Many years ago, before man had walked on the moon or The Beatles had got together, one of the simple highlights of a warm summer Sunday evening was to walk with my brother and our parents to The Dog at Pentrich. Our route was via Lowes Hill, Hammersmith, Asher Fields (no A38 in those days) and in to the village. The stroll was timed to put us outside The Dog at precisely 7pm; the time local licensing laws permitted public houses to open on Sunday evenings. Too young to enter the pub, me and my brother would sit outside on a low wall, bottle of Vimto in one hand and a bag of crisps in the other.
Our most recent evening visit to the Dog Inn was not going to be for Vimto and crisps but to discover what the new chef, Adam, was offering on the completely re-styled menu.
The Dog Inn has changed dramatically over the years; it’s larger; the main extension houses the dining area and has a contemporary interior but still retains many of its period features. It also boasts a wood-burning stove. A welcome site on a cold January night. Jane who, from the start of the New Year, has taken over running the front of house met us. This is a family affair; Jane along with her husband Graham run the bar and restaurant and Chef Adam is their son. Adam has worked in several well-known local restaurants and, until returning to Pentrich, was head chef at one of Sheffield’s top eateries.
Some things change for the better and it was a delight to see the array of gins that are now on offer from ‘Bathtub’ through to ‘Rhubarb and Ginger’. Sue ordered a G&T made with the latter. It was served in a long stemmed copa glass which is shaped to enhance the botanicals in the gin. And some things don’t change; I ordered a pint of good old-fashioned Bass and it didn’t fail to delight. We sat and chatted in the cosy bar till our table was ready.
Sue started with the soup of the day; a silky, smooth comforting leek and potato with house-baked focaccia; a pillow of soft dough laced through with olive oil infused sundried tomatoes.
I chose the salt and chilli squid with a toasted sesame Asian style ketchup. Adam had made a change to the menu and the salad part of the dish was mostly fine strands of mooli. This cool, mild radish provided a counterpoint to the tempura batter on the squid and the hint of mild chilli in the ketchup.
This is an ever-evolving menu as I witnessed when my main arrived with spinach; a welcome addition to the rich flavour of the slow cooked marinated blade of beef and the refreshing savoury note of the smooth celeriac fondant. Set on a bed of tangy white onion purée it was accompanied by sliced chestnut mushrooms and just the right amount of deep, dark real ale sauce. A salty note was provided by the crispy cooked pancetta. The plating was thoughtfully balanced and presented a visual feast.
For her main Sue chose an 8oz rump steak with a peppercorn and whisky sauce; if there is a grill section to any menu it will always be her first choice. All the steaks are served with, chunky chips, Portobello mushroom, confit tomato, beer battered onion rings and a watercress salad. The steak was grilled beautifully; just the right amount of charring on the outside and still pink on the inside. Throughout the meal we never reached for any extra seasoning.
After our unhurried starter and main we had a little room left for desserts; Sue chose the ice cream and I chose the lemon parfait. The ice cream was a trio of flavours, decorated with shards of French meringue, and served with raspberries, blueberries and a buttery, homemade shortbread biscuit. The parfait was served with sherbet, lemon curd and toasted almonds and again decorated with the French meringue.
The Dog has a varied and quite extensive bar snacks and meals menu, served till 3pm in the afternoon and 9pm in the evening, which we will be returning to try.
There are around 30 wines to choose from ranging from easily affordable whites and reds to some special occasion champagnes. But I still have a soft spot for those warm summer evenings of the late 1950s with a bottle of Vimto.