From burger man to award-winning beer specialist

The current strained relations between the West and Russia revive memories of the Cold War.

Back then, there were real fears of nuclear war and, behind the windows of a rural bungalow nestling in the Essex countryside, lies a start reminder of such times.

During the Cold War when the UK was under the threat of a nuclear attack   by the Russians, the government decided that the way out for them to survive was a secret nuclear bunker.

The Kelvedon Hatch bunker is where the central government and military commanders would have run affairs had the UK been attacked and nuclear war broken out.

If you’re in this part of the county, it’s well worth a visit,  as is another well-known local “landmark” – the renowned and historic Woodbine inn, near Epping.

It dates from the 1880s, though there has been an alehouse on the site for even longer. Originally a farmhouse, it burned down and was rebuilt in 1887.

If you’re in the area – possibly to explore Epping Forest nearby – you should try to discover this classic English country pub.

Its assortment of great, contemporary local brews (plus some Belgian beers like Delirium), a renowned cider selection and 20 gins mean it has something for every palate.

It also flies the flag for real ales and is currently the 2018 East Anglia Cider Pub of the Year and also Essex Pub of the Year.

In fact, the current owners, Rob and Julie Chapman, have won a staggering 27 awards for their beers and ciders from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) group.

It’s just outside Waltham Abbey and very close to junction 26 of the M25 motorway.

Rob himself has a fascinating back story: he went to run a nightclub in Beijing just after the 2008 Olympics there  but returned to the UK where  he took over the Woodbine.

“I started with zero experience so I contacted the local CAMRA branch for help and advice,” he recalls.

His first award came only in his second year at the pub and, since then, he’s received awards also for the excellent food the pub serves.

This includes traditional British favourites like fish and chips, slow braised steak and homemade Scotch egg.

Rob says the emphasis at all times is on ensuring they do not serve food that is “full of unwanted and unnecessary preservatives.”

He says they try to source, where possible, local products from local producers, and they also even make their own ice cream.

The couple have come a long way since Rob first arrived back in the UK. At first, he operated a relatively humble burger bar from the pub’s car park. It was so good it was rated 14th best restaurant in Essex and truck drivers were known to take long detours off the adjacent m-way network just to sample their wares!

In a relatively short space of time they have managed to turn around what was a badly failing pub chain and transformed the pub into the huge success it is today.

One of the attractions – apart from the food and beer (Rob makes his own cider and estimates that he has served up to 600 different beers since he took over) – is the live music and comedy nights that the pub regularly hosts.

It is opposite one of the official entrances to Epping Forest but you can also pay a visit even if you’re as far away as London as it’s located just 20 minutes from Epping which is on the central line.

Woodbine Inn

Honey Ln, Waltham Abbey

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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