THE Park, on the crossroads of Kimbolton Road and Park Avenue in Bedford, has always had a good reputation as somewhere you can enjoy a decent pint and relax in a safe and comfortable environment.
Now, with the reopening of its refurbished Conservatory restaurant, its reputation has been elevated well above its rival locals.
Costing Â£95,000 and taking just 14 days, the Conservatory is modern and smart yet cosy and welcoming.
There is an impressive and reasonably priced (at least by most restaurantsâ€™ standards) wine list, with a wide selection from the Old and New World. Not all wines are available by the glass, unfortunately, but there is enough choice if you donâ€™t want to splash out and buy a whole bottle. Mr B opted for a Pinot Grigio while I enjoyed a suitably oaky Australian Chardonnay.
The main food menu includes stone-fired pizzas, salads and pasta, steaks and ‘comfort’ food, such as bangers and mash and beer-battered fish and home-made chips. There is also a Specials menu, which gives the chef a chance to show off his creative flair.
For a starter, Mr B selected the baked camembert, and his eyes popped slightly as this monster was set down before him. It was magnificent: in fact, it could have been shared by two people. The dipping bread was wonderfully fresh and the sweet onion relish complemented the dish perfectly.
After a gentle break, the main courses arrived. Mr B was now ready for his full-on carb fest but even he looked a bit daunted by the huge mixed mushroom pizza and side order of home-made chunky chips with garlic mayonnaise.
Everything was fresh and delicious. What particularly pleased him was, rather than having to struggle with a normal knife and fork, he had been provided with his own personal pizza slicer.
My â€˜Grazing Boardâ€™ – one of the house specialities – was a great choice and I would highly recommend one of these for two people at lunchtime.
I went for the smoked fish selection (salmon and peppered mackerel) with crayfish tails and marinated olives. The whole ensemble tasted as good as it looked and tomato bread – baked locally – with olive oil and balsamic for dipping completed the spread.
Although we were feeling rather full, the dessert menu was too tempting not to sample. My passion fruit bavarois and raspberry coulis was light and full of flavour, while Mr Bâ€™s sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce more than lived up to expectations.
Eating at The Park is a cut above your normal pub dining experience. The menu is realistically priced (especially for the quality and portion sizes on offer), the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and the staff are attentive without being intrusive. They actually smile at you and seem genuinely pleased that youâ€™ve chosen to eat there.
Therefore my two pieces of advice regarding The Park are:
1. Definitely give it a try.
2. Make sure you go there hungry…
For more information, visit www.theparkbedford.co.uk“