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Review: The Black Horse, Stansted
THIS week I found myself well and truly off the beaten track.
Venturing into the darkest recesses of the Kent countryside, I stumbled, quite by accident, across The Black Horse at Stansted.
There can’t be many pubs more tucked away than this one.
Being Saturday evening - and me starving as usual - my first concern was whether food was being served.
When I was told it was, I realised my pangs of hunger had taken my full attention and I’d barely noticed the newly plastered walls and ceiling, not to mention dangling electrical fittings.
Realising I wasn’t a local, and perhaps sensing my next question, the landlady was quick to tell me they were still open but undergoing a refurbishment and did we mind a ‘slightly disorganised look’?
I spotted Larkins Traditional at £2.80 a pint and rapidly decided I could live with the undecorated appearance.
And I’ll say up front right now, how glad I was I took this decision.
Serving food between 6pm and 9pm on a Saturday evening, my dining pals and I chose three different items from the select but more than adequate menu.
The pan-fried pork chops I went for were excellent (£10.95) with roasted potatoes and roasted vegetables.
Likewise, the cod and chips at £9.95 were declared a great success.
However, both were overshadowed by quite simply the best burger ever served in any pub or restaurant.
Yes, at £9.50 the price isn’t the cheapest, but the Black Horse Burger is, and this was agreed by all three of us, the best you will ever taste.
So, let’s sum up so far - the Larkins at 3.4 per cent isn’t the strongest beer you’ll find, but it’s a damn fine pint.
The food is quite fantastic, but the pub is currently undergoing a facelift.
The welcome is as warm and friendly as you’ll find and our hostess informed me she and her husband had only had the pub for 12 weeks – what’s more it is their first venture into the trade – hence the place is being upgraded.
By this stage we were sharing pleasantries with a number of people at the bar and on the recommendation of one, I followed my pork chop with the Eton mess – another good decision.
Everyone was friendly, I particularly enjoyed being nuzzled by the cold nose of Willow – who I hasten to add was the most affectionate Weimaraner you could ever wish to meet.
We’d only been in the pub an hour but Phil, with shoulder-length white hair, already felt he knew us well enough to wish us an effusive good night as he left.
To conclude, I just want to say I desperately hope the ongoing refurbishment will not add any TV screens, fruit machines, juke boxes or other superfluous electricals.
This is, and must remain, a well-kept rural secret where the locals welcome all-comers, in particular the friendly four-legged variety.
I was so taken with the Black Horse I promised myself I would return very soon to try the Sunday lunch, read the papers and, perhaps, just perhaps, take a proper country walk.
Address: The Black Horse, Tumblefield Road, Stansted TN15 7PR
Decor * (a work in progress)
Drink **** (go for Larkins)
Price *** (good value)
Food ***** (best burger ever)
Atmosphere **** (totally relaxed)
Staff ***** (you won’t meet nicer people)