The Man and the Dog.
Weekends are great. Of course weekends are great. Everyone loves weekends. And what part of the weekend does everyone love the most? Yes that’s right. You’ve got it. Sundays. Lovely long lazy Sundays. And the single most important thing that makes Sundays so great? Why of course it’s the holy, venerable, magnificent… Sunday roast. Where would the world be without the Sunday roast?
I love a Sunday roast.
When first introduced to my in-laws, many, many moons ago, the number one culinary shock for this boy from the Black Country has to have been Taramasalata:
‘Ar, they gid me some pink stuff called tarasatomata, I think it wuz fish eggs! It wuz bostin tho, fair play.’
But a close second was the revelation that they didn’t ALWAYS have a roast on a Sunday. Sometimes they just had a normal dinner! I mean, how crazy is that? Surely that way madness lies? How is anyone supposed to know what day it is? When does one week end and the next begin?
As a result, whenever I get a chance I try to remedy this lunacy by suggesting that we incorporate a pub roast into our Sundays when I’m hanging with the in-laws on the Island of Love, a.k.a the Isle of Wight.
We chose this pub because we’d driven past it recently and spotted that it had been given a bit of a makeover. Obviously someone had decided to show it a bit of love, and it’s always good to support that kind of thing. The other reason, (blatant ‘shout out’ alert!), was that we’d heard that they were displaying and selling art work on the walls by En Brogue‘s cousin The Wight Pencil. If they’re supporting ‘da family’ then we can at least eat their roast.
Inside, the place was buzzing. Clearly in a short space of time they’d already begun to generate a good rep. We were shown to our table and Grenson made himself comfortable.
The mother-in-law was impressed straight off the bat by the fact that they offered a smaller plate for £9. She has a very small appetite, which generally sees her ordering starters instead of mains…then of course, hovering over everyone else’s main for a little taster once her starter is devoured.
She once ordered a child’s Sunday roast and confidently proclaimed ‘If I’m still hungry I could always try a little bit from all of yours’; as she said this and looked around the table for signs of acquiescence to the deal, she locked eyes with me. I steadily and calmly informed her that ‘If you try to take anything from my plate I will stab you in the hand with my fork’. I was very ‘hangry’ at the time, and as I have made clear, I do like my Sunday roast…our relationship has never been the same since, sorry Mother-in-law you’re the best…just don’t try to touch my food!
Anyway, for me it was obviously going to be the full size £12 version, and when it arrived at the table, holy flip, it was a work of pure genius!
Now, I’m pretty good at cooking a pork dinner, even if I do say so myself. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. My dad claims that the pork roast I once made for him was ‘really good, the best he’s ever had’. To put this praise into context my dad’s usual level of critique for any meal ranges from ‘it was alright’ to ‘it was alright’. If you listen carefully there is a slight difference.
So I know a good pork dinner when I see one and this was a good pork dinner. Generous servings of pork with a very agreeable amount of crunchy crackling, parsnips (which I’m not that keen on usually but these were good), fantastic fluffy potatoes and lashings of gravy ( I do like a lot of gravy, fill the boat up, don’t be stingy). Then on the side, red and green cabbage, cauliflower cheese and those lovely little carrots you only really get with a pub lunch. There was no way anyone was going to be leaving this table anything less than full to the brim.
Oh, and just take a look at those Yorkshires! Take a second or two to really appreciate their beauty. That is pleasure on a plate right there! That, my friends, IS Sunday! If only there really were such a thing as a month of Sundays. What a dream scenario? I could have this for lunch every day for a month!!
But do not fear. Whatever day you’re reading this you can be sure that you’re not far away from a Sunday. That’s the beauty of them: you get one every week. So no excuses. Gather the family, put your walking boots on and loosen your belts, then head to the Portland for ‘the best pub Sunday roast ever’ – En Brogue’s verdict – and you may even feel like picking up some art whilst you’re there.
Just remember, if you see me there tucking into a roast…don’t try to take any of my food!
