dog friendly restaurants, London, the dog blog

Art exhibitions and L’Escargot

We went ‘up west’ last week for a night out. Grenson and I had been into central London before, but this was our first real night out in the big city. And what a night we had planned!

En Brogue did a brilliant interview recently with The Honey Hunter (which involved quite a lot of the sticky stuff tasting … and by the way honey and cheese is a brilliant combination, you should try it!). She then wrote a whole piece about bees and honey for the September issue of Instyle magazine. As a result she’s become a bit of a crusader for the little stripy fellas.

So when the opportunity to attend the opening of a new exhibition by Jessica Albarn at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery  that was centred all around bees fell on her desk, she jumped at the invite. (The fact that her teenage heroes Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon were also likely to be there was just a bonus really). Add to this the fact that they said that it was ok to bring along Grenson and there was no stopping us.

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And what a fantastic exhibition it was. There really were some beautiful pieces on show, from large interactive artworks to intricate little pencil drawings. And what a great theme. Think about it: bees are great. They make honey for flips’ sake. Imagine if flies started producing marmite, or moths came out with their own range of marmalade?! We’d think they were awesome and do everything to encourage them. Bees make honey, honey is delicious. Let’s save bees!

The exhibition goes on until 24th September, if you get a chance I highly recommend that you take a look.

After this we needed food. We’d heard that a local Soho institution was super dog friendly, and we were keen to put this to the test. So we headed over to Greek Street and the oldest French restaurant in London, L’Escargot.

If you’ve never been, then let me tell you that L’Escargot is pretty special. Step inside and you totally understand that the claim to be the oldest and most celebrated French restaurant in London is no empty boast. It is oozing sophisticated chic French style.

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The thought that this place would allow us to dine with Grenson under the table seemed a bit unlikely to me. However, as with the French in general it seems, they truly are les amis du chien! Within minutes of us being seated a big bowl of water arrived for Grenson (in fact I think he got his water before we did!).

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It’s a beautiful building and a refined atmosphere, and the food is great too. There was no way I was dining at L’Escargot and not having the l’escargot. That would be ridiculous.

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Verdict: hmmmm, not sure. My brain kind of expects them to taste of the sea, like whelks or some other shellfish. Instead they kind of taste more … earthy. I ate them all though and enjoyed them … in a weird way. There was no weirdness about my enjoyment of the parsley and garlic sauce that they were served in however. Absolutely delicious!

The rest of the meal avoided any weirdness and instead just stayed with the delicious vibe. At the end of the night we waddled out, unable to fit another thing in. The dishes aren’t huge but they are so rich in flavour they may require you to rush home quickly to put on your tracksuit bottoms.

So there you have it, art, Blur, bees, snails that aren’t fishy, and finishing it all off in your trackie bums. Just your average fantastic night up west really.

 

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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cafes for dogs, dog friendly cafes, dog friendly hotels, Dorset, the dog blog

Devon and Dorset – Part 6

Staying in a Herder’s Hut was not my idea. When I go on holibobs I am very partial to the luxury of somewhere like the very place we were staying before we went there, the  Salcombe Harbour Hotel. Roughing it, even if it is ‘glamping’, is not my idea of a holiday. However, En Brogue had been on the Canopy and Stars website and was convinced that a couple of nights in a hut would be ‘magical’. That’s what she said! ‘Magical’. How anything that involves a shared toilet could be described as magical I do not know!

With thoughts of roughing it ahead I decided that before setting off I’d make the most of breakfast. The Salcombe Harbour Hotel has a very impressive light and airy restaurant where a bountiful breakfast is served. Unfortunately if you have a dog you can’t go in there. If you have a dog you have to eat outside. This would have been fine, apart from the fact that IT RAINED A LOT ON OUR HOLIDAYS! As a result breakfast had to be done in relay again.

