dog friendly cafes, London, the dog blog

Monmouth Coffee Company – Borough

If you are a food lover, and if you like to get the best quality ingredients, then you must visit Borough Market . Admittedly I wouldn’t consider it a place to start doing your weekly ‘big shop’, unless you have a bank balance the size of a small country’s national debt. I’d also advise that you go early, unless you enjoy the feeling of strangers constantly pressing against you and standing on your heels (each to their own!). There is a lunchtime market on Mondays and Tuesdays with the full market Wednesday – Saturday, and it gets VERY busy.

Stupidly, Grenson and I made our visit mid-afternoon. Bearing in mind Grenson finds a mere dead leaf on the ground to be a source of endless fascination, you can imagine just how much all of the tasty morsels spread across the market floor would entice him.

Cleverly, I knew exactly where I was heading and wisely skirted around the market edge. For if you do ever find yourself in Borough Market, having ticked the boxes marked ‘food lover, and purchaser of quality produce’ and if you would also consider ticking the box ‘lover of fine coffee’, then no visit is complete without popping into Monmouth Coffee Co.

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This place is a coffee lover’s dream. Not only can you get your fix of quality espresso based beverage complete with excellent latte art, which you all know by now impresses me greatly …

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(sorry couldn’t resist a sip of the one above before I remembered to take a photo)

… but you can also buy their beans to take away so that you can attempt to produce the same quality latte art at home (and fail miserably in my case, of course).

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Unfortunately, due to its popular location it can be common to find a large queue, sometimes snaking into the street outside. But don’t worry, there is a small army of the best barristas around, working away inside to bring you your coffee. In fact, it can be quite enjoyable waiting in line and witnessing the well oiled machine at work, as each member of staff carries out their specified task, making up the cogs in the wheel that leads to your little steaming caffeine hit. So the wait never seems to be too long. Especially if you don’t have some fool in front of you, messing up the queuing system because his puppy insists on sitting slap bang in the middle of the busy thoroughfare with an expression that says, ‘this isn’t the park, what kind of walk do you call this?’.

Once I’d enticed Grenson out of the way and over to a seat, with the aid of a chicken flavoured chewy stick, I was able to sit back and watch the world go by.

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There is nothing like entering a little caffeine bubble of serenity. When you finally finish off the smooth remnants of the latte art now at the bottom of your cup, the caffeine should begin to kick in and embolden you, ready to go outside for the next round of artisan food purchasing.

Unfortunately the pick me up of a good coffee isn’t available to all. If that is the case for you, then a full day of shopping at the market can leave you a little pooped out. You have been warned!

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The Man and the Dog.

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dog friendly restaurants, the dog blog

Three Buoys Restaurant – Isle of Wight

There has been talk on this blog in the past (see Seaview Hotel post), of a legendary event known as ‘The Family Do’. This is an annual event around Christmas time in which we get together with all of Hannah’s (a.k.a my wife, a.k.a ‘En Brogue‘) maternal side of the family (aunties, uncles, cousins, second cousins, friends, maybe a few passers by just swept along for the ride) and eat, drink, and at some point all join in on badly coordinated Greek dancing (Nanny was Greek you see, but I’m not sure traditional Greek dancing is something that is passed down in the genes!). This has now become a tradition that has been going strong for over 40 years … (we really should have mastered the steps to Zorba the Greek by now).

If you’ve read the post on The Seaview Hotel you’ll know that it was the venue for my introduction to The Family Do. You’ll also know that I’m a big fan of the place. But it’s nice to spread the love, and after a few different venues in the ensuing years, this year we opted for The Three Buoys for Grenson’s own introduction to ‘da family’. (Luckily for him he didn’t have to partake in the slippery nipples … don’t ask!).

And what a great venue it was for his first do?

I mean, what’s not to like?

Let’s start with the food and drink.

