Some sticks in the sticks? NICK HAMMOND adds his two penneth to help put together a brand new cigar lounge in the countryside…
IT’S always pleasing to see another cigar venue opening.
Nine times out of 10, those that do are in London, it seems – so it’s with particular pleasure that I introduce you today to The Navigation Inn – in rural North Bucks.
It’s a pretty little pub astride the Grand Union Canal in the beautiful Tove valley between Milton Keynes and Northampton. As well as a cracking view over arable and mixed farmland and a broad sweep of the canal, it is well stocked with excellent food, an open-plan kitchen, wood-fired ovens, an enviable cellar – and a brand new cigar lounge to boot.
Here, I must declare an interest; I suggested the idea to them in the first place. I don’t live a million miles from here, and when I spotted a tucked away alcove underneath the popular open air decking above, I could see it had potential as a perfect cigar haven. And so, over the past few months, Oakman Inns, which runs The Navigation and several others like in the Home Counties, has been putting the pieces of the jigsaw together.
Now we have a small, but well stocked-humidor on site; personal favourites such as the Dunhill 1907 Robusto and the Por Larranaga Petit Corona have been included, as well as several other excellent Cuban and New World marques at an affordable range of prices. Highest priced cigar is the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 at £20.
There is comfy seating, a moveable screen to protect from the worst of the elements, heaters, cigar ashtrays – and a Zen-like peace to help you while away a pleasant hour or two.
Canalboats chug past just a few feet away – a casual wave from the skipper being the traditional friendly greeting on the water. Ducks glide past with the occasional melodic quack; the contented hum of happy diners drifts down to you. It really is a lovely spot.
Now it may have been an entirely selfish act to get a great cigar lounge built on my doorstep, but I’m not keeping it to myself. Lovers of the leaf are all welcome to join in the fun. You are welcome to bring your own cigars here – so long as you are dining; otherwise, you’re expected to do the decent thing and buy a stick and a drink or two from the bar before making yourself comfortable. We need to reward proactive restaurateurs like Oakman Inns for taking the trouble to make provision for cigar smokers, not take the mickey out of them. Cigar folks are an eminently decent lot – selfish smokers aren’t tolerated.
If you fancy a trip out one afternoon, it’s well worth making the pleasant drive to find The Navigation – just book in advance if you’re coming for lunch or dinner. Since its opening a year ago, it’s been hugely busy and has become a well-known local spot for a good pint and meal in a picturesque setting.
I may well be organising a cigar event or two there in the future. Be sure to let me know of your interest. And if you pass by and notice the chalkboards outside proudly announcing the availability of cigars at the bar, try not to swerve off the road. Perform a U-turn when it is safe to do and go and check the place out.
Oh. And tell ’em I sent you.
The Navigation Inn, Cosgrove, Thrupp Wharf, Station Road, Cosgrove, MK19 7BE, Tel 926270. Fore more information, visit www.thenavigationcosgrove.co.uk.