To delay our arrival at the hut a little further, I decided that we should go for another stroll around town. This turned out to be very fortunate as we stumbled across a perfect little deli. The Salcombe Delicatessen provides deliciously filled sarnies and amazing pasties, but most importantly for us, they also do their own range of doggie treats!

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Dog-gestive biscuits! How could we resist? I think the peanut butter fingers may have been Grenson’s favourite treat…ever!

Following our walk we ventured over to North Sands, a fantastic wide sandy beach leading down to the water with the brilliantly named Winking Prawn at its heart providing very tasty seafood lunches. Finally the clouds had parted and the sun was making a rare appearance. And here something strange happened. Suddenly, from being scared of the smallest of waves, Grenson found his water wings! In the end it was all we could do to get the crazy little fella out of the water. (I think those biscuits may be magic!).

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After this there was no putting off the inevitable. We (one of us reluctantly) set off to Dorset and to Laverstock Farm, near Bridport.

My idea of camping is rainy tents, surrounded by families having barbecues, playing loud music and allowing their kids to kick their footballs in my direction. On top of this I’d already been told that in the case of the hut we were staying in there would be no telly, no phone coverage…no electricity!

When we got to the farm we were led to the bottom of a field … and there it was … the most perfect little herder’s hut.

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It’s true that there was no electricity, but this meant that we had to use little lanterns which created the most cosy effect lighting. It’s true that there was no telly, but this meant that we spent a wonderfully atmospheric evening listening to Wales beat Belgium in the quarter finals of the Euros on our battery powered radio. It’s true that there was no phone reception, but it turns out that a couple of hours with no Instagram can be very therapeutic.

As for noisy neighbours? The only ones we had were a herd of cows (who found Grenson very interesting).

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Never let it be said that I won’t admit when I am wrong. When I woke up the next morning, to the smell of bacon sizzling on the camp stove outside, one thought came into my head…Magical!

To be Continued….

The Man and the Dog

 

 

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Devon and Dorset – Part 5

I left you all in Part 4 with the tantalising promise of pie. Unfortunately pie o’clock wasn’t until midday, and so in an effort to speed up the hours after checking out of the Whitehouse  we travelled a little way to the nearby village of Slapton.

I’d heard tales of this village before we set off on our little road trip, and when I spotted the Sherman tank sitting opposite the long wide sandy beach, I knew I’d found what I was looking for.

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Back during World War 2 the military had basically commandeered this village and most of the surrounding area, forcing all of the inhabitants to leave their homes behind. The reason for this was the fact that Slapton Sands bears an uncanny likeness to the beaches in Normandy, in particular Utah beach. In 1944, the US army were conducting top secret dress rehearsals for D-Day – code named Exercise Tiger – in this area. Unfortunately on one of these practice runs they ran into a German E boat squadron, who attacked and sunk three of the vessels. This one incident led to the death of 639 soldiers and sailors. Due to the top secret nature of the preparations any survivors were sworn to secrecy.

(That is the very abridged version of events, to read more click on this link – Exercise Tiger.)

Many years later a guy named Ken Small heard from local fishermen about a strange object off the coast. He organised a dive and they found a Sherman tank. After much hard work and perseverance on his behalf, he eventually was able to buy the tank from the US army, get it brought to shore, uncover the history and set up this memorial. Basically if it wasn’t for Ken Small many US families would have never found out what happened to their loved ones back in 1944 off the coast of Devon, and the whole of Exercise Tiger may still be a secret. (Again this is the short version of the story, please do read his full story by following the link above, the guy deserves it!).

After this sobering little history trip it was time for pie, and so we travelled back to the Tradesmans Arms. Upon arrival it seemed as though we had inadvertently entered a Schnauzer festival. There were only two other couples in the pub, both of whom had arrived separately, and both of whom had a little schnauzer in their family.

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This shocking coincidence managed to distract me for a few seconds before I remembered why I was there – PIE. I placed my order and mere moments later was presented with this picture of wonder and beauty.