The Man and the Dog.
Right, we’re back. I left you last time promising to return with tales of Wyatt & Jones. I just couldn’t bring myself to squeeze in simply a quick review during the Margate post, as this place deserved so much more.
We’d happened upon this establishment via a quick internet trawl before leaving for our mini break. All we knew was that the restaurant wasn’t too far away from our accommodation (The Botany Bay Hotel, see Margate link above), and the number of food awards on their website indicated that the food was likely to be good. The fact that they were dog friendly sealed the deal (best to call beforehand though in order to let them know that you’re bringing your pooch. Dogs are only allowed in part of the restaurant).
So basically we arrived not really knowing too much about this place, or what to expect.
Wyatt & Jones can be found down a sleepy looking little road leading to the beach. Stepping out of the cold coastal air and into the twinkling candle light of this beautiful little restaurant, we knew almost immediately this was going to be a good night. In fact, you know those rare evenings when everything is just perfect? Well our evening at Wyatt & Jones would prove to be one of these rare events.
The area designated for doggies is the smaller room next to the bar. When a bar is this beautiful and well stocked that is no bad thing. You can also easily see the rest of the room leading down to the open kitchen, so you don’t feel like you’ve been banished to a separate room.
On this cold Thursday night in January we basically had the bar to ourselves, but there were enough other diners to ensure that a quiet relaxed atmosphere was maintained. Even if we had have been alone, any awkward ‘eating in a library’ vibe would have been dispelled by the excellent music that they were playing in the background. So often, music in a restaurant can spoil things. Generally it is too loud and/or too rubbish. In this case they had the perfect balance so that the only time you noticed it was when you thought ‘ooh this is such a nice song, I wonder who it is by? I must make enquiries’ (clearly I didn’t make enquires – far too shy). Just sitting in the bar with a glass of wine and enjoying the music would have been great. But then of course I would have missed out on sampling the food!
Having already established that this place was a winner we decided to kick start our appetites with 2 rock oysters (for me) and anchovy toast (for her). I was also pleased to see that they had Curious Brew IPA on tap. Oysters and Curious Brew, what better way to kick off a meal?
Meanwhile, Grenson had been presented with a bowl of water and his own bowl of biscuits, so he was approving of his surroundings almost as much as I was.
En Brogue reckons the anchovy toast was ‘Oh. My. God. Fantastic’. My oysters came with a bottle of red wine vinegar and tabasco for me to dress them myself. Unfortunately, I was a little heavy handed with the tabasco and had sizzling lips for the next ten minutes. (The only bad thing that happened that night and it was all my own fault).
Then we moved on to the main events. Now normally I’m not too keen on photographing food, (far too shy). This can be a problem for someone who blogs about places to eat. On this occasion though, any self consciousness had to go out the window. It was just too good not to save for prosperity.
En Brogue went for -‘Chilli glazed mackerel,celeriac remoulade, pickled shallots and almond puree’, followed by another starter (small appetite), ‘Spiced scallops, marinated chickpea, chermoula, shallots, coriander’. She then finished with ‘Granny Smith mousse, hazelnut crumble, blueberries & brown bread ice cream’. Yes, that’s what I said, brown bread ice cream. Amazing!
I went for – ‘Oak smoked salmon, crispy crab, dill aioli, soused fennel & salmon caviar’ to start. My main was not a starter (big appetite), ‘Sussex beef loin, braised ox cheek, bone marrow butter mash & autumn brassica’. Then for dessert, ‘Valrhona dark chocolate souffle’.
If all of that hasn’t got your mouth watering then let me give you more details.
En Brogue basically was only able to say ‘Oh. My. God. Fantastic’ about everything!
My starter was so fresh and light it may have to go into my top five starters…ever! The Ox cheek was deliciously glutinous to the point that it virtually melted in my mouth. And that souffle?! Jeez! Once the outer crust was broken I found myself inside a fluffy cloud of pure chocolate joy!
