dog friendly hotels, dog friendly pubs, the dog blog

The Crown Hotel – Amersham

This weekend Grenson and I went on our first mini break together.

To any of you who also follow my better half, and Grenson’s ‘mum’, En Brogue, you’ll be aware that she is part of the fashion crowd. As a result, at this time of year she can be found galavanting around glamorous cities of the world looking at very skinny ladies in very expensive dresses.

Well quite frankly Grenson and I decided that it wasn’t fair that she was having all of the fun, and so I logged on to the Mr and Mrs Smith website (only the best for Grenson and I) searching for doggy friendly accommodation. Very quickly we settled upon the Crown Hotel in Amersham. It can be found just outside the M25, off junction 2 of the M40, so not far for us to travel from London. It also seemed to have plenty of nice looking walks around the town for Grenson to get suitably muddy. So we were off!

Unfortunately, in a rash moment I decided to trust the sat-nav. This resulted in us spending over 2 hours stuck in central London traffic. Looking more closely at the hotel info I noticed that I could have easily avoided this by getting the tube! Amersham is apparently at the end of the Metropolitan line (who knew?!). However, upon finally arriving in town I find this fact very hard to believe. This is by no means a Metropolis! Oh no. This is a place where my wellies were going to get a good work out. This was countryside, and this was exactly what we were looking for.

The dog friendly credentials of the hotel were confirmed upon check-in, as the staff took it in turns to coo and fuss over Grenson. Unfortunately, Grenson has recently taken to replying to any attention from strangers with a bum in the air posture that is meant to signify that he suggests that a game of jumping on each others heads should follow immediately. If the subtle mime doesn’t work, he reinforces his request for head wrestling vocally with a series of loud barks and snarls.

Having dragged him away and up the stairs to our room, his excitement levels grew as he investigated every corner of his new abode. I claim that it was only Grenson who was acting in this excitable way but lets be honest, who doesn’t immediately race around a new hotel room checking out the quality of bathroom products and assessing the merits of the tea and coffee making facilities? This room did not disappoint either of us.

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The White Company toiletries, a complimentary bottle of red wine (and crisps), books helpfully placed next to the bed, and my personal favourite, proper filter tea and coffee. Oh yes, this would do Grenson and I perfectly.

Alas, this was only a mini break, with the emphasis on mini. If we wanted to fit in the walk I had planned then there was no time for settling in the room. Much as I would have liked to have opened the wine and one of those books, it was time to get paws and wellies muddy.

The walk I had settled on was from Amersham to Little Missenden and back. It ticked all of the boxes. At the half way point there was a pub for much needed pint and packet of scratchings, Grenson got to feel tough by winning a stand off with a field of horses (the horses didn’t even notice that he was there but don’t let him know that!), and he found a field full of goose poo a most exciting experience for his nasal senses (and, I fear, also for his oral senses on a couple of occasions when I wasn’t looking).

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My favourite part of the walk was walking by Sharloes House. Not for any architectural feature in particular, but because it was designed in 1766 by a fellow named Stiff Leadbetter. If you know anyone with a more rock and roll name than that then you know some very rock and roll people!

When returning to our room, the amusement I felt from booking a hotel for me and my dog through such a quality website such as Mr and Mrs Smith was enhanced by the fact that we then received our complimentary gift for booking through their site. A bottle of champagne on ice.

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Sadly Grenson is more of a prosecco fan, so I had to drink the majority of it myself.

One slight negative to our stay is the fact that if you want to dine with your dog then you have to eat in the bar, as whilst the hotel is in general dog friendly, it still doesn’t allow dogs in the restaurant. Personally I think that’s fair enough as the bar serves the same dishes, but you can begin to feel a little forgotten at times.

It’s a small negative. My meal, washed down with a few pints of Adnams, was very nice, and Grenson and I retired to our room feeling satisfied and more than a little exhausted.

After a very pleasant nights sleep for both of us we rose ready for probably my favourite part of any hotel stay. Breakfast. This again did not disappoint.

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Not too big, and a bit of black pudding. Positives in my book. Beans in a pot I’m not so keen on, and I wouldn’t have minded some toast to arrive with breakfast rather than having to use one of those weird contraptions on the buffet table to toast your own. But ultimately, I think you’ll agree that those slight negatives are more than outweighed with that aesthetically pleasing teapot!

Yes, on the whole our first mini break was a roaring success. I think we both enjoyed it very much. I’m sure we’ll be back soon with En Brogue to check out a few more of the dog friendly establishments around this lovely town. After all, who needs Milan when you’ve got Amersham??

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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cafes for dogs, dog friendly cafes, London, the dog blog

Canvas & Cream – Forest Hill

Canvas & Cream is a beautiful little creative hub in the heart of Forest Hill. It’s much more than your average cafe; let’s start with the fact that the cream part of its name is not to be ignored. I indulged in a lovely creamy flat white and had to tear myself away from the equally creamy and indulgent-looking array of cakes on the counter.

