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Review: The Long Dog, Waddesdon

The Long Dog pub in Waddesdon, mid Bucks, has had a quirkily stylish revamp and a smart rethink of its positioning - be gone posh restaurant and hello friendly gastropub! Muddy dons her lucky napkin and tries it out

THE LOCATION

Tucked on the bend of the road that ribbons through the village of Waddesdon, it’s easy to miss The Long Dog altogether. Don’t make that mistake – it’s an excellent reason to come to this mid Buckinghamshire village even better when you realise that just round that awkward corner is National Trust’s glorious Rothschild ‘chateau’ Waddesdon Manor. Pleasingly, the pub itself is right next to to the 10th century village church – you can literally sit looking across at the medieval tower (rebuilt in 1882 but who’s counting?) from the garden.

THE VIBE

At its heart, The Long Dog is a quality village pub and the atmosphere here is unpretentious, friendly and eclectic. The interiors have had a recent zsush that’s successfully created a series of contrasting eating zones.

To the left as you enter theres’ a quirkily stylish dining area with strikingly dark (almost black), wall panelling, kitsch wall art and industrially-influenced lighting. Great for dinners, particularly on winter nights, or or private parties.

On the right side is the bar, there’s more natural light, stools at the bar for a cheeky pint and a more rustic feel.

The outside dining has been developed during Covid, with covered seating strewn with faux-wisteria, furry white throws and blankets and the church in the background. I’m guessing that the heaters will come out here for winter if there’s still a demand.

On the Saturday lunchtime when I ate here it was relatively quiet – not surprising on a sunny day with Waddesdon Manor at its peak summer charm. I shared the back courtyard with a family and three couples, so there were definitely enough bodies to create a relaxed atmosphere.

SCOFF & QUAFF

The Long Dog has gone through several permutations over the years. Most recently a dalliance with more ‘restaurant’ fare and a rigid devotion to local provenance struggled to excite the largely local client base (case in point – Guinness and a national draft lager brand are now back on draft!). Now with a broader ‘pub’ menu and a keener price point, and with a definite eye on families and easy diners, I think it might have hit its mark.

I started with asparagus & poached egg, béarnaise sauce and cured salmon (£11.45), with the egg pleasingly runny with the piquant béarnaise sauce a foil to the asparagus and rich salmon.

The sun was shining and by some kind of freak I was in a healthy eating frame of mind (like a solar eclipse, this will not now be seen again until 2030), so while my brother wolfed down a sirloin steak between repeated updates on how tender the meat was (it really was – I tried it), I plumbed for the Superfood Salad with roasted beetroot, charred peach, nuts & seeds, balsamic vinaigrette.

Old habits die hard and while I was ordering I had a ‘sod it’ moment and added honey glazed goat cheese to go on top (£14.50). And here’s the result – perhaps the prettiest plate of food I’ve ordered all year. It needed the goat’s cheese – I think it could have been a bit dull without it – but my god it was a fantastic salad, and I absolutely cleared my plate.

Dessert was the prettiest lemon meringue drizzled in Ludgershall honey (yup, just up the road).

OUT AND ABOUT

Waddesdon Manor

Clearly the big calling card for Waddesdon is the Manor – you can while away dreamy hours in the manor house, around the grounds (you can take your dog on certain routes), letting the kids roam free in the various play areas or taking them to the rare bird aviary, used for conservation. Aylesbury is the closest town, but I’d turn your nose to the north where you’re 20 minutes to Bicester (OK, let’s be honest here, I mean Bicester Village).

Waddesdon village itself won’t hold you for long, but if you’re up for a potter around in the car, the pretty windmill villages of Brill and Quainton are worth your while. If you can’t get enough of your National Trust card the 16th century Boarstall Duck Decoy (open every Sunday from April – September) is about 20 minutes away. There’s also the beautiful 14th century Boarstall Tower to see, when it reopens to the public.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

GOOD FOR: Couples, friends, families. The food is excellent and now The Long Dog has embraced its pub roots once again it’s more broadly appealing. The pub does a good line in cocktails, so don’t discount it as a more casual drinking venue either. I have my eye on this place for private dining – taking over the stylish ‘restaurant’ side of the pub would make for a fun evening. Anyone who wants to support local provenance and small family independent producers. There’s a strong community vibe with its charity dog walks and supper clubs.

NOT FOR: Not an immediate issue with Winter coming as the interior spaces will really come into their own, but I think the outside dining area, though attractive enough and twinkly with its fairy lights, could be slicked up further for spring. The garden area is small and there’s no play area for kids so ‘energetic’ toddlers might struggle after a while. Open Mic and jazz nights are great fun but if you’re coming from further afield you might want to watch your timings.

THE DAMAGE: Starters from £5ish, mains are around £15 (minus the steak which comes in at £24). Roasts are £17-18.

The Long Dog, 16 High St, Waddesdon, HP18 0JF. Tel: 01296 651320.

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