Berkhamsted’s High Street was in the running for the Great Street Urbanism Award last year and the jostling for position among its plethora of restaurants and bars is fiercely competitive.
To that end Raymond Blanc opted to change tack with his Brasserie Blanc converting it to The Highwayman, under his White Brasserie brand - a collection of high-end gastropubs.
Blanc is a huge fan of British pubs, seeing them as a great institution that needs to be protected.
His White Brasserie chain aims to do just that while offering fresh, high quality food in a more relaxed setting.
The conversion of his Berkhamsted Brasserie Blanc to The Highwayman gastropub falls in line with the White label’s method statement of doing away with the formal, white table clothed dining experience and replacing it with a more relaxed, atmospheric offering.
Having experienced both, it is safe to say in its new Highwayman guise, Blanc’s Berkhamsted restaurant has benefited immensely from the change.
Infinitely busier and filled with laughter, music and the smell of good food, the gastropub setting has opened up the Highwayman to a much wider range of clientele.
The interior of the original restaurant was that of a high end fine dining establishment. It was luxurious and the very definition of the white table cloth dining experiences.
Having undergone an extensive refurbishment, the venue now boasts a much warmer and welcoming pub feel which is actually true to its roots as a coaching inn.
The menu is not just posh cod and chips, pies and burgers, though, like many establishments claiming to be gastropubs serve up.
The classic pub grub is there but it sits alongside authentic French fare which is produced using seasonal ingredients.
The dishes are cooked from scratch in the Highwayman’s open kitchen, a must-see if you climb the stairs to powder your nose.
Prices are reasonable working out at around £30 per head and the food, whether it is the award-winning burger, the sumptuous risotto or the fantastic children’s menu offering (three courses for just £5.95) - is typical of a Blanc restaurant, full of flavour and hearty portion sizes.
Of course you don’t have to eat, the Highwayman is also somewhere to meet for a beer or after work drinks.
But there is a range of bar snacks available should you inevitably get hungry when you see all the wonderfully presented food being delivered to the restaurant tables.
Despite quite literally being full to the rafters service was on point and the young staff are both polite and knowledgeable.
Manager Mike keeps things running smoothly but it is advisable to book in advance such is the popularity of the refurbished restaurant.
The problem with Berkhamsted, if you can call it a problem, is the sheer amount of choice when it comes to eating out.
Therefore it is testament to what the Highwayman now brings to the table that it is fast becoming the go-to eatery in the town.
Rating: 4/5, highly recommended.