Images: Charlotte Griffiths
We head out to Heydon for a lunchtime feast fit for a king
Dappled in late afternoon sun, our lunch venue looks a picture of rural charm as we make our approach. Rolling fields to the back, the chocolate box village of Heydon to the front; this handsome, old English inn is the stuff country pub dreams are made of. We were evidently not the only ones won over – the King William IV’s dining room was heaving with happy diners on our Saturday afternoon visit. The pub’s sprawling layout meant it didn’t feel cramped, though, and we were shown to a peaceful window seat looking out onto a pretty garden that offers ample seating.
The pub, which dates back to the 16th century, wears its rich history with pride. Surrounded by ancient fireplaces, flagstone floors, low timber beams and rustic bric-à-brac – you’d be hard pushed to remember you’re in the 21st century at all were it not for the iPhones on tables and cars pulling in.
The whole place creaks with character and charm in a way that wants you to retire with a good ale and settle in for as long as possible.
The cosiness of the King Bill invites something hearty, so despite the warm weather outside we found ourselves leaning towards traditional, calorie-laden pub grub. My eye was caught by the Billy Burger, promising a homemade 8oz steak patty with cheese, dill pickle and relish with chunky chips.
It was every bit as delicious as it sounds, the burger meltingly tender, slathered in sticky caramelised onion between a soft, floury, white bun; the tomato-based relish adding a zing. A burger fit for a king indeed.
“It was every bit as delicious as it sounds, the burger meltingly tender”
Over on the other side of the table, my friend tucked into the ‘Good Cod Almighty’, aka battered cod served with chips and mushy peas. She praised the perfectly crisp batter and piping hot, succulent fish inside; delighting at the generously sized portion.
In addition to the classic British pub fare, there’s also some internationally inspired flavours to enjoy on the menu, with dishes like Malaysian beef rendang and Thai chicken pancakes with a rich plum sauce. While we went down the carnivorous route, rest assured that veggies are superbly catered for at this establishment. The pub is known for its ‘Vegetarian Verve’ menu, which offers well thought-out plant-based dishes like chickpea, aubergine and spinach dhansak, and wild mushroom and cashew stroganoff with infused rice.
Our server assured us that the desserts were not to be missed, and he was right. The brownies were a densely delicious triumph but it was the Cambridge Burnt Cream which stole the show. The debate may rage on as to whether this dessert really originated in our city (or whether the identical French crème brûlée came first, courtesy of our Gallic cousins), but frankly nobody cares when it’s as rich and velvety as this. Many extra points for the buttery shortbread (excellent for dipping), and the lip-smackingly tart berry compote it was arrived with. Sheer dessert bliss.
We are blessed with an abundance of fantastic country pubs around Cambridgeshire, but few can hold a candle to the King Bill. With its quality food, lovely service and splendidly historic feel, it more than deserves its reputation as one of the finest gastro-pubs around. A gem for lucky locals, it’s well worth the trip out of town for any Cambridge dwellers in search of a hearty feast in an atmospheric setting. The pub has recently added four luxurious bedrooms to its offering, too: excellent news if you can’t bear to leave after your meal.
What: Historic pub with great grub and a cracking atmosphere, in the Cambridgeshire countryside
Where: 43 Chishill Rd, Heydon, Royston SG8 8PN
How Much: Starters from £4.95, mains from £12.95