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Now that is a proper pie. Proper pastry, excellent chips on the side and washed down with a pint of Tribute. All was good….goodish. I have to admit that on closer inspection I was a little disappointed to find that the pastry was really only a lid, and once broken through, the filling was a little more watery than I would have preferred…but hey, maybe I’m becoming overly picky about my pies? (And of course by finding a fault it allows me to carry on my grail-like search for the perfect pie). At the end of the day, look at the picture – no one could be disappointed with that bounty for lunch.

Feeling a little wobbly after dinner (from food, it was only a Tribute shandy – which I fear is an admission that may well get me lynched by the real ale brigade), we headed over to the most fancy stop of all our accommodation on this trip, the Salcombe Harbour Hotel. And when I say fancy, I mean this hotel should be wearing fancy pants. For example, the car park is very narrow, so narrow that you can only really drive in one way and once inside it’s very difficult to turn to face the opposite direction. To combat this problem there is a revolving circle just outside reception, the cars simply drive on to it, sit still as the entire floor spins and then drive off facing the correct way. Can you imagine how much the small boy inside of every man staying there just wanted to play on that all day? Luckily the luxurious and comfy rooms manage to drag you away from this engineering marvel.

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Grenson absolutely loved his view of the harbour from the room and spent a very pleasant afternoon watching a sailing school messing about in their boats. Meanwhile I took advantage of the swimming pool (I didn’t just sit outside the room watching the turning circle car contraption thingy, honest), and En Brogue took advantage of the complimentary in room Gin (Warning: tonic not complimentary).

To be fair to En Brogue, that’s me being slanderous, she didn’t really just sit in the room swigging back G & T. She had a little wander around town and found a surprise place to book for our evening meal…then she came back and we swigged G & T together.

We also had a very pleasant pre dinner drink in the garden of the Ferry Inn, despite it not really being garden weather, what with the now omnipresent grey drizzle. But lets face it, if it had actually been as sunny as July is meant to be then we may not have got a seat in the garden (I think that is called grasping at silver linings).

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We then headed further down into the very pretty town to find our dinner destination. I was ensured that when I saw it, I’d know where we were going. This indeed was the case.

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How could we possibly not be eating at a place with an ‘A la Bark Menu’?

The Victoria Inn is as dog friendly as you’re ever going to find. Not only do they provide aforementioned a la Bark menu (pig’s ear, rawhide chew, bonio – all proceeds go to a hearing dogs charity), but also inside you’ll find towels and blankets alongside water bowls, and a fine array of doggy themed cushions. Grenson was in heaven as he curled up on his blanket under our table with a pig’s ear to chew on. As for us humans, the beer is pretty special too, and I highly recommend the Salcombe potted crab. Delicious.

Again, feeling very wobbly from over consumption we slowly made our way back to the hotel, and settled down for an early night with our complimentary gin for company.

I knew that I needed to make the most of this luxury, for over the next two nights En Brogue had booked us in to stay in a ‘Herder’s Hut’. I’d have no electricity for the next two nights, let alone free gin and floors that turn cars around. How would I cope?!

To be continued…..

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

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cafes for dogs, Devon, dog friendly cafes, dog friendly hotels, dog friendly pubs, dog friendly restaurants, pubs for dogs, the dog blog

Devon and Dorset – Part 4

We awoke to find that the drizzle of the previous day had disappeared … to be replaced by a full on downpour. Not to worry. On the way to The White House we had stopped at a service station called Ashby’s. On entering the shop we were amazed to find that it was in fact an Aladdin’s cave of ALL the outdoor clothing and equipment you could ever need (including doggy lifejackets!). I was very happy for the opportunity to rectify my mistake of relying on the British summertime, and purchased a rather snazzy new ‘mac in a sac’.

