August 6 2010
As a former brewery town, Watford used to have a large number of bars and pubs in the town centre. Many of these are now sadly closed, However here are however, some gems in and around Watford, and detailed below is a summary of these.
As a former brewery town, Watford used to have a large number of bars and pubs in the town centre. Many of these are now sadly closed, and the town centre now has it’s usual culprits of chain pubs/bars: Wetherspoons, Yates, Walkabout, O’Neills, Chicago Rock Café, Lloyds No1 etc ………..you know what to expect with these sort of establishments in terms of food and drink. There are however, some gems in and around Watford, and detailed below is a summary of these. Walking times from Watford Junction station(WJ) and Vicarage Road(VR) are indicative:
Druids 2, Estcourt Rd: “Everyone’s rugby club in a pub”. Yes, it is still the best meeting point both pre- and post match for those wishing to discuss all things rugby with like-minded people. Drinks to suit everyone, though I am amazed how often they run out of their main real ale on a match day! The food is not your normal fare either. It can get a bit crowded in there as its not the largest of pubs, however its location, between Watford Junction and Vicarage Rd, makes it an ideal stopping point. Walking time from WJ: 10 mins: Walking time to VR: 20 mins (Druids :: Everyone's Rugby Club in a Pub ! )
As an aside, if you are coming by car, the same company also has pubs in Rickmansworth (Druids 1), and a family pub/restaurant at Patchetts Green (The Compasses), 5 mins from M1 Jnc 5. Get your Sat Navs out to find these!
Oddfellows Arms (nee Macs Bar), Farraline Rd: This is the closest pub to Vicarage Rd, less than 5 minutes' walk. Not much in the way of food here normally, aside crisps and nuts, but in the spring and early autumn, the occasional bbq operates. The pub has an Irish heritage, so the Guinness is well looked after here, but there’s not much on offer for the ale drinker. Can get busy pre-match, as the away supporters usually head there after their coach has dropped them off at VR. Walking time from WJ: 20 mins: Walking time to VR: 5 mins
Estcourt Taven, St Johns Rd : Known locally as the Top Escourt, for reasons you will see below. Opposite Druids, and a Green King pub, they tend to have a least 3 ales on tap at all times. The beer is well looked after here generally, and they have a good range of food on offer; typical pub fare. Much larger than its neighbour across the road, but less rugby friendly. Walking time from WJ: 10 mins: Walking time to VR: 20 mins
Estcourt Arms, Woodford Rd: Known locally as Bottom Estcourt, or Lynch’s. A quaint pub close to WJ, run until very recently by Pat Lynch, who was Watford’s longest resident landlord. He’s sadly retired back to Ireland, but the Guinness was fantastic and they always had a couple of ales on tap, unusual for a pub with strong Irish roots. They do love their sport in there, horse racing in particular, and the food was always above standard. There was always entertainment on a Saturday and Sunday evenings, of the Irish variety normally. What its like since Pat has departed is unknown; the writer has been unable to get in there! Walking time from WJ: 5 mins: Walking time to VR: 25 mins
Wellington Arms, Woodford Rd: Opposite Escourt Tavern. Aside a selection of 3 ales, usually including an offering from the local Tring brewery, this large pub offers good food, and has numerous TVs for the sports lover. They do like their rugby in there as well, and there’s usually no issue them showing rugby and another sport if there is a clash, usually wendyball. It also offers B&B accommodation, so if you want to avoid the usual chain hotels, this offers a cheap alternative. Walking time from WJ: 5 mins: Walking time to VR: 25 mins ( Wellington Arms )
The Flag, Station Rd: Next door to WJ station, this cavernous pub is often overlooked for some reason. It is limited on the ale front, usually restricting itself to London Pride and Timothy Taylor Landlord, however they are trying in here now after a few dodgy years. The food menu is quite extensive. Staffing levels can be somewhat dubious for such a large pub, but very handy for that first/last drink. Walking time from WJ: 1 min: Walking time to VR: 25 mins
If you like the challenge of visiting a number of pubs before or after kick off, and are coming from WJ, then you could visit:
1) The Flag
2) Wellington Arms
3) Estcourt Arms/Bottom Escort/Lynchs
4) Estcourt Tavern/Top Escort
Off the beaten track, but worth making an effort for are:
Nascot Arms, Stamford Rd: Not far from WJ, but in the wrong direction to VR, this is the best pub in Watford by miles for ale. A Green King pub, they usually have 6 ales available (IPA, St Edmands & Abbot + 3 guests), the Abbot is normally superb. This pub is tucked away in a residential street and is not the largest pub around, it doesn’t have music, but they have come into the 21st century as far as having TVs for sporting events. Apart from the fantastic ale, they also have an extensive Thai menu, produced by what seems to be an army of chefs, don’t know how they get so many into the kitchen there! The quantity and quality they serve up is astonishing, you won’t have that normal hungry feeling an hour later……………If they do have a downside (but not one for this writer), they don’t encourage children inside, however there is a playground across the road and they will happily supply you with plastic glasses so you can supervise ! Walking time from WJ: 10 mins: Walking time to VR: 30 mins ( Nascot Arms )
Southern Cross Hotel, Langley Rd: Again, not a great distance from WJ, but in the wrong direction to VR. What they do have is a large bar with good value food menu, plus up to 6 ales on tap, 3 ongoing and 3 guests. Probably the most children friendly venue on this list, plus its also a hotel, and is a good alternative to the Travelodge/Premier Inns if you are staying overnight. Walking time from WJ: 15 mins: Walking time to VR: 30 mins ( Southern Cross Hotel )
To be fair and balanced, there are other pubs/bars in or near the town centre that you may come across, and the reasons for going or not going in:
The Bell, High St: Halfway between Druids and VR and you need a comfort break
Mangans, Market St: About two thirds between Druids and VR and you need a comfort break or you’ve been to the Catholic church next door and now need a drink
One Crown, Lower High St: You got off at Watford Lower High Street station(actually closer to VR than WJ) and this is the only pub you can find near it
Bedford Arms, Langley Rd: You went to the Nascot Arms or Southern Cross and didn’t use the toilets before you left, and this is the first pub you find
White Lion, St Albans Rd: You went to the Nascot Arms or Southern Cross and didn’t use the toilets at the Bedford Arms
Champions Bar, St Albans Rd: You want to drink South African ‘beer’, chat with the South African tribe that run it and enjoy their free braai, however there aren’t many South Africans in there.
The Horns, Hempstead Rd: You’ve parked at the very top end of the town and this is the first pub you find. If you get here and you’re on the train, you are going in the wrong direction.
Dunnings Bar, St Albans Rd: You’re either mad, desperate or it’s the only pub left open, as it’s the worst pub in town. Even Champions Bar next door is better then this.