YEARS ago the Chequers Inn, just before you reach Redbourn on the main road from St Albans, was the place to go for a meal out, famed for its huge, tender steaks the sort of place a boyfriend might take you if he was really keen.

I don't know what's happened in the interim I have a feeling it went downhill at one time but calling in last Friday lunchtime I found the place absolutely packed with diners and a menu so tempting I can only hope it eats as good as it reads.

In a county where deer and pheasants seem to queue up to throw themselves under your wheels it is always disappointing to find so little of it on the plate, so it was splendid to see a separate game board. It offered around six dishes including cream of pheasant soup, wild boar, pear and Stilton sausage, venison meatballs in red wine, and the yummy-sounding guinea fowl with apricot, prune and star anise compote.

The pub actually specialises in fresh fish on the board last Friday were mussels and leeks en croustarde, grilled red mullet with Italian salad, whole grilled Emperor bream wrapped in Parma ham, baked orange talapia filled with mushrooms and spinach and grilled marlin on roasted vegetables.

But before I get carried away with greed, this is also a pub. And I was glad to find five real ales, all with tasting notes on two boards, including national brands Courage Best and Young's Special, as well as Hartleys XB, Bateman's Combined Harvester (a seasonal ale) and, from Scotland ready for Hallowe'en, Harviestoun's Gremlin. Though most people were eating, I didn't feel out of place with my half of Gremlin at £1.22.

Originally a 14th Century coaching station, this white-washed hostelry has a splendid thatched roof and is filled with beams some decorated with hops. The earliest reference to the Chequers is on a 1760 map when it was part of Fish Street Farm, owned by Lord Verulam.