We had planned a walk in Dartmouth for our morning adventure, and the rain was not going to stop us, not now that I had my trusty waterproof jacket. Smugly I removed it from its ‘sac’ and shook it out … only to find two legs of a pair of trousers unfold themselves! Damn it! Off we set on a detour back to Ashby’s with the full intention of trying to negotiate an exchange. By the time we’d driven there through the pounding rain the more sensible option was clearly to get a coat as well as the trousers. In fact Hannah and Grenson were so jealous of my full on waterproof suit that they had to purchase themselves waterproofs too!

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Who was it who said ‘there is no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong type of clothing’? Whoever it was they were an idiot.

Our walk took us up a path around the back of Dartmouth Castle and on to Compass Cove following part of the South West Coastal Path. The walk itself wasn’t too bad but I’m sure the views of the harbour would have been much more impressive if not covered in cloud. To make matters worse, halfway along our route we found our path blocked by a gang of very suspicious looking cows. We didn’t like the look of them. They looked shifty.  So we abandoned the walk and turned back.

It wasn’t a full disaster. The woods were lovely, the totally justifiable use of full wet weather gear is always good for making you feel like a proper adventurer (Bear Grylls eat your heart out), and Grenson loves a walk in long grass and the rain. It is guaranteed to send him ‘cracker dog’ (i.e. he runs around at full speed with his bum tucked in under himself, like his front legs can’t quite keep up with his back ones!).

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Another reason for our return to the car may have been to do with a recommendation we had been given for a fish and chip restaurant in nearby Beesands. By now it was way past lunchtime and there is nothing like a bracing walk to whet the appetite (even if it is only half a walk).

The Britannia @ The Beach is also known as ‘The Shack’, and when I first caught sight of it I realised why.

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We were shown to a table in the gazebo that serves as the main dining room. My expectations weren’t soaring, but by now I was literally starving (and by literally I mean I was slightly hungry having not eaten for a matter of hours).

There was no need for fear. I should know by now that unassuming little places like this often serve up the best food you’re likely to find, and this place did not disappoint.

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Look at the batter on that haddock. GET IN MY BELLY!!

We returned to our accommodation and an afternoon snooze may or may not have been enjoyed by all.

Once we awoke we decided that a nice evening stroll to the local pub was in order.  The Tradesman’s Arms was flipping brilliant.

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We found ourselves a couple of stools at the bar to perch on, and having not long consumed our fish and chips settled for a couple of packets of crisps with our liquid refreshment (dinner of kings). However, whilst sitting at the bar enjoying my beer I spotted the pies that were coming out of the kitchen. Oh my! They looked absolutely delicious. Add to this the fact that behind the bar hung the sign pictured below.

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That settled it, we immediately booked ourselves in for lunch the next day.

Tune in next time for a full pie review!

To be continued…..

The Man and the Dog

 

 

 

 

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cafes for dogs, Devon, dog friendly cafes, dog friendly pubs, dog friendly restaurants, Dorset, the dog blog

Devon and Dorset – Part 2

Having finally managed to escape the climb out of Clovelly we decided that we’d spend the morning investigating more cliff faces (this time on foot rather than in the car!). So we headed over to the brilliantly monikered Baggy Point that sits just above the beautiful Croyde Bay.

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It offered stunning views, a breathtaking walk along the coastal path, and enough fresh air to blow out all of our cobwebs…it’s also a National Trust site so yet another free car park for us..bonus!

We found that a particular highlight of the walk was finding the lovely little wooden doors carved into tree trunks along the way. They look like tiny fairy homes and if you gently open the door you’ll find a little offering of pressed flowers. Isn’t that lovely?

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Anyway, before I completely lose my carefully procured macho image lets move on.

Once you’ve completed your walk, which should take no more than an hour, (unless you get a bit freaked out by some of the edges like En Brogue did and need a bit of a sit down), you’ll find the brilliant Sandleigh Tea Rooms waiting for you back at the car park.

 

There was no way I was going any further on this Devon trip without a cream tea. You can see above that the one I got was truly top notch. It was a beautiful morning (little did we know it was going to be our only one!), and with plenty of outdoor seating and much needed water bowls on hand it scores highly on the dog friendly chart.

