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Review: The Dog, Wingham

A friendly, stylish, foodie pub - ideal for romantic walkers or family fun at Wingham Wildlife Park. Oh and it just scooped Best Food prize at the Great British Pub Awards.

We first reviewed The Dog in Wingham shortly after its launch and with a third birthday (The Dog’s not mine, sadly) approaching, we wanted to give you the latest lowdown. Plus, we felt obliged to try out one of its boutique bedroom rooms upstairs especially as they have such an enticing dinner, bed and breakfast package.

THE LOCATION

As we know location is key for places like The Dog and it seems to be winning on this front. Positioned in the very pretty village of Wingham, The Dog is the kind of place you could choose to completely get away from it all and immerse yourself in some seriously good food mingled with interesting local walks in the vicinity. With an award-winning pub for food (The Dog) and an award-winning pub for live music (The Anchor Inn) all housed in the same village, why would you want to stray too far?

It’s important to note that The Dog benefits from having a lot of parking spaces out back (13 in fact) which may across as nerd-fact of the year but actually critically important when heading to a country pub for a meal as they have had quite a few diners come onto them from other local pubs as they were unable to find a parking spot close by to their original destination and then of course, are instantly converted once they step through the doors.

THE VIBE

Think along the lines of a verrrry good restaurant with stylish rooms than a hotel boozer, but The Dog still attracts the locals on a regular basis due to its strong sense of local community plus the regular fun events that it hosts throughout the year and of course its reputation for seriously good food. Kent local, Marc Bridgen bought The Dog with his family three years ago and transformed the place thanks to his mother Marilyn’s interior know-how and Marc’s savvy ability to create a place that provides a very warm welcome to regulars plus a memorable experience for those on a mini-break.

You will find it hard to forget the name of where you are with consistent dog themes present throughout the pub including nice touches such as a cubby hole with a jar full of doggy biscuits for the dog-walkers, dog-themed wallpaper in the loos and dog motifs on back of chairs. Dogs are allowed in bars, restaurant and rooms and there is a regular Dog Walking club so if you don’t want to leave your pooch behind, bring them with you. I think I should add that as more of a feline-friend than a canine-chum, I did not feel that I was bombarded by dog paraphernalia nor ate my food with a pack of dogs around me. It is all very nicely done.

Whatever the weather, The Dog has it covered. Sunny outside? Then make yourself at home in its bang-on due south garden where you can take in the sunshine and start sipping on the first of its’ 50 gins which incidentally, they were ahead of the gin-mania curve and had the dedicated gin bar in place since launch. And while we are on this subject, may I heartily recommend Ferdinand’s Saar Gin with 1724 tonic swiftly followed by a Dockyard Gin (support local of course) with ever popular, Fever Tree tonic.

But if it’s howling outside, then rest assured you will find a cosy fire and comfy seats to fight off the winter blues.

SCOFF & QUAFF

Now this is where The Dog really means business. First thing you should know is that the Head Chef is called Sam McClurkin and at just 22, has already trained under chef superstars such as Heston Blumenthal and Tom Kerridge plus worked at local Kent establishment, The Sportsman, which has held a Michelin star since 2008. Born in Kent yet raised around the world as his father was in the army, Sam is hugely passionate about food and you will see the global influences on his dishes in the season-led menu. You should also know that Sam is Grade 6 trained in piano and has been known to tinkle the ivories of the pub piano at The Dog so a talented young fellow indeed.

I kicked off proceedings with one of The Dog’s hero dishes, the lobster ravioli, as a starter and I don’t think that appearances do the taste-sensation justice. A mere 8 hours was spent making the sauce including the roasting of lobster shells which kind of puts my pasta’n’pesto combo to shame at home. My husband went for the wild garlic and Manchego tortilla with poached egg & romesco with the brightest yellow of yolks and was wolfed down before I could beg for a little taste which says a lot.

Barbecued poussin, courgette, watercress & chilli salad with tarragon salsa verde followed for him which was the perfect accompaniment for the sunny weather, but I won the mains course game with Barbecued Moroccan spiced lamb rump, wild garlic hummus, black quinoa & feta with melt in your mouth lamb. The dish felt surprisingly light since there were no heavy carbs on side. Although we were persuaded to try the triple cooked chips with paprika salt. Apparently, these bad boys left the menu a month or so ago, but regulars put on an unofficial campaign to reinstate them, so they are now back in position.