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Firstly they serve ‘Curious Brew‘ on tap! For anyone who hasn’t come across this, it’s an English lager that is re-fermented using Champagne yeast (it’s as luxurious as it sounds!). As for the cocktails? You’ll need half an hour just to choose from their selection of delicious gins. Secondly, the food is simply excellent. Hannah and I had amazing starters of floured calamari with fennel, beetroot and orange vinaigrette; and chicken liver parfait with blackberry, pickled veg salad and toasted garlic croutes, (both can be seen in the picture above). We each had braised beef brisket for our main course and chocolate brownie for dessert, which unfortunately didn’t make it into the photo collage above as we both ate them too quickly!

Now lets move on to the location.

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The restaurant is set above a little cafe that sells plastic beach ware and ice creams, but if you ascend the stairs at the side of the building you’ll come to the restaurant with its balcony that takes in the full panoramic view of Appley Beach. You may think that this beach sounds familiar? Well that is because it’s the same beach where The Dell Cafe can be found. Yes, that’s right. At one end of this beach is Dell’s and at the other The Three Buoys. In between you have what feels like endless beach (especially when the tide goes out for a mile twice a day) and if you’re not up for walking on that (or the summer restrictions for dog walking are in place), then you can find Appley Park set back from the beach, behind the row of beach huts. Trust me, I have walked the entire coast of the Island and this is without doubt the best 1km stretch you’re going to find!

No wonder Grenson spent most of his time on the balcony staring out at the beach longingly! “When can we go on there again?!? when can we? when?!?”.

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Finally, let’s talk about the atmosphere. Whether you are a couple looking for a romantic meal, a family with kids, a man and a dog, or a giant extended family of (questionable) Greek dancers, the welcome is always warm. The staff, led by husband and wife team Tim and Emma, are knowledgable and ever attentive (we once witnessed one staff member welcome a visiting French couple and wait on them all night whilst speaking fluent French -you don’t often get that kind of service in this country).

The Three Buoys has only been running for a couple of years but with lots of hard work this great team have managed to establish it as one of the top culinary destinations on the  Island. And now of course it also has The Family Do seal of approval!

For Grenson, his first time meeting all of the family was a little tiring, (I felt a bit tired and emotional myself!), but we both look forward to many more return visits to the Three Buoys … as long as The Family Do hasn’t gained us a lifetime ban!!

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The Man and the Dog.

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cafes for dogs, dog friendly cafes, the dog blog

Ten Thousand Hands Cafe – Ladywell

The Ten Thousand Hands Cafe is a place that I had never visited before. Yes folks, this is the first ‘recommendation’ that I’m reviewing … well … I say reviewing, but lets face it, I think we’re far enough along in this enterprise now to realise that I’m no critic, I’m only ever going to feature places that I really like and think you all should check out for yourselves … And I say recommendation but strictly speaking it was an excellent article that I read on the Lewisham Card website suggesting 11 cosy bistros to escape from the cold that pointed me in the right direction.

Anyway … I was aware of quite a few of the bistros featured and hope to include them in future posts (I don’t want to use up all the local ones in one go! I’m playing the long game here!). The Ten Thousand Hands Cafe however, had somehow slipped under my radar.

So after a lovely walk around Ladywell Fields in which Grenson finally discovered the joys of a good stick to carry around on a walk, (but unfortunately also insisted on carrying it in the most dangerous fashion he could find) …

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… we set about finding this elusive cafe. This turned out to be a pretty simple task as it is in plain sight, right behind Ladywell train station. It’s been there since 2014 so I’ve no idea how I’ve missed it all this time. Stepping inside I ordered my customary flat white and, as I was feeling frivolous, a delicious flapjack to accompany it.

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If this is anything to go by then I expect that the rest of the menu must also be excellent. It definitely looks like it should be, and it’s worth noting how friendly it is to all you veggies and vegans out there, which is rare for such a small place.

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It is also important to note the hand prints, which brings us to the origin of the name. Ten Thousand Hands Cafe is a Jimmy Mizen cafe. For those of you that don’t know about Jimmy, he was a 16 year old local boy that was tragically killed in an unprovoked attack in 2008. In his memory his family set up the Jimmy Mizen Foundation with the aim that ‘something good should come from his death’. Their many projects have included setting up cafes in the area that create opportunities for local youths to receive training and gain valuable business skills, whilst also creating safe havens within the community.