After all of this I could only possibly complete my meal by sitting back with a 10 year-old Somerset cider brandy. If I am ending my night with a brandy then it is a sure sign that I have had a most relaxing and enjoyable evening.
Absolutely brilliant. And I forgot to mention the wine! This place really knows its wine. I suggest you ask for a recommendation, the one they served up to us was simply perfect.
Finally we made our way back to our hotel room and fell face first onto the the bed, immediately drifting off into a deep sleep whilst I mumbled a proclamation that the whole night had been one of the best dining experiences I’d ever had!
The next day, following breakfast and check out, we decided to head back to Broadstairs to assess it in the daylight.
The beach at the bottom of the road turned out to be incredibly pretty, as was the rest of the small town. I even found a butchers that served an award winning sausage. If nothing else, this warranted a return visit all on its own.
Eventually though we were drawn back towards Wyatt & Jones, mainly because I needed a picture of the outside for this blog post.
As we arrived, it just so happened that they were open and serving coffee. Clearly we had to go back in and take up our seats at the table that we had vacated merely a few hours earlier.
The coffee, of course, was Oh. My. God. Fantastic. It was all I could do to decline the pastry deal that came with the coffee but I had recently consumed a full English (which was mighty fine, congratulations on that Botany Bay Hotel).
To sum up:
1. Broadstairs is great.
2.We will return as soon as possible.
3. Upon our return we will be spending all day at our table in Wyatt & Jones.
(And no I do not have a handle bar moustache, although it very much looks like I do in this picture!).
Anyway, just to avoid any confusion and to be completely clear about this:
WE LOVE THIS PLACE!
The Man and the Dog.
Margate! Margate! Margate! I am of the firm opinion that when saying the name of this little seaside town it is the law that you must say it as Danny Dyer would say it. Margate! Try it – it’s fun!
Anyway, Margate (did you do a Danny in your head there? I hope you did) seems to be the latest ‘in’ place if you spend a little time scanning Instagram. Everyone seems to have been going there just recently.
Well, clearly En Brogue, Grenson and I needed to go and see what all the fuss was about (baaaa!).
We arrived and parked up next to the Dreamland theme park.
It’s basically this place that has brought the onslaught of Instagrammers. Dreamland is a retro, kitsch, seaside theme park for hipsters to create great ‘content’ in. They even have an event called ‘Hipster Seaside A-Go-Go’ happening later this year. In all honesty it does look well cool (as I believe literally none of the kids say anymore). As I myself have a beard I’m virtually a hipster too so I’m totally down with this place…unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed. So we quickly moved on, vindictively hoping that all those hipsters get candy floss tangled in their beards.
Strolling along the sea front, Morrissey entered my head and wouldn’t get out. Specifically a certain line from one of his most cheerful songs found itself on repeat in my head:
‘This is the coastal town, that they forgot to close down’
To be fair, I don’t imagine that there are many coastal towns that are looking their best in the first week of January, but I had been led to believe that Margate would offer more than just boarded up shops, tired amusement arcades and ‘caffs’ that probably haven’t had a new menu printed since Del Boy came on his jolly boys’ outing in 1989.
Luckily it didn’t take us long to find our first planned stop, a sweet little coffee shop called The Proper Coffee House (you can’t go wrong with a name like that!).
At last things started to look up, not only does a ‘proper’ coffee always help, but we found this sign very welcoming.
Take note Dreamland!!
Our next stop was the Old Kent Market and the slight uplift in morale nosedived again. There is no doubt that this is a cool little place and I’m sure that it is a brilliant, vibrant, hang out in the summer months. However, on a Thursday afternoon in January it’s somewhat lacking its spark.
As we began to think that we had caught Margate at a time when it really should have been in hibernation, we wandered down a side street away from the sea front and the attraction of the place revealed itself. Suddenly we were surrounded by the most beautiful shops.