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If this top quality fare and the delicious restaurant menu was all that was on offer, then this cafe would already be on to a winner. However, add the canvas part of the name, and it moves into the category marked ‘special’. You see, as well as being a cafe and restaurant, it also houses an art gallery and studios at the rear of the property. I heard a rumour that once a very famous art collector attended one of their exhibitions and bought everything on show! Of course that may be completely false, but who am I to let facts get in the way of a good story?!

But what I really love about this place is that you don’t have to even go into the gallery to get your artistic fix. Just walk through the door and look around.

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The entire space is a creative delight.

From the ingenious lighting …

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… to the amazing reclaimed and hand laid wooden floor..

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… this place is just a pleasure to sit in, relax,  and soak up the vibe.

It’s also an excellent place for a private function. I speak from experience having performed the running man (probably more jogging man to be fair!) during a friend’s birthday party that was held here.

So with all of the above in mind I was already a fan.

Then they went and brought out a bowl of water for Grenson … but not just any old bowl.

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SUPER BONUS POINTS!!!

If the deal wasn’t done before, that bowl completely sealed it. Yes, we definitely like it here.

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

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The East Dulwich Tavern – East Dulwich

The East Dulwich Tavern. Now this is a cool pub. This is so cool that it’s usually known just by its initials. EDT. Obviously it’s cool. It’s an Antic pub. You can tell this from the fact that all of the lamp shades are on wonky.

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Of course it’s not just the wonky lampshades that link all Antic pubs, it’s also the quality and kookiness. Like a great aunt visiting from the countryside in a 1950s childrens’ book, all Antic pubs seem to be big, eccentric and brilliant fun.

Much like the advice on the blackboard above, everything in this pub makes you stop and think ‘oh, should that be there? I’m not used to seeing that in a pub. But thinking about it, it makes perfect sense. I’m going to get a beer’.

The mis-matched furniture, the cups and jugs hanging on the wall alongside old radios…all of it somehow works.

But it’s not just the decor that makes these pubs great.

Antic now have a growing number of pubs, mainly around the South London area. All have their own distinct character but what they share in common is a fantastic standard of food and drink.

The EDT has 10 hand pumps with a rotation of real ales and is included in the Good Beer Guide 2015 (n.b. this may also in future be referred to as ‘The Good Book’ in posts on this blog). It also serves ale from the Volden brewery which is brewed exclusively for Antic pubs and is well worth a try.

And as far as the food is concerned, I can personally highly recommend the cheese and bacon beef burger with house sauce. (See below).

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Above all, and especially in the case of the EDT, Antic pubs are generally just blummin beautiful buildings.

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En Brogue was particularly taken with the floor tiles, which she was informed may well be originals, which would make them over 120 years old (although the barman didn’t look too convinced with this fact), either way it made a great shoefie background.

Any regular readers of this blog will know that I myself am fond of a nice little quirky touch. In Antic pubs it’s difficult to find something that isn’t quirky. However, the thing that really caught my attention in the EDT was the focus on music.

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I’m not sure that the music would have been coming from a beautiful machine such as the one above, but whilst En Brogue, Grenson and I, enjoyed our lunch we were entertained by an eclectic mix that swayed seamlessly through Hip Hop, Blues and … Charleston! Much like everything else in the pub the sounds from the speakers made me think ‘this is odd … and I like it’.

My favourite touch of all was the fact that all of the menus were backed by a classic album.

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Wonky lampshades, 10 different real ales, it’s own exclusive brew, cheese and bacon burgers with house sauce, antique floor tiles and menus served with classic vinyl?! What more could anyone ask for in a pub??

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The Man and the Dog.

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The Crown Tavern – Lee

There is nothing better in life than a summer evening spent in the beer garden of a country pub … ok some of you may think a beach in Barbados may trump that, but we’re a man and a dog of simple needs.

In truth The Crown in Lee is not a country pub, and alas we are still a long way from the balmy heights of summer. However, if you visit on a crisp, blue-sky spring afternoon, like the one Grenson and I enjoyed, you can sit in the excellent beer garden and fantasise about those halcyon days of summer to come.

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It is only very recently that this pub has taken on a face lift of 80s hollywood leading lady proportions. Mere days after it reopened En Brogue (whilst lost on a detour avoiding the A20) was drawn to it like a bee to nectar. I have a feeling that any fine new pubs that open in our area send out some kind of beacon, calling all those in need of a decent pint in pleasant surroundings. And this pub definitely provides that. Cask ales aplenty on offer, world class wines (according to their website), and lip smackingly good pub grub. All served in plush new interiors, either in the large bar area or in the even larger restaurant area.

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And if that wasn’t enough it also provides excellent quality floor tiles for all of your shoefie needs.

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But as already mentioned, it is the beer garden that really floats my boat.

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I very much like that it is big enough to accommodate a fair few summer revellers whilst also keeping an intimate air due to the booths (see above). I also approve of the fact that it is at the front of the pub rather than the back, so that anyone approaching on a summer evening will immediately begin to feel the garden buzz.