The Ten Thousand Hands is named after a campaign that gives local youth the opportunity to volunteer their time to create change, leading to a safer environment and community. Locals of all ages are encouraged to add their hand prints to ‘Jimmy’s Peace Cloth’ signifying their commitment to building a better working community together. So far the hand prints number in excess of 100, 000.

If you haven’t already done so, it is worthwhile clicking on the links within this post to find out more about this fantastic foundation and all of its campaigns.

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Feeling refreshed, Grenson and I headed back out into Ladywell Fields to walk off the flapjack in my case, and to rediscover where he’d left his favourite stick in Grenson’s case.

The first recommendation had been a roaring success and well worth the visit. Thanks for the tip off, Lewisham Card. I highly recommend that any of you with the opportunity should head over and check it out for yourselves. We should all do our best to support valuable initiatives such as this in our communities … especially when it simply involves eating a delicious flapjack!!

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The Man and the Dog.

 

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cafes for dogs, dog friendly cafes, the dog blog

The Gentlemen Baristas – Southwark

The Gentlemen Baristas coffee house can be found in Union Street, one of the many little back streets around Southwark that could easily appear in a Dickens adaptation with very little set dressing.

In fact, the shop itself would probably need no set dressing at all! (Apart from the removal of the ‘one way’ sign that is spoiling the below picture featuring the nonchalant modelling skills of Grenson and En Brogue)

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It has a shop frontage that by rights should permanently have snow drifts in each corner of the windows.

Step inside and the Dickensian vibe continues as all of the gentlemen baristas are suitably hirsute with some fine moustaches and beards on show (I am also certain that they are big fans of tweed and arrive to work on suitably sturdy Victorian bicycles).

Despite the hairiness and the aforementioned ‘gentlemen’ of the title, this is not in any way some sort of specialist sexist coffee shop. It is not an old-fashioned gentlemen’s club. Many of the baristas are in fact gentle ladies. This was welcomed by Grenson as he could carry on with his new hobby of making every lady that he encounters immediately fall in love with him! Admittedly a fair few men also came over a little giddy in his presence, but walking around town with him must be a little like walking around town with David Beckham.

Anyway, enough of my jealousy, back to the coffee shop. It’s fair to say that the Gentlemen Baristas has an excess of charm. But it’s not all style over substance. These gentlemen baristas really know how to barist! (if that’s an actual word).

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Their flat white is one of the smoothest in London and when you combine it with a top notch sandwich and packet of crisps (or fruit for the healthy eaters) in a £6.50 meal deal, it gets even smoother.

But lets face it, you’d expect no less from ‘The Coolest Baristas in the UK’ as voted for in the UK Coffee Stop Awards!

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I can also recommend for breakfast (or whichever meal you like I suppose, it’s a free country), one of their chocolate twirly pastry things. I’ve no idea of their official name (something French that I can’t pronounce no doubt) but once, when struggling to describe what I wanted, one of the gentlemen baristas helpfully cleared it up as something he referred to as a ‘chocolate b*st*rd’. You see!? They weren’t crowned the coolest baristas in the UK for nothing.

Just to be clear, let’s not get confused about this coolness. Much like the way the baristas being referred to as gentlemen doesn’t mean that they are all male, their ‘cool’ moniker does not mean that they are frosty and aloof. Far from it. You’d be hard pushed to find more welcoming and friendly staff. In fact, as we were leaving they offered me a free take away coffee that someone had mistakenly ordered!

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There is nothing in life that tastes more sweet than free stuff. Although it may have pushed me over my safe caffeine level for the day, but hey, when you’re hanging with the coolest baristas in the UK you have to be a little rock and roll!

So in summary, if you’re looking for a Dickensian coffee house with the coolest gentlemen baristas that aren’t all men, serving smooth coffee that is sometimes free and accompanied by big chocolate b*st*rds, then we suggest that you hunt out this little gem of a coffee shop.

