Review: The Belgian Arms, Holyport
An idyllic village pub serving fuss-free British classics, The Belgian Arms enjoys a stellar location – but does the menu shine? Napkin draped, grab your fork and tuck in
Hot foot it to the leafy village of Holyport, The Belgian Arms is a pub showing some leg. Pretty wisteria climbs the exterior walls, the garden overlooks the village pond and that outlook is framed by weeping willows. The village is part of the parish of Bray, but while Heston and pals hog the limelight with their constellation of Michelin stars, Holyport with its four pubs is all about kicking back and enjoying life in the slow lane.
The pub is over 200 years old and prior to the First World War it was known as The Eagle. A prisoner of war camp was at the end of Holyport Street and the Germans would march past and salute the Eagle. In honour of the many locals who fought in Belgium it was renamed The Belgian Arms.
It’s a buzzy pub for all seasons. The cosy vibe dials up during the cooler months and a lush, summery garden. When we arrived for lunch on a sunny Sunday afternoon the car park was full and there were locals enjoy a pint ands lots of families and friends enjoying lunch. The decor is like a game of country pub bingo. Sludgy tones, open fires, rustic wooden furniture, nooks and stylish Flying Ducks Mulberry Home wallpaper. HOUSE!
I particularly enjoyed the garden. Many of the tables are covered by an opened sided tipi tent the pond and village green outlook is very Midsomer Murders. It’s loved by locals and destination for pub lovers seeking a very English view. It’s worth noting, if the car park is full, Holyport Street is permit parking only, so find a spot around the green. Parking wardens have a field day here. The staff can help point you in the right direction.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Seasonal British fuss-free food and they have a great selection of beers and wines with a shortlist of prestigious bottles by the glass if you fancy an upgrade. Yum. As you would expect the Great British roast dominates the Sunday menu – which I am totally here for. But there are grazing boards and lighter mains if you’re not a fan. The kids menu is blissfully short and there’s something to satisfy the fussiest ankle biter.
We’ve had enough time drooling over the menu, let’s get stuck in. We dipped our toe into the Belgian Arms’ gastronomic waters with garlic and herb prawns with a Lebanese fattoush. Fat-what? A quick Google search and I discover it’s a salad. The end result was a bit like a deconstructed prawn cocktail. Beautifully cooked prawns, fresh salad and the dressing ratio was spot on. On the other side of the table sat a tomato and basil gazpacho, served with croutons and sun dried tomato. Cold soup is not my vibe, but to get so much flavour from simple ingredients creates a party for you palette.
Bring on the roast! Now the idea of cooking a roast in 25°C+ is too much for most of us. But gaaaaad I appreciate it when someone else make the effort. The beef and pork belly are both from Fernygrove Farm just three miles down the road. Food miles are low and provenance is top notch. Each plate is served with a Yorkshire Pudding, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese and seasonal greens. Everything was cooked to perfection and the pork crackling was next level. Good to a veggie/ vegan Wellington on the menu and it was the crab and salmon salad nearly won the day when I saw it was gin cured.
Traditional pub puds were available but we asked our friendly waiter if they would make us an affogato. They could not have been more obliging and the double espresso was rather handily served in a little job so I didn’t spill it all over the table. If Sundays are the day of rest, I could not think of a lovelier place to hangout with the fam drinking chilled Picpoul de Pinet while eating excellent pub food sourced some of Berkshire’s best producers.
OUT & ABOUT
Love your horses? You’re in the right place. Trot down the road to Windsor Racecourse for fun and a flutter. The local Polo clubs allow you to live out your Pretty Woman fantasties (minus the prostitution, obvs). An audience with the Queen awaits at Windsor Castle. Don’t miss the new Coronation exhibition which includes her exquisite gown, robe and jewellery. You’ll also find plenty of walks, Bray Lake Watersports is a Muddy fave spot for paddley sports and, if you’re lucky, Dorney Lake gives you eyes on the Britain’s rowing talent.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Just about anyone seeking a good country pub. From the quality of the food and drink to the team’s warm welcome, keeping standards high and the offering simple is its superpower.
Not for: If you’re a dedicated follower of fine dining or foodie fashion, head down the road to Bray. Informality is worn like a badge of honor.
The damage: Average for this neck of the woods. Starters from 7.50, roasts £17.50-£24.50 and kids menu dishes from £8. Sharing platters are fro £18.50.
The Belgian Arms, Holyport St, Holyport, Maidenhead SL6 2JR