Set in the beautiful Lambourn Valley at East Garston, the Queen’s Arms is one of a group of what I can only describe as ‘sporting pubs’; in this case the Sport of Kings (racing) and Shooting and Fishing.
The owners of these pubs (the Miller’s Collection) are field sport enthusiasts and it shows because they really understand and care about the comfort of their guests. They offer superb food and wines, and incredibly comfortable bedrooms and bathrooms. So whether your sport involves horses, guns or rods or all three, you can be assured of the best treatment whilst a guest in this inn.
We were a little underwhelmed by our initial impression of the Queen’s Arms but as soon as we stepped inside we were delighted by the way in which the public rooms had been decorated with sporting paraphernalia and photographs of country pursuits creating an eclectic chic style that was very pleasing.
They offer a range of very traditional bedrooms ranging from £100 to £150.00 but whichever you chose you can be assured of the same high standard of fittings. A unique feature is that each bedroom has been sponsored by a field sports trade company and has that brand’s memorabilia within the rooms to give it a very bespoke style, so names like Fishpond, Orvis, Holland and Holland and Hunter abound.
The beds are super comfortable with feather pillows and duvets; each room has the typical luxurious touches which we have come to expect from this group of hoteliers; hairdryer, telephone, wireless internet and organic REN toiletries and little extras which ease one comfortably into your new surroundings; cafetière with Mozzo coffee, Twinings tea, Hill Farm apple juice, chilled water and homemade biscuits. The bathroom we had, had a power shower and a rolled top bath. My only criticism of the bathroom would be that although the lighting is very affective and atmospheric, it is useful to have a good light over the mirror to enable the application of make-up!
So having relaxed and prepared ourselves for supper we joined a mixture of sporting people and locals in the restaurant. The food lived up to their aim to provide superb, simple classic English food with a touch of sophistication but not over fussy – a ploy used in many pubs to disguise the lack of culinary skills!
Also thanks to the skills of Vincent Gasnier, the wine list is impressive without the need to break the bank.Vincent’s passion for wine is evident and the following quote sums up his approach to all things oenological, ” I have an approach to wine that it should be fun, and everyone can and should enjoy it, whatever their age, social position or wealth……What more does anyone need? A little food, good company with family or friends around them, and one or two wonderful wines to drink, discuss and compare!”
Our visit to The Queen’s Arms coincided with the start of the shooting season so our inquiry to the very friendly and efficient staff as to who one should talk about shooting, elicited an introduction to Freddie Tulloch, a local landowner who runs several local shoots. This was just one example of the ‘nothing is too much trouble’ attitude of the staff.
An added bonus was the offer made by a local racehorse trainer for us to come and see their yard because one of the pub’s owner also owns various legs of horses and in one case the entire horse! His name is Dai Williams and he took us to see the racing yard of Henrietta Knight, who was married for many years to the talented but trying jockey, Terry Biddlecombe. It was the most beautiful yard, and we got the distinct impression that this was a yard where the horses could relax and enjoy a break away from the bustle and pressure of the large commercial yards.
So why is the Queen’s Arms so well placed to support a year round enjoyment of country pursuits?
It is superbly placed for Chalk Stream Fly Fishing as Berkshire has a great selection of beats on both rivers of the River Kennet and Lambourn. Here they have a variety of fishing in the gin-clear waters from April to the early October. As the seasons change the bar talk changes from the size of the fish to the height of the bird. The Queen’s Arms sits in the heart of prime shooting countryside with many famous shoots a stone’s throw from the doorstep – Freddie Tulloch’s shoots being a prime example. The whole day can be arranged by the hotel and out of season can organise clay pigeon days to keep ones eye in.
The Queen’s Arms can provide all the support for a days sport as well as any grand country house; early breakfasts, late suppers, packed lunches, bank side picnics and they will even cook your catch. And when necessary there is a wet room to take in your sodden clothes and boots, a safe room for your gun and last but not least a huge roaring fire to dry out in front of.
You just know that if you were staying here the night before a shoot, a day’s fishing or before a day at the races with a group of friends, it would set you up in such good spirits that the day would be guaranteed a success. This is a place in which to relax, laugh and enjoy the company of friends and strangers alike.
Chrissy Jarman has a Fine Arts Degree from Southampton University, and is the Features Editor.