As if there was any room for anything else but somehow, I managed to squeeze lemon & raspberry panna cotta and shortbread with verbena ice cream down my greedy gullet with my husband going for cheese, crackers and chutney. All providing the perfect ending for a pretty damn fine meal before we waddled to the bar for a nightcap.

On a quaff note, The Dog has the afore-mentioned medley of gins to try but also a very comprehensive wine list to suit all occasions. We enjoyed a decent Albarino (‘Pazo da Bouciña’, Adegas Arousa, 2015) with our supper but it is worth noting that you can upscale to your heart’s content including Premier Cru Burgundy’s and Cristal champagne if you want to really push the boat out.

BED & BREAKFAST

The Dog has eight bedrooms, all individually styled rooms by Marilyn, and we were lucky enough to have its grandest room complete with a four-poster bed which added to the luxurious element of the stay. Each room has an en-suite shower room so don’t expect a big bath tub but they use Hypnos beds throughout so you can be sure to get a very good nights sleep.

Breakfast is served from 8-10 so a very leisurely affair which is hosted in the garden or conservatory area, so you do not feel that you are eating breakfast in a pub, which always makes me feel a little odd. I had smoked salmon & crème fraiche scrambled eggs on toast (bread sourced from Wingham bakery down the road) while my husband went for an English muffin, poached egg, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce all washed down with fresh orange juice plus the usual teas and coffee.

KID-FRIENDLY?

I have been before with Muddy juniors and they were made to feel very welcome, but this is not the crayon/kiddie menu kind of place. You can choose to have half portions of adult dishes (and if your kids are extra fussy, they could stretch to sausages, chicken and chips) but to maximise enjoyment, I would go for an adult-only meal so you can really embrace the food without cutting up food with one hand and eating with the other. Having said that, one of the rooms at The Dog is a family room (sleeping 4) and there is plenty to do locally for them so it might be worth speaking to the team at The Dog ahead of your stay if wanting to go with kids in tow.

OUT & ABOUT

The Dog is a great place to stay if you are looking to explore Canterbury and are underwhelmed by the lack of boutique boltholes in the city as you are only a 15-minute drive away. Plus, you have Kent’s latest hot spot, Deal, a 20-minute drive away as well as Sandwich, 10 mins by car, so it really is the perfect launch pad for exploring that side of Kent.

Favourite Muddy attractions include Wingham Wildlife Park (4-minute drive in fact) as well as Goodnestone Park, a stunning, privately owned stately home and garden where Jane Austen was a regular visitor and inspiration for key events within novels such as Pride and Prejudice so a fantastic place to bask in local literary history and walk off your blow-out meal the night before.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Gosh, yes. Here are a couple of key bullet points so I can cram it all in:

· In need of a venue for a big event or wedding even (they even have a license) then consider hosting it here – imagine taking over this conservatory area for your family and friends?

· It is worth following The Dog via social media/newsletter so can you keep updated of its innovative events. The night before we stayed, they had hosted a Small Plates of the World celebration dinner which really played into Sam’s passion for producing dishes with a global twist

· You could just come to The Dog for breakfast if you need a different venue for meeting or catch up with friends

· The 149th Open Championship will be held at Royal St. George’s golf course in Sandwich next year and The Dog is planning a package around that so get in touch to register interest now if you want to get in on the action.

· Sunday Roast is a bit of an institution here and having sampled many Roasts in the Kent area, I can assure you that you will find buoyant Yorkshire puddings and crispy Roast Potatoes as I am often disappointed by pubs’ mass Roast meals. They featured in our Best Sunday Roasts round-up last year!

· The Dog serves food seven days a week (lunch and dinner) with the last serving at 5pm on a Sunday, so you will always be well looked after.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Day trippers, romantic getaway, special occasions or business stays.

Not for: Kids that haven’t yet developed a more sophisticated palate.

The damage: Dinner, bed and breakfast packages start from £149 per couple (for the smaller rooms) leading up to £249 (for the grandest room) which includes a complimentary drink on arrival, a three-course meal from the a la carte menu and breakfast in the morning and this is for 7 days a week. Which I would say is the dog’s bollocks.

The Dog At Wingham, Canterbury Road, Wingham, Nr Canterbury, Kent, CT3 1BB, Tel: 01227 720339, thedog.co.uk

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