The latest hot pub you’ll want to know about
Very excited to tell you about The Dog & Badger pub in Medmenham, between Marlow and Henley. As you know if you read Muddy regularly, I’m forever on the trail of funky places that do things a little bit differently, and this pub has its cool credentails up in lights.
It opened at the end of July last year as a free house, with a massive, expensive refurb of a 13th century inn that’s created a stonking bar (just look at the wood finish on that baby!), a very good restaurant, a private dining area upstairs and from next month, 6 ensuite bedrooms housed in a separate Grade II listed former Ale House.
Whilst you probably wouldn’t raise an eye to this kind of combination in London, the reality is in the Home Counties is that there are few pubs that operate successfully on so many levels – particularly the buzzy bar/good food combo. With a 9am daily opening for coffee, a bar menu offered from 12pm all the way to 9pm (Mon to Sat), a daily a la carte menu and Sunday lunches from 12pm – 5pm these guys clearly mean business. There’s also the small matter of the Muddy nectar, 450 wines offered at the bar, with 50 by the glass. Let’s just assimilate that happy fact for a second.
I drove to Medmenham – and yeah, you try spelling that after a couple of drinks – from a meeting in Henley on pretty country roads. The pub is actually flush to the road side, no bucolic grounds here, with a smallish car park and decent-sized courtyard for summer drinks.
A ‘lifesize’ Paddington Bear in the foyer hinted at the willingness of the owners to have a play with the traditional country pub formula, and the interior backed that up.
There’s an abundance of art on the walls, some of it fantastic, and it was interesting to be in a space that’s so confident in its own skin.
But interiors only go so far, and the importance of the food was underlined by a fantastic state-of-the-art open kitchen with charcoal grill and wood-burning stove.
The day I visited I was on a nightmare schedule, so only managed to have a mains and dessert (I know, woe is me!) but let me tell you from the off – the food is impressive and I will definitely be making a return visit. The menu at The Dog & Badger is mainly British grub with global influences. I’d intended to have a sensible English salad, but you know the flesh is weak, and I ended up ditching the UK bucket and spade for a trip to Thailand with a beautifully judged aromatic fish curry that managed the impossible, to be filling but light. It’s hard to photograph a curry attractively so you’ll have to take my word that it was really well presented!
Dessert was this glorious sticky concoction – isn’t it pretty? I loved the presentation, and the sweetness was pitched just right.
Before I left I made a quick dash upstairs to check out the private dining space.
I’m always slightly in two minds about private dining – the plus being you’re really looked after, the potential minus that there are no other punters in the room to help create a buzz. You’ll have your own ideas about that, and there’s no denying the space is quite bijou (groups of burly rugby players might want to search elsewhere as there’s a very low beam to navigate) but if you’re of regular size, looking for private dining this is a good punt, with three interconnecting rooms of an oak bar with sofas, a dining area and a Moroccan Lounge – so you don’t have to hang out with the drunken old goats like me in the main bar.
What else to tell you? Well, there’s no garden to speak of so this is primarily an adult space – or at least, not one for small children. They hold monthly Wine Dinners, the next one being on Weds 20 April, hosting Samuel Guibert of the world-renowned Languedoc estate Mas de Daumas Gassac, followed by the May Wine Dinner revolving around the iconic wines of Cloudy Bay in New Zealand on Tues 17 May.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Those looking for something different. It offers the antithesis to the Farrowed & Balled interiors of many local venues, but with real credentials of superior food and a beautiful bar. There’s a gluten free menu
Not for: mums with prams will be fine in the courtyard – the 9am coffees might even be with them in mind – and there’s a special children’s menu (with polenta popcorn – how middle class is that?!) , but without a garden it’s not a space that’s particularly child-friendly.
£££: On the upper side of middle, £14.50 for fish and chips, £17.50-22 for most mains.
Henley Road, Medmenham, Buckinghamshire SL7 2HE. Tel: 01491 579944. thedogandbadger.com