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How The Alford Arms Became One Of Hertfordshire’s Hottest Food Destinations

summer at the alford arms

A marriage made in heaven

becky david salisbury

David and Becky Salisbury recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their pub, the Alford Arms, in Frithsden. The latter tells Absolutely about the ups and downs, but why it’s still love at first sight?

Why did you originally want to run a pub?

David is a career caterer, but I fell into it like many others. We both met whilst running pubs in London, and once we were married, it made sense to have our own business.

aa bar

How long were you looking for the right spot and what exactly were you looking for?

summer at the alford arms

We looked for three years to find our perfect first pub – the Alford Arms. We looked at south-east England and sites in most of the Home Counties. We slowly refined our criteria during our search, and this little pub in Hertfordshire ticked all the boxes.

What about the Alford Arms encouraged you to take it over?

Location, location, location! This beautiful wooded valley, tucked away near Berkhamsted, is as pretty as can be, but it is also close to loads of chimney pots, and the building was just the right size and oozed charm.

I believe you have run the pub for over 25 years – how different was it in the early days?

aa dining room

The first few months were strange, as we had to wait for planning before moving the kitchen into the old brewhouse, which was key to supporting a busy pub and carrying out a major refurbishment. We waited nine months, but word spread, and trade grew from day one.

Have there been plenty of ups and downs in that time?

As in any business, you have to take the rough with the smooth, and building resilience is key to success. We have been through economic slumps and suffered a catastrophic fire in 2016 that closed us for six months, and, of course, more recently, the pandemic stretched us to our limits, but thankfully, with our amazing team’s help, we bounced back each time.

Can you pick out three highlights during the last 25 years that will always stick in your mind?

Winning The Publican Dining Pub National Award in 2005 felt like we had really made it. Launching our Pedal of Honour cycling charity, which raised over £100k in the 10 years it was running pre covid. And celebrating our 25th anniversary on 17 January 2024 with over 200 of our customers, old and new.

How important is the community around you?

We are at the heart of several local villages, not just Frithsden, and we would be lost without their support. We sponsor a local cricket team and support many local schools and charities with vouchers and gifts. Our next local “gig” will be having a Potten End Village School class visit us for some Pancake Day flipping with our chefs.

Do you use plenty of local suppliers?

aa poached local strawberries with black pepper shortbread clotted cream ice cream

Absolutely! We pride ourselves on the quality of our produce and list all our local suppliers on the back of menus. This means we can focus on ethically produced and free-range food.

How do you approach your food menus?

aa confit duck leg with crushed celeriac samphire lentil jus

Our menus have evolved, so now we change them weekly. This enables us to follow the seasons and take advantage of the very best produce from our smaller suppliers.

We love to eat out and have a vast collection of cookbooks, which, boosted by our favourite Instagram feeds, keep the ideas coming.

Is it possible to sum up the cooking style we can expect?

aa heritage tomato chilli marinated courgette salad with balsamic reduction

Our style is eclectic, and you will find influences from around the globe. The key theme is to allow the ingredients to shine, so we focus on the best flavours we can evoke for each dish.

Is there anything new for 2024 when it comes to your food?

We are sure the non-processed, healthy food trend will continue growing. So, we will continue to explore this area, but with a good smattering of classic comfort food thrown in for good measure.

Are there a couple of dishes on the menu that you are really loving right now, and if so, why?

aa bubble squeak

We cannot discuss our menu without zoning in on the “Bubble”! It has been on our menu since the beginning and is still our biggest seller: Bubble and Squeak with oak-smoked bacon, free-range poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. It’s a generous starter or light meal, but you can also have it as a “Double Bubble” main course if you’re particularly hungry!

As it’s cold outside, classics are always a surefire hit, and our chefs make a mean pie: Turkey and ham hock pie with creamed leeks is flying out the door this week, but you can expect lots of tempting fillings throughout the year.

Like with your food, do you try to support local businesses when it comes to the drinks you offer?

the alford arms dining room

You’ll always find a stellar lineup of local brews on the bar, and our lager, IPA, and stout are also made within 30 miles of here. We try to tick as many ethical boxes as possible, so all our wines are old-world to save on food miles, and many of our softs are organic from Luscombe’s in Devon.

What makes you happiest on a day to day basis – and any regrets about taking on the pub 25 years ago?

I have no regrets at all, and the thing that puts and keeps a smile on David’s and my faces are the smiles from customers and staff alike.

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Picture of Mark Kebble

Mark Kebble

Mark's career in journalism started in 2001 when he landed a role on a small lifestyle magazine in Angel, North London. Soon enough, the magazine was purchased by a larger organisation and Mark found himself promoted to editor at the tender age of 23. He later became group editor, working on magazines for Angel, Crouch End, Muswell Hill and Highgate. He was also involved in a launch in Hadley Wood and a major new group website, later becoming Group Hub Editor. In 2021, Mark joined Zest Media Group and oversaw the launch of many Absolutely titles across the UK. To date, Mark has launched in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Sussex, Essex, Yorkshire and Cheshire. When he does have some free time, Mark is also the Chairman of an amateur football club in Surrey and is also a fully qualified FA football coach.
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