Dog Friendly, dog friendly pubs, Isle of Wight, pubs for dogs, the dog blog

The Portland Inn – Isle of Wight

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.

A few weeks back, after a lovely walk in Parkhurst Forest, we settled on the Portland Inn in Gurnard for my Sunday roast fix.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

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cafes for dogs, Dog Friendly, dog friendly cafes, dog friendly hotels, Dog Friendly Shops, Kent, Margate, pubs for dogs, the dog blog

Margate & the Botany Bay Hotel

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.

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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!).

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At last things started to look up, not only does a ‘proper’ coffee always help, but we found this sign very welcoming.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

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Minibreak part 1 – Devizes

Another week, another fashion city for En Brogue to jet off to. It’s a hard life for some. As a result Grenson and I decided we might as well head off on another minibreak of our own. En Brogue and the fashionistas may have Paris in the Springtime but Grenson and I will always have Ponty!

Good old Pontypridd in South Wales was where En Brogue and I met (student love, aren’t we cute?!). I thought Grenson would enjoy researching a bit of family history. I could also meet up with my old school friend who now lives there and enjoy researching a bit of pub history.

However, despite Grenson being an excellent traveller, I decided a stop off on the way would be a good idea to break up the journey. As a result, the first part of this break was spent in Devizes. No specific reason for choosing this town other than it felt like a pretty decent halfway point between London and Wales, and also … well it’s just an intriguingly strange name isn’t it?

We settled on the dog friendly accommodation provided by The Hat Apartment. Tip: if you go on Booking.com you can filter for pet friendly accommodation. Very useful.

If I had to choose a word to sum up this choice of abode, then the stand out winner would be…characterful. First off, it’s in a row of houses built circa 1550!

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That alleyway is surely the sort that unsuspecting tourists may wander into and inadvertently end up being transported back in time, like Nicholas Lyndhurst in Goodnight Sweetheart, (a very confusing TV show from the 90s which was inexplicably popular despite being completely ridiculous).

The apartment was through the iron gate on the left and comprised of one room with a little self contained kitchen and dining area, and another room with bedroom and bathroom in the eaves.

(n.b. notice Grenson just escaping shot above).

I loved it. However, I did find the fact that the iron gates mentioned above were the only front door. i.e. there was no front ‘door’. It spooked me out a bit, I don’t mind admitting. I’m still not entirely sure that I didn’t miss the big door that was meant to be shut behind the gates?!

Anyway despite the gate/door conundrum, you can’t help but love a place that provides doggy treats on arrival and crockery of such devastating brilliance as that shown below.

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As for Devizes itself … it’s an interesting place. Prior research led me to The British Lion which was apparently a stalwart in ‘The Good Book’. Alas, they only allowed me in the beer garden (overgrown grass, wobbly benches, next to car park) with Grenson. This was very disappointing as the pub looked great (friendly locals, good ales, pool table).

The next pub, recommended by the lady at The Hat Apartment, was the Black Swan. This improved my mood no end. It was no ordinary pub at all. In fact it seemed to be an antique shop that also sold beer and food!

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Basically everything inside was for sale!

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How brilliant? I enquired about food and was told that the kitchen opened at six and there was no need to book. So I ordered a pint of Wadworth 6x (Devizes is overshadowed by the brewery so drinking anything else would have been sacrilege … it’s also handily a big favourite of mine), and settled down, before heading back to freshen up for dinner.

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However, upon my return I found all of the curtains drawn. This was odd, but then again, it is a place that sells everything inside, so odd was relative. I hesitantly entered to find places laid out and candles lit on the tables. I found a few people sitting at the bar and enquired about a table for 1 (plus dog). They looked at me as if I’d walked into someone’s living room and asked to sleep on the sofa. After a second or two of awkwardness, when I wondered if I was actually talking to paying guests rather than the owner, I was finally informed that the kitchen was closed. This was at 8:30. Either the kitchen was only open for 2 hours per night, or something strange was going on. Grenson and I left promptly. Not feeling in the mood for any more pub confusion we ended up getting a fish and chip supper to take back to our apartment. This was purchased from ‘The Best Plaice’ fish shop. I would suggest a name change to ‘The Soggy Batter And Manic Depressive Chips Plaice’; what it lacks in pun-tasticness it makes up for in accuracy.

So not the best of evenings, to be honest. Still, the bed was comfy and the next day we rode for Ponty!… Part 2 to follow.

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The Man and the Dog.

 

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