The bar sleuth: Bird in Hand held up as a family place
If the old saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, then airmen assigned to RAF Mildenhall have something worthwhile in the Bird in Hand pub and restaurant just outside the base’s fence line.
Bird in Hand is about as stereotypical a “British pub” as it gets for an American. It serves plenty of beer and full plates of filling food in its comfortable, homey three rooms.
But since it’s been a British pub for more than 70 years — before American airmen started calling Mildenhall home — maybe the stereotype began because of places like this.
Either way, the pub carries a familiar feel, highlighted by the thick, old wooden beams of traditional British construction. The walls bear modern, framed military aircraft prints signed by their flight crews.
And Bird in Hand balanced the needs of its local British clientele on a recent weekday night with the dozen or so American couples that wandered in for dinner or games of eight-ball.
Throughout the evening, a young bartender repeatedly reminded Stars and Stripes that Bird in Hand was a “family place.”
Since the majority of the patrons, with the exception of a talkative local businessman and the questioning out-of-town reporter, seemed to be couples, it wasn’t a stretch to see that at least on this evening she was right.
Music videos played on a handful of video monitors, low enough so couples didn’t have to lean in to hear each other as they spoke but loud enough to fill the bar with music.
Bird in Hand has live entertainment a few times each month, with upcoming bands listed on a simple piece of paper hanging next to the bar. On those nights, some said, patrons do need to lean in to hear each other.
The loud, live music is about as wild as it gets nowadays. Patrons’ reminders of recent, but infrequent, fights between bargoers, and wet T-shirt contests from decades ago, brought more calls of “This is a family place!” from the bartender as she passed out pints.
A full menu of dishes ranging from lasagna to bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes in gravy) was served in both the restaurant and bar area, proving relatively inexpensive but hearty food.
British breakfast is served from 7:30 - 10:30 a.m. and the regular menu runs from 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.
They also serve the traditional Sunday dinner of roast beef, a roasted half of chicken or pork for 5.95 pounds.
And although a bird in the hand is two in the bush, a pint in the hand is worth way more than two in the tap. Luckily for Mildenhall, that pint’s just a quick pull away at Bird in Hand.
Bird in Hand
Location: The Street, Beck Row, Mildenhall
Drinks: About a dozen beers on tap, including American, Australian, British and Belgian. Mixed drinks also available.
Food: Assorted pub food, including steak and ale, sausage and mashed potatoes and Sunday roast.
Ambiance: Lively, but not too loud, and well lit. Nice place for family or friends.
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