The Sugar Loaf gets a makeover and a new style of cuisine

First published in News

BIG names from 80s pop have been seen making their way to The Cherry Tree Inn at Stoke Row near Henley, where Carol Decker of T'Pau fame and her partner Richard Coates have transformed an ancient pub into a gastro inn.

It's already been acclaimed Les Routiers Regional Inn of the Year.

Not that Carol has been seen in the kitchen. She's a fish finger kind of cook, apparently, but her flair is more evident in the design of the inn's bedrooms.

Now their business partner Paul Gilchrist, who lives in Little Chalfont, has persuaded them that his own village needs just the same kind of informal yet food-savvy inn.

So with a third partner, Tony Flynn, the three men who have all worked for prestigious London restaurants have bought and transformed The Sugar Loaf Inn on Station Road, Little Chalfont. Paul explains: "I felt the area was crying out for a good food-led pub that sold great beer, had a good selection of wine and provided excellent service."

But don't worry that the makeover means stainless steel and minimalism. Rather, the bar and restaurant are uncluttered and a bit classy in a pubby kind of way, with the lovely old oak panelling polished up, carpets replaced with wooden floor, and unpretentious furnishings. The only thing we didn't like were the 60s-style lampshades. But I guess shades are a personal thing.

No problems with the food though. The menu is original without being whacky. From the lunch specials, which are priced from £6.50 to £8.50, options range from mussels in wine sauce with chips, to sausage and mash or penne pasta with roast squash.

The main menu for midday and evening is even more varied.

My choice of grilled asparagus served with roast fig and prosciutto ham (£5.25) was a great starter, light but tasty. This was followed with confit duck leg on roast vegetables (£6.95) from the lunch menu. They do lots of old-fashioned favourites with an original twist, like liver and bacon with mash and a balsamic and caramelised onion jus; or fillet of cod on fresh tagliatelle in a clam, thyme and tomato sauce.

Courgette frites? Sounds fab, and I couldn't resist a side order (£2.25) of these little beauties. A brilliant alternative to chips. I'm told they also do a mean treacle tart with home-made vanilla ice cream.

Local products are used where possible, including braised shank of Chiltern lamb which I'm saving for my next visit.

Kids are well catered for too probably because the owners have young children themselves with fresh meals and a baby changing area.

Attention to detail shows, as in the provision of quality newspapers, good wines and coffees, and up-market toiletries in the washrooms. Ah, the all-important Ladies...

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