Leighton Buzzard, England

One of the great pleasures of England is to visit a great country pub. Many people overseas berate the quality of food but really, typically, they are making opinions from a distant past. These days, food quality is as good as anywhere, the effort to buy local is probably better than in most places, and the quality of basic things like bread, beer, fruits and vegetables is probably way better than almost anywhere in the world.

Anyway, about an hour's drive north of London is the small town of Leighton Buzzard. It is a typical, light industrial city but in this case it is on the main London to Birmingham Railway, and the old main Canal, the Grand Union. Not that canals in the UK are large. They are narrow things with small locks, used to move the early industrial age heavy goods, particularly iron and coal, between industrial centres.

Nowadays, there is almost no industrial activity on any canal there, but there are a lot of pleasure boats. The pubs that used to serve a basic beer to the canal boats have either closed, or converted to gourmet pubs, serving a greats election of foods, together with delicious local beers. That has been the fate of the Grove Lock, a fabulous pub just south of Leighton Buzzard, on the canal and immediately adjacent to the Grove Lock which allows boats to move from one level, to another.

While retaining its air of a small local pub, the pub has been expanded to allow it to offer modern facilities, including an excellent patio, handicapped access to the place and excellent, clean bathroom facilities. We ate on the patio, and enjoyed excellent pub food, pleasantly served and reasonably priced, together with some delicious beer. The item that really caught our attention was the shrimp cocktail, which was offered in a half pint or pint, glass. My mother loves shrimp cocktail, but found she was unable to finish it. It was a full pint of delicious baby shrimp in a Marie rose sauce. Meanwhile, I enjoyed some delicious calf's liver served with vegetables.

After lunch, we drove less than a couple of miles to Ascott House, the beautiful gardens and home of one branch of the Rothschild family. Open to the public most afternoons, it is a lovely example of an English country home, and well worth a visit.