Embankment is one of Bedford's most imposing and enduring landmarks, enjoying a prominent vantage point on the River Great Ouse and looking out onto the hustle and bustle of life on the river. This late Victorian inn has recently been given a complete make-over and resumed its rightful place in the Bedfordshire social scene.
The Embankment also has twenty luxurious cosy en-suite rooms - some with attractive views over the river and all with the little comfortable touches you'd find at home: piles of pillows to sink into, great linen on the quality beds, powerful showers, antique mirrors and sumptuous velvet throws. Make sure you tuck into an Embankment breakfast before you check out; it's available from 8 in the morning until a very leisurely 11 and features traditional English cooked breakfast with eggs as you like them as well as a tasty hash with poached eggs and bacon, or something lighter if a large lunch is looming.
Since Andrew Coath - British Institute of Innkeeping's Licensee of the Year in 2007 and manager of two other respected pubs in the area, The Black Horse in Woburn and The Swan at Salford near Milton Keynes - moved in last May, some subtle and not-so-subtle changes have been taking place at the pub, culminating in The Embankment's re-opening in March 2009.
The transformation has been dramatic. Working with landlord, local brewer Charles Wells, Andrew and his team have restored and redecorated all of the pub's Victorian features using a colour scheme that nods to the building's Arts & Crafts character. Antique gilt-framed mirrors, deep-buttoned seating in British Racing Green and rich silk lampshades have given the pub back its Victorian grandeur whilst keeping the atmosphere friendly and hospitable, whether you are in for a pint of Bombardier brewed locally in Bedford or a celebration dinner in the pub?s glamorous new private dining room.
A generous new bar serving Charles Wells's finest brews now greets you on arrival, offering you plenty of places to perch and enjoy the view. Warm weather encourages a wander outside or perhaps to eat and drink al fresco on the new riverside terrace.
Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the food. With new head chef, Christophe Perney, at the helm, The Embankment kitchen is now creating dishes of well prepared and freshly cooked seasonal food with sound quality ingredients such as 28-day dry-aged Aberdeenshire beef, excellent sausages, free-range chicken and pork and seasonal vegetables. Hardly surprising, since Christophe trained under the legendary Joël Robuchon in Paris.
A range of starters and light mains could include crispy fried squid with aioli and crusty olive bread or pear, Quenby Hall Stilton and walnut tart. Lurking amongst the main courses you might find one of those succulent 28-day dry aged Aberdeenshire 8oz rump cap steaks with chips and Béarnaise sauce, or a grilled marinated monkfish with sweet potato and sweet chilli stew. Those who like some routine in their lives can tuck into a roast of the day with a different joint for every day of the week teamed with the special seasonal vegetable dish of the day - leg of Cornish lamb on Tuesdays and Jimmy Butler's free-range pork on Wednesdays for instance.
The deli board comes in five different guises - antipasti, charcuterie, cheese, fish and favourites like olives, spicy potatoes, chorizo and houmous with warm pitta. It's good for sharing or if you're just peckish yourself.
The express menu served between noon and 6pm covers some very satisfying bases, including that day's roast, an 8oz ground Aberdeenshire beef burger with bacon, cheese, coleslaw, chips and chutney and home-made soup of the day. The beauty of the Embankment menu is that you can pick and choose to build the meal you want, be it feast or snack, rounding off with a delectable dessert like sticky toffee pudding oozing with butterscotch sauce or a nicely sharp glazed lemon tart and lime shortbread.
Whilst eating is most certainly taken seriously, a pub wouldn't be a pub without great drinks. The wine list, recently described in the press as 'uncluttered yet imaginative', offers an excellent example of the year's fashionable fizz, a Prosecco from Villa Sandi at £4.50 a glass as well as classy Gavi di Gavi and quality New World reds such as John Duval's Plexus, more usually seen in top London restaurants, but served here at prices so reasonable they'd make a snooty sommelier shudder! Around a dozen or so are served by the glass and 500ml carafes fortify that brasserie feel with conviction.
As for real ale, it couldn't be more local if it tried, with well-kept Bombardier and Eagle IPA brewed less than a mile away at Charles Wells's brewery, and a selection of continental lagers on tap and in bottle to boot.
The revival of the Embankment has brought to Bedford what it has long needed - a focal point for those who like to eat and drink in comfort and style in an elegant destination. Check on their Website
for seasonal menus, news and events.