Our ultimate destination today was Palmers Barn B&B in Tavistock, which involved quite a drive South to the outskirts of Dartmoor.

On the way we planned to stop off at a site that we had heard a lot about. A magical sounding church that stood at the top of a Tor surrounded by an Iron Age fort. Brentor  is indeed stunning. Especially when you consider that it is still a working church, with the flock clambering up here for services every Sunday. Unfortunately at the time of our visit the roof was being repaired which meant the entire church was covered on all sides with scaffolding! Oh well the views of Dartmoor from up high was worth the stop off anyway.

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Palmers Barn was just a short drive away and we were very pleased to be shown our room and catch a sneak preview of the breakfast room (we’d read that breakfast was pretty special and weren’t to be disappointed, any place that provides Dorset Cereals gets a thumbs up from me, I’m a sucker for a fancy cereal).

Alas it was not breakfast time when we arrived and so in need of evening sustenance we headed down the road into Tavistock.

We very quickly stumbled upon the Cornish Arms. What a great find. Very welcoming to Grenson with the staff bringing him over a bowl of water, and then for us humans probably the best meal we had on the entire journey. I had a simple pork chop, with some sort of tarragon sauce and a side of apple sauce and deliciously crisp chips, and Hannah had chicken curry which was head and shoulders above your average pub curry (which to be fair is usually pretty good anyway).

 

After this we popped into a lovely little local shop filled with an aromatic smell of local lavender. They sold a great selection of local beers and wines, so we decided to stock up and take it back to the B&B, for this was the night that England were to take on the mighty Iceland in the Euros…..the less said about that the better!!!

To be continued…..

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

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Model Market – Lewisham

Model Market is the biggest thing to happen to Lewisham since … well … since ever really!

Now in its third year, the novelty of having such a fantastic event on our doorstep has still not worn off for En Brogue and I. And this year we get to introduce Grenson to the market vibe. For praise be, it’s dog friendly! Whoop!

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It’s run by the guys at Street Feast so if you’ve been to their Dalston Yard, Dinerama or Hawker House sites, then you’ll know what to expect from Model Market – tasty beers, super tasty cocktails and super super tasty food from the various street food vendors filling the stalls around the market. All of this is served up in an atmosphere of pure cool (I know. There is that word again! – see YDBMF post for in-joke details).

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What makes Model Market a particular favourite of mine is the fact that it is situated in an old abandoned 1950s market. I love that you can still see the old signs for electronics stalls or hairdressers alongside the modern signs advertising the street food on offer. It’s nice to be able to see a bit of the venue’s history, rather than having it all ripped out and the whole place sanitised. It also makes you feel very much like this is an organic event that has sprung up from the weeds to transform this previously abandoned and unloved site.

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I’m also pretty partial to the fact that it is just down the road from my house!

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The temporary nature of the whole experience is also enhanced by the fact that it doesn’t hang around for long. It’s open Fridays and Saturdays, 5pm to 1am (£3 after 7pm but free beforehand) for the few short months of the British summer time. It washes in like the tide, blooms for the summer and then is extinguished in time for winter (I’m throwing in mixed metaphors now for fun – see YDBMF post for in-joke details).

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The only problem with a visit to Model Market is that you may well find it very difficult to decide which one of the amazing aromas to follow to find your dinner. The choice can be overwhelming! You may find that you have to keep going back for more. After all, it’s only fair that you spread the love. Last night, after much deliberation (and libation) En Brogue and I opted for some burger action from Mother Flipper .

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Holy Moly! By rights you should really have a shower after eating the candy bacon, it’s so damned deliciously filthy!

As for Grenson, what did he think of his first visit to Model Market? Well lets just say that during his time there he had approximately 15,678 attractive young ladies (and men for that matter) come over to him and give him a cuddle! One of his favourite nights ever I think.

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We’ll be back again soon.

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

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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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