You don’t really expect a packed pub in a small village on a cold damp, weekday evening these days more’s the pity but that is what we found at The Dog Inn in Pentrich last Tuesday and were surprised… for a short while that is. The reasons for this quickly became patently clear to me; it is rare to receive fantastic service and really excellent food without leaving with a huge hole in your bank balance, but you can and will here.
We entered the bar area, which is more of a cosy snug with its comfortable sofas and open fire and were greeted very warmly by all the staff. There is a good selection of real ales and wines on offer at the bar along with a separate menu which changes regularly. I was glad to hear that dogs are still permitted in the bar area, so The Dog remains an ideal stop after a walk in the surrounding Derbyshire countryside, as well as having successfully made the transition from drinker’s pub to gastro, without having lost its traditional values. The main menu is served at lunchtime and in the evening Mondays to Saturdays with a Sunday menu served from lunchtime to late afternoon.
Jake, the Duty Manager showed us to our table in the dining area. The décor here is contemporary and fresh, yet retains the character of the old stone building, melding well with the bar. He explained the menu which is well thought out and refreshingly concise; enough of a choice to satisfy all palates without being too large to make a choice difficult or leaving you wondering how it can all be freshly prepared! There are also specials on the blackboard, depending on what is available from the local suppliers. For our starters we chose the chicken, brandy and duck liver paté served with a spiced pear & fig chutney and toasted brioche and the fresh Devonshire crab and crayfish cocktail with cucumber ribbons and granary baguette slices. Both starters were presented beautifully and tasted fantastic.
I am glad the ‘prawn cocktail’ has lifted itself out of its 70’s reputation and is making an appearance on menus again as I always did love it. Different here though and updated for this decade with the addition of crab and proper crayfish tails, not the tiny little prawns you used to get. The portion sizes were perfect, not too much so you couldn’t eat the main course and certainly not too small. The staff were attentive throughout, appearing exactly at the right time to offer more drinks and ensure we were enjoying the food. We both had a glass of wine with our meal and the waitress was very well informed on the choice of wines, bringing me exactly the type of crisp dry white I was after.
The main courses arrived just at the right time (not immediately as the starter dishes were removed). My dining companion had chosen the Derbyshire rump steak which was accompanied by chunky chips, roasted vine tomatoes, onion rings and a salad, along with a really tasty cracked pepper sauce. The steak was cooked to perfection, exactly as requested and clearly a good cut as it is difficult to ensure a rump steak can be cooked rare as well as it was. My roasted Ashover pork loin was served with black pudding croquettes, braised leeks, streaky bacon crackling and a spiced apple cider puree. The croquettes are inspired, I have never seen them on a menu before and they tasted fabulous, I would visit again for them alone. Everything was put together well; all the tastes were there, complementing each other with nothing overpowering anything.
This dish came with a generous portion of seasonal vegetables. So, after two excellent courses, Jake came over again to have a chat; a welcome break in courses for me as I do struggle to eat three. He is clearly passionate about the food, his role in the pub and what they are intending to achieve at The Dog.
I have to say that there is no doubt they are succeeding where many other places are failing, which accounts for the popularity. The food is first class, the service absolutely exemplary and the price unbelievable with the menu on a fixed two or three course tariff, with even 3 courses coming in at under £15 a head. Our desserts arrived, looking as pretty as desserts should. Jake recommended the special for the evening; small portions of lemon tart, cookie dough cake, chocolate brownie with pecans and walnuts and raspberry cheesecake.
These surrounded a scoop of chocolate ice cream and one of a really incredible raspberry sorbet sitting on a red fruit coulis. My friend chose the chilled chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream which was served with fruit coulis. A chilled fondant is unusual but works really well, the centre was deliciously gooey. After some lovely coffee we were replete and ready to venture home. I highly recommend a visit to The Dog Inn, whatever the occasion as I think it suits all; you won’t be disappointed – well unless you forget to book as, presumably if it was that busy on a Tuesday I would imagine booking would be mandatory at a weekend!