I couldn't tell you the number of times I've been to the Golden Bee. The Broadmoor's answer to a traditional English pub has always been a hip, charismatic place to grab a drink, sing a song and, if lucky, witness some college graduate or macho guy accidentally douse himself with a yard of ale. That consistently earns a rousing cheer.
The Bee has been a before-or-after place: the place to go before some bland charity function, or after a really great charity function, in one of The Broadmoor's many nearby convention facilities. I've accumulated my share of sticky, embroidered bumblebees, kindly thrown for years at all visitors as a fun, promotional gimmick. Suffice to say, I've been stung plenty.
When a friend recently clued me into the Golden Bee's new menu, I was half-joking and half-embarrassed with the thought: "The Bee serves food?" Something I should have damn well known, given my own few years in the trenches, serving the five-star god.
The new menu offers up "authentic" English pub fare, which begs the question: What was on the menu before? Manager Jeff Zearfoss admits it was an unmemorable mix of soups, salads and sandwiches that you could easily get anywhere at The Broadmoor hotel complex. (Ahh, embarrassment abated.)
The Springs' first snowy day provided a great backdrop to a recent visit, as heated mugs arrived with our tea orders. Nice touch. The steak and mushroom pie ($11.75) was a large, puffed-up dome of flaky crust giving way to a piping hot stew of Guinness Stout-braised chunks of beef, mushrooms and potatoes all perfectly tender and filling. Covered in creamy brown Stilton mushroom gravy, the roast beef in mustard crust ($14.50) was also a hit. Whoever thought of putting cheese in gravy deserves a special swarm of embroidered bumblebees.
The fish chowder ($5.50/cup, $6.50/bowl), a luxurious mix of fish and seafood with a hint of sherry and a slight kick of heat in the back of my throat, was the best I've had. My guest praised the Indian smoked chicken salad ($8.25) of curry, almonds and golden raisins with a spiced rhubarb and strawberry chutney, calling it sweet and delicious.
However, the new fish and chips ($13.50), a requirement for any traditional English pub, was underwhelming. The ale batter coating the Icelandic cod, while crispy, was too greasy to warrant more than a few bites.
Otherwise, we found little wrong with the food at the Bee. The only other criticism worth a mention: Menu descriptions could use added explanation. The ploughman's lunch with mustard dressing ($10.95) read like a salad, but it arrived looking more like a cheese plate with pt and liverwurst, neither of which were mentioned on the menu.
Service at the Golden Bee is top-notch, just what you would expect from any Broadmoor restaurant. But being slightly removed from the main hotel allows for a more genuine and unpretentious vibe. The actual bar of dark woods was brought to the U.S. from England in the 1800s, acquired by the Broadmoor in the late '50s and opened as the Golden Bee in 1961.
In its 46 years, the Bee has maintained its charm as a local bar. Now a fitting menu makes for a more memorable dining experience.
Golden Bee at The Broadmoor
1 Lake Ave., 577-5776,
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., daily