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The Man and the Dog.

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dog friendly pubs, pubs for dogs

The Lord Northbrook – Lee

For any of you that have read previous posts (see my About page and Seaview Hotel post) you will be aware that before Grenson entered my life, my hopes for dog ownership centred very much around a vision of a roaring fire, a leather chair, a pint of ale, a packet of pork scratchings (I know they’re not to everyone’s taste but I’m from the Black Country; we give our babies scratchings instead of dummies!), and a sleepy dog snoozing at my feet. Indeed, the quest for this idyll has, in no small part, led to the very existence of this blog. However, the picture that I had created wasn’t simply a product of my imagination, it had inspiration behind it, and it was this very pub – The Lord Northbrook – where it originated.

One day, while enjoying an afternoon pint, I spotted a gentleman on the other side of the room reading the paper and enjoying an ale. But unlike me, sitting on my own like a saddo, this fellow had a little pal curled up at his feet snoring away … just to be clear: it was a dog, he didn’t just have a small tired friend sleeping under his table, that would have been weird (although, I’m sure we all know pubs where this is a possibility!). From that moment on I’ve been looking forward with great anticipation to recreating this dog/pub nirvana for myself.

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First things first, the Lord Northbrook is a great pub. Only a few years ago there were no decent pubs at all in this area of south east London where I live. It was all to do with Scottish presbyterians or something. Apparently some kill-joy Victorian built most of the area and because he didn’t enjoy enjoying himself he wrote it into law that no one else was allowed to either. Thankfully, things changed, and at around the same time that we got the refurbished Station Hotel in Hither Green, we were also gifted the Lord Northbrook. The day that an Opentable, Time Out and Shortlist award winning pub opens up just a short walk away from home is a very good day indeed!

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It’s a pub that looks good. It’s a pub that serves great ale (it’s highly likely that the staff will offer you a small taster if you find it hard to choose – always a nice touch).It’s a pub that serves great food (see all the awards). It’s a pub that also supports live music, with a band performing there most weekends. But most importantly, it is a a pub with leather Chesterfields next to an open fire! Grenson and I commandeered one of the leather sofas just as another log was put on the fire.

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As you can see from the picture above, Grenson duly obliged me by lying down, transfixed by the warming glow of the fire. I had my leather chair, I had my fine ale, I had my open fire and I had my dog curled up at my feet!

As the barman passed I enquired about the final piece in the jigsaw – ‘Excuse me, could I get a packet of pork scratchings please?’ to which I received the heartbreaking reply ‘sorry we don’t sell scratchings’… NOOOO!! So near and yet so far!!!

To be fair to The Lord Northbrook, I did then recall a Sunday evening last year when I had asked for scratchings and in lieu of the real thing, they had kindly provided me with an entire board of leftover pork crackling from that day’s roast dinners. With that filthy deliciousness in mind, I really can’t hold the lack of scratchings against this wonderful pub. And to paraphrase The Stones, ‘you can’t always get what you want … and in the case of scratchings and after a heavy festive period, that’s probably a good thing for the belly’ … or something like that.

Maybe the full dream scenario is just that, only a dream? If so, then I’m fine with that, and in the meantime I’ll have great fun continuing my quest to search it out, especially if all pubs are as good as The Lord.

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

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Buenos Aires Cafe – Greenwich

The Buenos Aires Cafe brings a little bit of Argentine heat to rainy old London. I mean, how can you not feel more latin warmth just from checking out the couple tangoing (no doubt Argentine tangoing, for all you Strictly fans out there) on the website’s logo? Once inside the cafe itself, the Argentine memorabilia on the walls might have you kicking and flicking like Len and Bruno at Blackpool tower!

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Grenson and I visited the cafe and deli in Greenwich but I can also highly recommend both restaurants in Blackheath and Greenwich. They offer an extensive menu but if you plan on visiting (and aren’t a veggie) then may I point you towards their signature steaks made from genuine Argentinian beef? Trust me, those Gauchos really know how to raise some prime cattle.