Not for the first time we came across antique shops that welcomed Grenson inside with open arms. I have to admit that this does surprise me. At times I’m not sure whether or not even I should be allowed inside antique shops. I fear that at any moment I may spontaneously fall over, dragging a cabinet of priceless glassware down on top of me. They make me nervous. And yet, very much like when we visited Rye (click on the link for a read), all the shops seemed to be totally relaxed about Grenson having a peruse around inside.
TAKE NOTE DREAMLAND!!
En Brogue now went into retail mode.
Morale then went through the roof when she spotted Doggie Apparel. O…M…flippin G!
In this amazing little doggie nirvana you can watch the collars and leads being handmade at the back of the shop. And beautiful they are too. Needless to say, Grenson got utterly spoiled in there. But it’s virtually impossible for any dog person not to pick up something, from doggie bottle stops, to felt doggies. Personally I’m surprised we left without the woolly schnauzer in the window display.
Thankfully, when we did eventually leave it was with merely a small fortune spent rather than a flipping massive fortune. Heaven help the bank balance when their online shop is up and running!
Suddenly, Margate had come up trumps. We decided to end our visit the only true way that any self respecting traveller can. A visit to the pub.
The Lifeboat Ale and Cider House (what a great name) was a perfect venue. A fine selection of ales, craft beers and ciders (as you’d expect from that name I suppose), and a hearty menu on offer. The only downside was the sawdust on the floor. It played havoc with Grenson’s beard!
It was now time to head to our accommodation for the night. The Botany Bay Hotel situated just along the coast, on the way to Broadstairs.
This, my friends, is where the madness of going away on a damp Thursday at the beginning of January suddenly makes sense. We got a double room here with breakfast included for £64 (+ extra £5 supplement for Grenson). You cannot argue with that.
On top of that bargain price you can add the fact that it’s a lovely hotel too. Very friendly and helpful staff, comfortable spacious bar, lovely clean rooms, top-notch breakfasts (unfortunately we were not allowed in the main breakfast area with Grenson, but our set up in the bar was probably a better view anyway), and some prime dog walking beaches literally on the doorstep.
It really was a great visit, and I haven’t even told you about the meal we had at Wyatt & Jones in Broadstairs yet! Because that requires a whole blog post of its own.
Until then, despite a bit of a rocky start, our little trip had been a roaring success. And it’s at this point that I wanted to cleverly sum up our satisfaction by referring to a happy Morrissey lyric…unfortunately I couldn’t think of one.
So instead I’ll just use this picture of Grenson. Could there be a happier doggie?
The Man and the Dog.
Ok I’ll admit it. I have written about this place before. I apologise (but it is a good’un).
Way back at the beginning of summer a company called Wight Locations asked me to do a guest blog post for their website. Grenson and I compiled our top 6 cafe/restaurants on the Isle of Wight for dogs …. well not quite for dogs, more for hoomans that are with dogs, but you know what I mean.
If you look hard enough you may be able to still find it somewhere out there on the world wide web.
Anyway, as I was looking through old piccies I came across the ones that I had taken for that blog post and quite frankly it made me nostalgic for those heady days of summer. (Listen, Christmas is over, all I’ve got immediately ahead of me is never ending months of darkness. I need something to look forward to!)
One of the places we visited jumped out at me as we had recently been back there after a nice long Christmas walk (to the pub). On that occasion I had a delicious coffee and walnut cake with a top quality flat white to wash it down. (Which reminds me, I also have lots of trips to the gym to schedule in during this season of gloom).
However, I don’t want to talk about cosy winter walks and warming coffee and cake (not today anyway), I want to take us all back to the days of crickets in the long grass, of swallows dive bombing in the blue skies, and of ice cubes slowly melting in late evening drinks. Let’s all go back to summertime!
(Cue: wavy fade back to the past).
I mean!! Look at us!! I’m wearing shorts and t-shirt and jauntily hanging shades around my neck. Grenson is panting from the heat. There is even a hint of colour on my face rather than my current deathly pallor.
Good times. Hot summer good times.
And where are we enjoying this glorious sunny afternoon? Why, the wonderful ‘Off the Rails‘ cafe in Yarmouth, of course.
