Food review, The Dog, Grundisburgh: "Hands down the most dog-friendly place we've ever eaten"
PUBLISHED: 18:30 01 May 2019
Our food and drink editor was impressed by the inclusiveness of this award-winning pub in rural Suffolk.
“Wow they really like dogs here,” my 11-year-old son Ethan said as we walked into The Grundisburgh Dog. Boy, he wasn't wrong. They adore poochy visitors here as is evident in the porch as you enter. There's a box of blankets for your canine friends, water bowls abound, and a list on the wall said they have dog toys and treats too. Plus, we couldn't help but spot a certificate saying they'd been named most dog-friendly pub in the UK – high praise indeed.
Unfortunately we don't have a dog (much to our kids' chagrin) but they were thankfully very 'human-friendly' too, finding us a nice window-side table in the dining room with ease, despite it being busy.
Thursday night was steak night, which must be popular as, for a mid-week evening, the pub was almost full.
I must point out too, the menu looked very inclusive. There were many gluten-free and dairy-free options marked out, plus a separate section for vegetarians and vegans.
Drinks in hand, we shared three starters between us on the table. Nicely seasoned, crusted-edged scallops, all wibbly and delicate in the middle, sat on a pool of earthy, spring-green pea puree with a sliver of crisp Parma ham seasoning the dish perfectly. I liked the addition of a few wafers of shaved radish (in season now), which brought a touch of pepper to the plate.
It was nice to see a beef liver pate on the menu – this is a vastly underused ingredient, often swept aside in favour of chicken or pork liver. It was surprisingly not too rich, overflowing with delicate beefiness and came with plenty of bread to mop it up.
We were a bit stumped by the chicken and tarragon croquettes. This was neither potato or béchamel-based. Rather it was a chunk of chicken, with a herby farce inside, coated in breadcrumbs. It was very tasty, and wolfed down quickly, but I can't help thinking the oyster mushrooms were a bit superfluous, and, while the chicken wasn't dry, it could have done with a sauce.
Onto the main courses and Ethan had the best of the lot – a chicken pasanda, garnished with rice, mini poppadoms, naan bread and mango chutney from the specials board. It's worth noting Wednesday is Curry Night, where you can get a curry and drink for a tenner – bargain!
Good quality pieces of chicken were in abundance, crammed into a sauce which was hands-down one of the best I've had the pleasure of eating in a pub. It was well-balanced, creamy, and heady with cardamom. However…it was not a pasanda. Hailing from the north of India, this curry is usually mild, and a little sweet, fragranced with cumin and garam masala. This curry simmered to an almost madras heat. We all loved it, but if you usually go for something mild, it could give you quite a shock. I'd advise, before ordering, asking about the heat level first.
Ella devoured her crispy pork belly, which was meltingly soft inside, served with a mound of mash (her favourite), red wine jus and seasonal veg, including lightly caramelised heritage carrots. No complaints here.
I was a tad underwhelmed by the vegetarian courgette and field mushroom Wellington, but do think with some tweaks it could be wonderful. Essentially you had buttery, superb puff pastry, filled with exactly what it said on the tin –courgettes and mushroom. The veg were cooked well, but ultimately I felt it was missing something. Some herbs, perhaps a nice mushroom farce or some cheese. It just needed more. The truffle mash tasted grand though, as did the red wine jus, which was glossy and flavoursome.
Mr Jarvis went for a sirloin steak special, with chunky chips, onion rings and brandy and peppercorn sauce. He'd asked for it medium, but it was well done one side and medium to well on the other side. He didn't say anything until he'd gobbled it up though, and even then wasn't too bothered. If he was being picky he'd have sent it back, but he was happy enough. The steak was tasty, if a little on the lean side for a sirloin (I like mine really marbled and unctuous), and the peppercorn sauce had a much-welcomed kick to it – this was no wallflower!
Kudos to the kitchen for the exceptional chips, and the awesome, huge onion rings which came to the table without a hint of sogginess.
To finish Ella and I shared a couple of puds. There was a chocolate and orange ganache tart - a thick, chocolatey delight, with a scoop of Criterion salted caramel ice cream. And the sticky toffee pudding was a decent size, and well-made, served in a pool of dark caramel sauce to drench it in. I only wish they'd given it a pinch of salt to cut through the sweetness.
They've got an impressive selection here. Plenty of real ales at the bar, a gin menu, and a separate gluten-free and alcohol-free list including what I think is one of the best non-alcoholic beers on the market at the moment – Adnams Ghost Ship. My husband went for a pint of Bishop Nick, which I know is an Essex brewery. We couldn't tell if that was the name of the beer too. Anyway, it was a good drop. Not too bubbly, and only subtly bitter, with a malty, biscuitty, almost milky smooth finish.
I was driving so went for a shandy, made with Adnams Ease Up IPA. That was cracking. Ease Up is a fantastically fruity beer alone, but paired with lemonade, it made for a very quaffable driver's drink.
Ethan didn't want a pud so tried a child's measure of Italian hot chocolate which was thick and not too sweet. It got the thumbs up.
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From the flowering garden at the front, to a play area at the back, board games in the bar, and flickering 'real' candles in the dining room, there's something quite special about the atmosphere here. I can see why our judges picked it out. It was really homely.
Friendly, unrushed and knowledgeable. We asked for more sauce with a couple of our main dishes and it was brought without hesitation.
There's a car park to the rear but it isn't well sign posted so you could miss it. The entrance is between the pub and the convenience shop.
Ethan came back giggling from the gents'. “There's a naked lady on the wall,” he laughed. All above board and arty though! I can only vouch for the ladies' which were spotless and had a clean, fresh scent. There were nice soaps and hand lotions, thick paper towels and even free sanitary products in a basket.
Two pints of beer, a pint of shandy, two cordials, a coke, three starters, four adult-sized main courses, two desserts and a hot chocolate came to just shy of £120 so it's heading towards the pricier end of the scale.
The curry. It was hot, but we relished it. We're going back for curry night.
This pub is a great version of what it's set out to be – a community hub where you can pop with your dog for a pint and a sandwich, play boardgames with your kids in the bar, or step out for a nice family meal.