Did You Say Food??
Top notch cocktails, fresh ingredients and engaging service make the Dog & Badger a worthy destination in deepest Buckinghamshire
Review by Andy Barnham
Diners to the Dog & Badger are greeted by the bright and friendly Riva Bar, named and shaped after the iconic launch brand, not a surprise given the proximity of the location (just outside of Marlow) to Henley- on- Thames and the home of the Henley Royal Regatta. The bar is a modern, two years old, addition to an older building which used to be the local pub. A well thought out renovation has seen what was a traditional, if not slightly dark, pub transformed into bar and restaurant, complete with open kitchen keeping some of the original features, such as beams and fireplace.
What is immediately obvious to a new visitor, without having to view the drinks menu, is the amount and the selection on offer with the open shelves brimming with both well-known and craft distilleries alike along with some craft beers on tap. A quick count yielded over 30 gins and whiskies each with, I am sure, a few more stored away and out of sight. Even if the bar is busy, don’t worry about speed of service; Fiona the bartender is a Trojan when it comes to her craft and very good to boot. In fact, dangerously good… Using fresh ingredients, the Pornstar Martini was one of the best my wife has had (she knows her stuff when it comes to Pornstars) and the Old Fashioned was a definite cut above the rest. Having established a baseline of quite how good the drinks were a few more were ‘tested’ later in the evening with a Ginger Peat and a White Russian coming up trumps, with a few drinks coming back for repeat performances – you know, just to check the consistency of quality and all that… While not for everyone, the White Russian was made with Magnum Cream Liqueur, instead of Baileys, made from a blend of Scotch whisky and cream; I was quickly channelling The Big Lebowski’s ‘Dude’.
The Dog & Badger is, as you’d expect, dog friendly with dogs allowed into the ‘Snug’, beyond which is the open kitchen and then main dining area. Well holstered banquets sit below a combination of traditional paintings and more modern, contemporary artworks which have been acquired from various local painters, galleries and even eBay. The mix of architecture and artworks gives the Dog & Badger a modern feel juxtaposed with the original beams which works well.
And so, onto the food…. My wife started with the generous tiger prawns and avocado, which were fresh and well cleaned while I opted for the foie gras terrine and sauterne jelly. Good, but not great, the accompanying jelly was interesting and provided a refreshing palate cleanser. Moving to mains, my wife went for the risky option of the calf’s liver while I played it safe with a lamb tagine. Presented with streaky bacon and a creamy mash the liver was tender and not overcooked. My wife sees in black and white when it comes to liver; it is either good or is isn’t. There is no in-between. On this occasion the liver was great and I’ve been reliably told as I didn’t enjoy this, then I’ll never like liver. My tagine was a grilled rump and slow cooked, which came with baba ganoush and harrisa. We also opted for sides of the broccoli stems (nice and crunchy) and triple cooked chips. Ok, maybe the chips were just for me and not my wife. Chocolate fondant and salted caramel ice cream and cheese helped round off the meal for my wife and I respectively. The fondant was suitably structured and firm on the outside and warm and gooey (her words) on the inside, while the cheese platter had a combination of cheese – Montgomery cheddar, Castle Blue, Isle of Avalon and Driftwood goats cheese.
For the wine, my wife and I left ourselves at the mercy of Chiara, the Italian sommelier and requested a glass per course. The resulting Italian rosé and Argentinian Malbec for my wife and the Côtes du Rhône followed by Merlot for myself was excellent choices which accompanied the dishes well without overpowering any of the flavours, while for desert we both opted for the Ramos Pinto Tawny 10 year old Port.
The standards at the Dog & Badger are high. The dishes were all very well presented with even the accompanying mint sauce coming in a lovely miniature copper pan, let alone all the Reidel glassware… Along with the standards, the staff are well trained and the service equally slick. Working together well as a team it is clear everyone pitches in where necessary to ensure good a smooth service.
Given the quality of food and drink at the Dog & Badger, it is very well worth a visit for anyone in the area. Indeed it was surprising to hear an adjacent table indicate they knew the previous pub very well but it had taken them over two years to visit the new establishment. Maybe they just preferred a dark local pub, who knows? What’s clear is that whilst not fine dining, the Dog & Badger is not any old country stop off and deserves to be taken with a bit of respect.
Enquiries: Dog & Badger, Henley Road, Medmenham, Marlow, Buckinghamshire SL7 2HE / 01491 579944 / www.thedogandbadger.com/