If, however, you are looking for great coffee, (brewed upon a Rancilio machine – which seems to be a favourite amongst South East London Barristas – see also my Arlo and Moe post), and excellent salads, sandwiches, cheeses or pastries, all consumed within a laid back latino atmospheric vibe, then look no further than the cafe and deli.

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It’s also the place to head to if you have an emergency need for artisan produce. If nothing else, anything you purchase is guaranteed to look really nice on your larder shelf.

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Grenson and I very much enjoyed our escape from the English drizzle, but I couldn’t shake the thought that he was trying to say something to me with the expression on his face….

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….’Dude!! Where is my Argentinian beefsteak?!?!’.

Next time Grenson, next time.

 

The Man and The Dog.

 

 

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dog friendly hotels, dog friendly pubs, the dog blog

The Seaview Hotel – Isle of Wight

It is fair to say that The Seaview Hotel is nothing short of an Isle of Wight institution. For many years now it has been winning awards for its accommodation and dining. It is also the ‘home of the crab ramekin’ – a kind of cheesy, crabby, pot of goodness not to be missed.

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However, on a more personal level it is special to me for two reasons. Firstly, it was the location of my introductory experience to my wife’s, ‘Family Christmas Do’ (a legendary affair and real baptism of fire for any fresh faced young boyfriend being introduced to the future in-laws!).

On that day I was familiarised with a game that I have taken part in on many subsequent occasions. So in turn, I feel at this point it is my duty to introduce you all to ‘The Generals’. If you visit this establishment and happen to be male (sorry girls, I don’t make the rules), when taking a trip to the loo you will find a picture of 5 Generals (it’s that kind of place, just go with it). Anyone who can return to their table and recite the names of all of the generals, and the poem dedicated to them, word for word, has clearly not drunk enough and must go to the bar immediately … alternatively if you return and fail to recount the names and poem word for word, then this can only mean that you have clearly not drunk enough and must go to the bar immediately. Warning: this can be a very costly game for both your wallet and liver!

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The second reason is that it was the place that Hannah and I spent our first night as a married couple. It was the perfect place to end our big day, and now that I know that they provide dog friendly rooms, a return visit for all three of us may be on the cards next anniversary (hint, hint, Hannah!).

So this is a place with much sentimental value. But aside from all that, for me, it has always been the back bar – ‘The Pump Bar’ – that has been my favourite part of The Seaview Hotel. The rest of the hotel is very sophisticated with the large main restaurant serving up dishes good enough to be awarded a ‘Michelin Bib Gourmand‘ for 2016, and the less formal ‘Naval Bar’ at the front of the hotel serving bar food in a room modelled on a naval wardroom. But it is when you step into ‘The Pump Bar’, with its open fire, dartboard and local ales, that you step into the real heart of this hotel. In fact, with the wooden floors, seafaring paraphernalia on the walls, and the crackle of the locals’ banter, you begin to feel that you could be in the heart of a vessel voyaging across the seven seas … (especially if you’ve been drinking with The Generals for too long!).

 

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Now that I have visited with Grenson there is a third reason for me to love this place. Because it was here that Grenson made my dreams come true! As I enjoyed my pint of Yates’ Undercliff Experience (one of the many fine ales from the Island that will no doubt be mentioned in full over the lifetime of this blog), Grenson quietly, and without any fuss, curled up at  my feet and had a little nap. Thus fulfilling my one desire when deciding to get a dog – that I’d be able to go to pubs with him and he’d be the type of dog that would quietly, and without any fuss, curl up at my feet and have a little nap.

And here is the picture to prove it!

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Admittedly we weren’t in leather chairs by an open fire, and I didn’t have a packet of scratchings (that’s the full dream – see Hello post), but you’ve got to leave room for improvement I suppose?

As for The Seaview Hotel, finding any room for improvement there would be pretty difficult if you ask me.

The Man and The Dog.

 

 

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