This place pretty much has everything.
Its location is a dream for dog walkers. Grenson and I are particularly fond of the trek along the old railway line from Yarmouth to Freshwater. Keep the river on your right and head away from Yarmouth car park, keeping an eye out for kingfishers along the way. This path eventually leads you to a bridge, at which point if you turn right you’ll come across the Red Lion pub. A perfect place for a refreshment stop (and another place I wrote about for Wight Locations that I may need to revisit in the future for this blog too).
If you then retrace your steps and take a right before the old mill building, you’ll end up back at Off the Rails for further refreshments. After all, it’s always important to stay refreshed when on a walk.
Arriving at this cafe via the old railway path is most fitting, as this place is situated in the old Yarmouth railway station (Off the Rails, see what they did there? Clever).
From the outside it seems like the station has remained untouched since the steam trains were regularly pulling up outside. Indeed, you’ll still find the platform out front, but instead of commuters and tourists hurriedly disembarking, you’ll find diners leisurely munching on cakes and sandwiches.
Inside, the retro railway feel continues with seating booths styled like 1950s carriages complete with luggage racks overhead.
The booths are great in the winter but as we’re time travelling back to summer in this post, take a look below at the seats on the platform. What an idyllic view to enjoy your lunch beside!
Oh, and as if great walks, quirky historic surroundings, delicious coffee, cakes and lunches, all enjoyed beside beautiful countryside views weren’t enough to confirm my assertion that this place has everything, then take a look below. They even have a menu for your pooch!
Of course, with this place open all year round (closed Mondays & Tuesdays except bank holidays) and even open until 10pm on a Friday and Saturday (bookings necessary) there is no reason not to enjoy this special little place any time of the year.
So don’t wait around for the sun to shine (it may be on holiday for sometime yet); head there as soon as you can…you can always make another visit when it’s shorts and T-shirt weather again!
The Man and the Dog..
I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but it’s definitely getting colder and the goose is looking decidedly more plump than usual. This can mean only one thing – Christmas is coming!!
As a result the Man (me) and the Dog (Grenson) have decided to do a special post (we’re both a little excited).
No doubt the first mince pies are already hitting the hips and thoughts are turning to the luxury and indulgence of the Christmas period. This probably also means that rather than a relaxing, peaceful state of mind taking over, it’s the anxiety over how on earth you’re going to get everything ready in time?! In fact, you’re probably already too late!! Panic!!
Well fear not Man About A Dog Blog followers, for we have compiled a list of our favourite doggie themed gifts to give you a helping hand in the annual present purchasing pandemonium … of course this is probably less helpful if you don’t have a dog, or know anyone who owns a dog … (although in that case I’d have to question why you are spending your time reading a very doggie flavoured blog? People are strange!)
Anyway, regardless of your reasons for reading, I give you the Man About A Dog Blog ultimate Christmas gift guide. You’re welcome!
Personalised Bamboo Christmas Decoration £7.00 from Oakdene Designs
Christmas Treat Gift Bag £12.00 from Lily’s Kitchen
Personalised Hessian Christmas Sack £9.99 from Pets Pyjamas
A Better Dog Blanket £90.00 from Tales of Teddy
Dog Collar from £25.00 and Brass Dog Tag £12.00 from Fetch & Follow
So there you have it, I think you’ll agree that any (or all) of these lovely pressies would make an excellent addition to any excited pooch’s list to Santa.
The Man and the Dog.
Please note: I have hopefully posted this guide in plenty of time for your gifts to arrive in time for Christmas, but please do check each individual website for estimated delivery times to avoid disappointment!
As you probably already know, Grenson’s mum doesn’t only spend her days making delicious meatloaf for his dinner and smothering him with kisses, oh no; she also finds the time to be a super successful fashion journalist whilst also being the flat shoe blogging sensation, En Brogue. As a result, most weeks she can be found heading off up west to meet up with other fashionistas to assess the latest trends, and basically just swank around town looking grand (apparently it’s all in the name of research?!).
