CATHY RANSON discovers the joys of eating out in Gerrards Cross and looks forward to a summer Party in the Park

GERRARDS Cross sounds like it's miles away but actually it's only about 10 minutes from our home in Uxbridge.

I know this because I've been there three times in four days!

The first time was for a family meal at The Apple Tree (Oxford Road, Gerrards Cross, 01753 887 335, ).

This pub used to be one of those faceless steak chains where you'd get frozen peas with everything, but it's been taken over and now offers a fantastic selection of food based around its wood-fired pizza oven and rotisserie grill.

We sampled the summer menu and the dishes were excellent. Our favourite was the camembert baked in its box; a yummy gooey mass served with wedges of crusty bread for dunking.

The Baltic plate was a seafood lover's dream, with succulent smoked salmon, prawns, anchovies, roll mops and smoked mackerel. We also enjoyed the duck and tuna salads that were crammed with delicious, fresh ingredients.

My son Alex pronounced his Margherita to be 'excellent'. Not the same as his usual kid's pizza at Pizza Express, but delicious nonetheless!

The surroundings couldn't be more different to how they were; comfy leather sofas, stylish artwork and light contemporary decor make it feel very different from some of the soulless steak chains around.

The drinks menu is eclectic, with organic cider and chocolate or raspberry beers on offer, as well as a raft of unusual choices for the nominated driver. Best of all, the staff were kid-friendly, which for me is the sign of a good restaurant.

Alex was starving and wanted his pizza as quickly as possible and without the tomatoes, and nothing was too much trouble.

My next two visits to Gerrards Cross involved eating at The Bull Hotel (Oxford Road, 01753 885 504), firstly at a fundraising ball for a local charity and secondly for a 40th wedding anniversary party.

The Bull is well set up for large scale family parties - they know the secret is to feed the kids first then send them out to the adjoining garden to play with the giant games, including Jenga and Connect Four.

The anniversary party was lovely and it was hilarious looking at John and Joyce's wedding photos and spotting the little pageboy and young bridesmaid in the room, 40 years on!

It was nice to have a relaxing weekend meeting up with friends and family because I know this weekend is going to be crazy.

On Saturday it's the Sunshine Magazine and Hillingdon Council's Families' Information Service Party in the Park and we hope this year's event is going to be bigger and better than previous years, thanks to the support of The Mall Pavilions.

If you come to Fassnidge Park, Uxbridge, between 1.30pm and 4.30pm, you will find the park full of activities, fun and giveaways for families with children under 11.

And if you do come along, make sure you come and say 'Hi' to me - I'll be in the Sunshine Magazine marquee near the bandstand. Hope to see you there!

* Cathy is editor of Sunshine, the community magazine for families living in Hillingdon.