THE DOG & BADGER
This slick inn near Henley has added six luxe hotel rooms for a 30 second stagger to bed after dinner. Shall we?
I had a nose around The Dog & Badger bar and restaurant in Medmenham when last year, after it had undergone extensive refurbishment, and was mighty impressed. Since then they’ve added six luxe hotel rooms, which means a very appealing 30 second stagger home after dinner. I sent Muddy’s Kerry Potter and her husband for an overnighter to see if it still lives up to expectations.
On a busy road between Henley and Marlow, The Dog & Badger looks like a classic village hostelry from the outside. Inside the 14th century whitewashed building, however, it’s an ultra-modern, razzle-dazzle, adult playground that feels more Soho than shires. Traditionalists may clutch their pearls in horror and goodness knows what local old boys after a quiet ale think but we loved the boldness of it all. It felt fun, ambitious, sexy – and totally different to your average rural boozer. Go big or go home, right?
There was a glam, excitable, well-heeled crowd packing out the bar and restaurant on the Saturday evening that we visited. Owners Nick and Jane Robinson have a penchant for kitsch, eye-popping modern art, hence the technicolour robots and Disney characters plastered all over the walls. Then there’s the gorgeously undulating, high gloss lacquered wood bar, inspired by the design of the Riva speedboat, with its name up in (neon) lights. Mojito in hand, you feel like an extra in a Duran Duran video – in a good way. There’s substance alongside the style though – the service was warm and friendly.
I was hugely impressed by the rooms – think high-end boutique hotel standard rather than bog-standard B&B. With their well-stocked mini bars, Nespresso machines and flatscreen TVs, it’s hard to summon up the will to leave. The six rooms, all named after gin botanicals, are housed in a 14th century low-beamed cottage that’s perched just behind the pub. We stayed in Cassia, which was cosy and cosseting, all purple walls, dark wood furniture, and velvety soft furnishings. The interior designer clearly had a thing for lighting – there’s all manner of weird and wonderful lamps, while the light-up wardrobe interior and vanity mirror are nice touches.
I was less keen on the disco lights in the bathroom – unless you’re a Bee Gee you may find them a bit cheesy. However the rest of that space, with its underfloor heating and pristine robes, was wonderful, like a mini-spa – I lolled lazily in the roll-top bath and the steam room (the shower converts into one). Big shout out to the giant, comfortable beds too, with their deliciously crisp white linen. On arrival, frazzled from packing up suitcases and packing off children, we lay down just for a second… and woke up an hour later. A daytime nap – the decadence! And despite the busy road nearby, the rooms are surprisingly peaceful.
SCOFF & QUAFF
We ploughed through an excellent three course dinner, courtesy of new chef David Hawkins, previously of The Crown in Amersham and The White Oak in Cookham. The menu is modern British, with highlights including the crispy, moreish tempura prawns with green Thai curry mayonnaise starter …
and the tender flat-iron steak with chips main, all perfectly executed.
We finished off with mini doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce. Just because.
It’s well worth picking the brains of the cheery Italian sommelier – she gently encouraged us to be more experimental than our usual ‘bottle of Sauv Blanc to share please’. We sampled white white from Sussex (I’m intrigued by the growing reputation of English wines) and she paired my chicken main with – gasp – a glass of red, a lovely Pinot Noir. Controversial, yep, but it totally worked. We adjourned to the bar to peruse the lengthy gin list – they have around 30 types – and the phonebook-sized cocktail menu. Make mine a lychee martini, please. The next morning, we had impeccably poached eggs on avocado toast for breakfast, which were so good, I’d say it’s worth coming for brekkie alone (you don’t have to be a hotel guest).
While they are very much welcome – two of the rooms can be turned into a suite thanks to an inter-connecting door and there’s a children’s menu – my advice would be to leave the nippers at home and come from an indulgent, grown-up dinner or night away. It’s also worth noting, the pub is right on a busy road, and the outdoor space is limited to a small terrace.
OUT AND ABOUT
Marlow is three miles to the east and Henley is four miles west, so you’re perfectly placed for exploring either of those chi-chi riverside towns. There are plenty of walking and cycling routes, with Medmenham within the Chiltern Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We strolled down to the Thames towpath, a five minute walk passing houses that become increasingly lavish the nearer to the water you get (manna from heaven for nosey parkers like me). Alternatively there’s a road up the side of the hotel that lead up to bluebell woods.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: There’s a lot to be a said for an overnighter in your own ‘hood – who wants to spend half the day sat in motorway traffic? And with The Dog & Badger feeling so decadent and indulgent, it’s a world away from the mundanities of real life despite being geographically close by. If you’re looking for a romantic recharge, this is absolutely your spot. Equally it’d work well for girl’s night out or posh family meal.
Not for: Those with young families – the vibe is more grown up and with only a small courtyard next to the road, parents might find it hard to relax.
The damage: Doubles rooms are from £195 per night including full English breakfast A three-course dinner for two, with drinks, is around £150 so it’s relatively pricey for outside of London but justifiable as a treat. The weekday set menu is great value – £15 for two courses or £18 for three.
Henley Road, Medmenham, Bucks SL7 2HE. Tel: 01491 579944. thedogandbadger.com