On one such occasion recently, I decided enough was enough, it was high time that Grenson and I got in on this game too.
From the look on Grenson’s face in this picture you can tell that he wasn’t entirely happy with the idea. For a start, it meant we had to go on a train (which he’s not too keen on) and secondly, I had neglected to put him in his fanciest coat! ‘Really darling how do you expect me to socialise with the fashion crowd without my best clobber on?’
So after a few appointments, including one that Grenson and I had been personally invited to (see we’re cool too!), for a look at White Stuff’s new SS17 collection which I can confirm is very nice indeed, it was decided that we’d stop for lunch and then take a walk around Regent’s Park whilst En Brogue finished off the rest of her ‘to do’ list.
But where should we go for lunch? There is of course a wealth of choice in the big city. Luckily for us, we managed to stumble across a place that happened to be described as “the best restaurant in the world” by Giles Coren, no less (if their website is to be believed).
Mac and Wild is a Scottish restaurant (yes I know! I didn’t know that was a thing now either). The only Scottish restaurant I’d encountered previously was that one that has a clown serving burgers … at least it sounds Scottish anyway.
We bagged a table outside as the weather was unseasonably mild and waited for a menu that I expected to consist entirely of haggis and battered chocolate bars.
What a fool I was! I hadn’t realised that I’d accidentally entered a meat nirvana. There was even a burger on the menu that had been voted the ‘Best Burger in the UK 2016’ at the National Burger Awards!! (yes I know! I didn’t know that was a thing now either)
It’s fair to say that if you’re a veggie, this may not be the best place for you to visit. If, however, you’re the type of person that appreciates dishes such as ‘bread & dripping’, ‘venison chateaubriand’ and ‘dirty buttery mash’, and you also appreciate knowing not only where your meat has been farmed, but also who butchered it and even who shot it, then you’ve come to the right place.
The meatiness shouldn’t be a surprise; the guy who founded this place, Andy Waugh, is the son of a venison butcher, hence the concentration on fine wild venison dishes. A lot of us Brits have never tried wild venison and I have to admit that the thought of hunting those magnificent beasts may have put me off in the past. But this isn’t some trophy hunter wanting to feel big by shooting a defenceless animal and posing for photos. If you read Andy’s blog on the Mac and Wild website, you realise that this is all done ethically, based on a yearly cull to keep numbers manageable and healthy for themselves and the environment. Also, if we don’t eat it then the Norwegians and Dutch will, as they currently buy up nearly all of it.
As already mentioned, the award winning ‘Veni-Moo burger’ had immediately caught my eye, so I ordered that along with cheesy chips and a Brewgooder Clean Water Lager, which is a craft beer that donates 100% of its profits to clean water projects around the world (so you can get drunk and do your bit for charity at the same time! Bonus!).
Oh Em Gee!
You could really understand why this burger was award winning. But to be honest, I’d also give those fries and the cheesy dip an award too…Nobel Peace maybe?!
I hadn’t thought of it as we had enjoyed our mighty fine bounty sitting outside, but while writing this post I became a little worried that dogs may not have been allowed indoors. This would have been a disaster as I aim to try not to include anywhere on here that you can only enjoy with your pooch if the weather allows, and having to leave out this place would have been a travesty. Luckily, they confirmed via email that small dogs are indeed allowed indoors (it is, after all, a very small indoors, so a Mastiff for instance may actually fill the place!). I shouldn’t have really worried, as there were telltale signs that the place was a fan of our four-legged friends – mainly the door stop.
So there you go. If you find yourself on a fashionable day out in central London and in need of an award winning Scottish meal, then look no further. And I suppose if you do have a dog that couldn’t accurately be described as ‘small’ you could always follow our example and sit outside. They did seem to have blankets on offer and there are outside heaters. If all else fails you could warm yourself up with a whisky, and where better to do that than in a Scottish restaurant?!
The Man and the Dog.