The Jolly Woodman
Chop chop, head to the woods and discover this lovely 19th century bolthole on the Berks-Bucks border.
If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise – a newly refurbished 19th century country pub. Under new ownership and having enjoyed a serious amount of TLC (it’s re-opened just 2 months ago), The Jolly Woodman is back with a smile as big as his axe. Set back from a fairly busy road between Maidenhead and Slough, the pub is hugged by trees and is a big draw for dog walkers, horse riders and parents dragging their kids out to let off steam before making a well deserved pubby pitstop.
Despite the name, there wasn’t a check shirt wearing, bearded wood chopper to be seen (mores the pity), but it is everything you would want from a country pub, open fires, piles of neatly stacked logs (obligatory), tartan carpet, scrubbed pine tables, industrial lighting, exposed beams and quirkier touches like the low hanging converted oil lamps and small pallets used as wall lights. It is rustic with a hint of quirky.
Outside the front of the pub are a few swish outdoor tables surrounded by hanging baskets and raised beds festooned with flowers. There’s also an enclosed beer garden for marauding toddlers to the rear. Inside it’s open plan-ish with raised areas, pillars and fire places carving out more intimate areas.
When I visited on a busy, buzzy Friday lunch service and there was a good mix of couples, families and well behaved dogs enjoying the laid-back vibes. It’s no slouch in the evenings either, with a good crowd for dinner, drinkies and live music events.
Scoff & quaff
But I didn’t wear my roomy pants for nothing, so let’s crack onto the food. Oh all right then, the drink. It was a bold lunchtime move, but I abandoned the wine menu for a refreshing gin and tonic. Manager Caron has a good selection of gins behind the bar, and my Monkey 47 with Fever Tree tonic had all the Friday feels about it. Because the pub’s not tied to a brewery they have a huge amount of flexibility and the beer du jour right now is Marlow brewed Rebellion. The wine list is short but sweet with all budgets and tastes catered for. You fancy a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon, you got it (and a bill for £165, ahem), happy with the house rosé, it’s a fruity number from Puglia and a reasonable £16.
As for the food, pub classics done well. I ordered the chilli and hot garlic oil prawns. It was served with a pretty large salad garish drizzled in salad dress and black olives (bloody love an olive) and two rather sinister looking ‘just for show’ king prawns. It was cooked to perfection, nobody like rubbery shellfish, and delish.
Next up fish and chips. What can I say? It was a Friday and who am I to fly in the face of tradition? What I love about The Jolly Woodman is that they offer some dishes as a small or large. I opted for the small – a bargainous £9.90 – and it was a great piece of fish. The peas were served in a cute mini enamel mug, served with good portion of chunky chips. I wasn’t a massive fan of the tartare sauce. It was a bit runny and sharp for my taste but I’m being picky (I blame the gin).
There was a lot of things I could have chosen on the menu, 4 different burgers, including The Woodman sliders (3 mini burgers for the indecisive), ham egg and chips, pie, pasta and steak. Kids are well catered for with 2 types of pasta and 4 kids classics and they are well known for serving a cracking Sunday roast. The benchmark for every good country pub.
There were 4 desserts available during my visit a creme brûlée, a fruity cheesecake, summer crumble and ice cream. On this occasion, I made my excuses and left. It would have been the ice cream in this weather, but it all looked good.
Out & about
Cliveden National Trust is just 10mins down the road, so if you want to really make a day of it, head there to explore the 365 acres. You’ll find Lynn Chadwick’s awesome sculptures dotted around the grounds, you can lose the kids in the maze (and enjoy 5 minutes peace) and dunk your toes in the famous shell fountain. If that all sounds like waaaaay too much effort, why not pop into the woods opposite The Jolly Woodman and stretch your legs. There is a 2.5-mile and 4.5-mile circular walk, if you’re up to it.
Alternatively, just hang out at the pub. It’s a bit of a TV and film location fave having appeared in Genevieve, Carry On Dick, Man in the Moon, Made of Honor, Midsummer Murders, Riot Club, and more recently, Outnumbered.
Good for: Anyone looking for a nice relaxed lunch or dinner. With its extensive dining areas, it’s also great for large groups and family and gatherings. The garden will be a blessing for parents with fidgety kids. The nearby walks make it the perfect spot for dog walkers, cyclists and anyone wanting to exhaust the kids (me me me).
Not for: Those looking for a stylish contemporary gastro pub – the interiors are traditional and while the food does the job perfectly well, the menu isn’t going to excite hipsters or super-foodies. There aren’t many veggie dishes, so if your meat-free, you might find the option a bit limited.
££: Really good value. Starters are priced at £5 for bread and olives and go to £9 for my prawn dish, mains start at £8 for a small ham, egg and chips, up to £24 for the 10oz rib eye steak. All kids meals are £4.95 and you can grab a sarnie and fries from £7.50.
The Jolly Woodman, Littleworth Rd, Burnham, Slough SL1 8PF