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But my favourite aspect has to be the use of artificial lawn. If it was good enough for Luton Town FC in the 80s then it’s good enough for a pub in Lee today, (unless you are into football and of a certain age it’s best to just ignore that last statement and skip to the picture below).

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Yes , that is a dog bowl of water brought out especially for Grenson by the bar staff. That always wins bonus points in my book. Add to that the fact that the barman also recommended a new draft ale then let me have a little taster of it first, and this pub is getting bonus points all round.

So yes, I stand by the fact that if you give me a pint of ale, a sunny evening and a beer garden with fake grass, then you can keep your Barbadian beach … (unless of course anyone wants to send us to Barbados to review their dog friendly beach bars … I’m not crazy!).

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The Man and the Dog.

 

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Cantina – Isle of Wight

Cantina in Ventnor has been running now since 2012 (I believe it was first situated down on the seafront, before a move to its current location on the high street), but for             En Brogue and I, its existence has been a very recent and wonderful discovery.

Be aware that it is only a small place so booking in advance is generally recommended (even for breakfast), but never has the saying ‘good things come in small packages’ been more apt since Kylie fished out her gold hot pants from the back of the wardrobe and began spinning around.

And it’s not just the quantity of good things on offer that is stunning, it’s the quality too.

Let’s start with the bread, as this is what you encounter when first entering the premises.

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Now that right there is what you call a table full of bountiful baking. I once left here with ‘bacon bread’. That’s bread with bits of bacon in it! Try to imagine a bacon sandwich made with bread that also has bacon in it!! You’ve got yourself a bacon bonanza on your hands my friend!!!

Then let us move on to the food and drink. You can always rest assured that any place that sells Square Mile coffee is sure to be a quality establishment.

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We visited for breakfast and may I highly recommend the slow cooked ham, beans and fried egg with toast as an alternative to the full on fry up, (although from a sneaky peak at the full english that the fella next to me had, that seems pretty damned good too).

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En Brogue had the cheddar, emmental, spring onion toastie with tomato jam, and said it was the best cheese toastie … ever! So I think that also counts as a glowing recommendation.

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Last but not least, if you look up at the bar area you will soon spot what else Cantina is especially good at.

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Any place that has a bar that well stocked is a place that knows how to mix a cocktail.  Yes, this place is not just about breakfasts and coffees. It is open until 10pm every day so it’s the perfect place for an evening meal and a cocktail … or five.

I have to admit that I didn’t check whether or not dogs would be welcome in the evening, but Grenson was made to feel more than welcome on our morning visit. He even charmed the waitresses into bringing him a big bowl of water. This was done between the regular ‘fuss sessions’ that Grenson seems particularly good at demanding and receiving from the staff (and most of the customers too) of any establishment that we now visit.

Before I go I just wanted to add a mention for the small cacti that are placed on every table. I do like a quirky little touch like that. So much better than a plastic flower. I’m also partial to merchandise, especially of the mug variety, so you can imagine how much the picture below pleases me.

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Rest assured I will report back soon with a definite answer on the level of evening dog friendliness, as come the summer months I will surely need to be trying out their ‘Mexi – jito’ (chilli infused Olmeca Reposado, mint leaves, lemon, agave and Chegsworth apple). Roll on the summer!!

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

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Archibald’s – Lee

You can’t get much more dog friendly than a cafe that is named after the owners’ pooch. This is the case with Archibald’s in Lee. In addition to the canine friendliness, it also happens to be just a short walk from Manor House Gardens (which is Grenson’s favourite walk at the moment), and even better than that, as a bonus it also happens to be a fantastic little cafe.

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Once you step behind the green door (ooh I came over a bit Shakin’ Stevens then for a second, sorry!), you enter a beautiful little cafe that very much feels like it belongs to a different decade … in a good way.

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But it’s not just the lovely retro decor that makes this place special, it’s the top quality fare on offer – coffee from Climpson and Sons, tea from Teapigs, and cakes from … well I’m not sure where they’re from actually but I’m guessing heaven by the looks of them.

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And all that is before I even mention the brunches. All I’m saying is ham and cheese in an eggy bread sandwich. Yes that’s right, you heard me, eggy bread!

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If my word (and the above pictorial evidence) isn’t good enough for you, then may I just add that it was voted winner of best cafe / coffee shop in the Lewisham area for the 2015 Time Out Love London Awards, so it’s not just me singing the praises of this little place.

My only problem with this delightful cafe is that for some reason Grenson has taken to refusing to walk when he enters. Instead he has begun spreading out on all fours and insisting on being dragged across the floor like a mop. This obviously causes much glee for any customers quietly tucking into their eggy bread sandwich (Yes! EGGY BREAD!!). On the positive side he’s doing his bit for keeping the floor clean, thereby disproving any complaints that dogs shouldn’t be allowed in places because they might make the place dirty. My one sweeps up with his belly!

If the worst comes to the worst I’ll just have to carry him. I’m not missing out on this great little hidden gem. Did I mention that they do EGGY BREAD?!

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

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