup  – is decent; fluffy brioche bun, pink and juicy patty and lots of pickles.

The capable kitchen are equally adept at deserts and I would recommend the churros, served with a salted caramel dip. Even the Ewing liked these, despite her antipathy for the tubular doughnuts they serve in Spain, which was unfortunate for me as I had to share. I’m also still awaiting the baked custard tart with poached rhubarb to make it back on the menu.

As if beer and sausage rolls wasn't enough they have recently started offering beer flights - six quid for four quarter pints. If you really want to go for it you can go flying with wings, adding a portion of their buffalo wings to the mix for a tenner. You should definitely do that.

So, while maybe not quite in the league of Aegir - the ale-brewer of the gods who served his beer from a cauldron given to him by Thor, complete with glasses that never ran empty and parties that lasted all winter long (which is pretty much all the time in Scandinavia) - Heidrun is still pretty good for a new kid (boom) on the block.

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