A dog’s life for me
- Credit: Archant
Blazing torches at the front of The Dog Inn mean that you can’t miss this prominent Grade II listed landmark in pretty Wingham.village
It’s stood here for more than 600 years and originally formed part of a row of collegiate buildings in the late 13th century under the control of six canons; Canon’s Row is now Canterbury Road and has one Kent’s finest series of medieval buildings.
The Dog Inn was rebuilt after a massive fire in 1660; look up as you enter and you can still see the 1661 date plaque high on the gabled frontage of the inn.
Sandwich-based owner Richard Martin and his wife Sherry formed Kent Inns of Distinction in 2004 when they bought The Dog Inn; three years later they added The Blazing Donkey at Ham and in 2009 acquired The Ivyhouse in Tonbridge.
The Dog wears many faces: it offers eight guest bedrooms, it’s a popular weddings venue, has its own nano-brewery and on the food front, aims to serve ‘the best steak in Kent.’
Chef Richard Taylor uses beef reared from native cattle breeds, some sourced from nearby farms, dry-aged and cut to order by thickness (and weight). When in season, the local watercress beds at Wingham Well provide the finishing touch.
As well as beef, fish from Ramsgate and Whitstable day-boats take pride of place on the menu, alongside Saltmarsh Kent lamb and slow-roasted, free-range belly of pork.
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With a thoughtful wine list created by Master of Wine Clive Barlow and batch-brewed hand-crafted ales (including two of The Dog’s own beers, a Classic IPA called Chomp, and an American Pale Ale, Golden Lab), this place is definitely different.
If you’re staying overnight, as we were, you’re in for a treat. Four creaky staircases lead to the eight bedrooms, all different in size, layout and style and all with names to reflect their personality. We stayed in The Courtroom, which is huge, with a vaulted crown-posted ceiling and four-poster bed, plus a bizarre little bathroom (interesting plumbing) reached down some steps.
Other characterful rooms include the Ship’s Timber, which boasts a giant oak beam thought to have originally come from a local shipwrights, while an overnight stay in The Hauntings is not for the faint-hearted with many guests commenting on very strange goings-on in the room.
There were no strange goings-on in ours, honest, but I did have a few weird dreams knowing that the courts had not only sat in this very room but had also administered justice of the hanging variety right here …
But I’m leaping ahead.
Before dinner, we enjoyed a G&T in the cosy snug warmed by a log fire while chatting to the new managers Becks and Martin Butcher, the most delightful, cheery couple you could possibly hope to find behind a bar.
The main restaurant, with its ancient beams, panelling, barge-board flooring and wood-burning stove set in an inglenook is equally welcoming and Becks, a local lass who is all dimples and irrepressible good humour, looked after us beautifully.
From an interesting list of starters that included sausage en croûte with spiced raisin purée and a smoked haddock lid-less pie, we chose a cured salmon tasting plate with orange and lemon, Vodka, beetroot and cucumber jelly (as colourful as it was delicious) and a Tiger prawn cocktail with home-made horseradish.
Our mains were a given; this place specialises in steaks (Chateaubriand, a barrel-cut classic steak for two, côte de bœuf or slow-cooked short ribs), so it would have been rude not to. We both enjoyed excellent fillets, one with red wine sauce, the other with Kentish blue cheese, served with salad and hot, chunky chips.
Our wine of choice from a thoughtful list was an Australian Cabernet Shiraz called Wrong ‘Un, which in fact proved just right.
Should beef not be your bag, there are other choices such as beer-battered (their own) haddock or for vegetarians, try the pea, mint and lemon risotto or perhaps spring onion and black pepper potato cake.
Puddings included our choices of piping hot raspberry soufflé with a real tang of the fruit and a very tasty apple and crumble tart with cider jelly and crème Anglaise.
An eight-course tasting menu is available at £55 per head (food only) or £85 per head (food with wine matched to each course).
Breakfast was taken in the airy flagstone-floored conservatory overlooking the patio garden and car park to the rear. Not quite brave enough for the ‘revivers,’ we instead enjoyed spot-on eggs Benedict and coffee (served by the cup not by the pot: why?)
This was a delightful overnight stay in a truly characterful, ancient inn set in a small but perfect village that beckons you to explore the next day. Recommended.
Meet the chef
Richard Taylor, head chef
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m 44, with three children and two grandchildren whom I adore. I’m Notting Hill born and bred and worked in London most of my life, but we recently moved to Kent and I’m now learning to drive - better late than never! I’m fitness mad and a keen QPR fan.
What do you enjoy about the job?
I started here in early 2014 and working in a position where I get so much support from my employers is just great. I enjoy the interaction with owners Richard and Sherry, who have very good food knowledge too. Together with the license to write my own menus and the overall challenge of running a kitchen working with entirely fresh produce, makes this position my most exciting and enjoyable to date. I’m also lucky to have a great team around me.
Your signature dish?
The Tomahawk steak, otherwise known as Cotes du Beouf, an amazing heavily marbled, bone-in ribeye cut. This steak is slow cooked and gives a truly amazing flavour as the marbling caramelises. It’s served with my own Café du Paris butter, hand-cut thrice-fried chips and Wingham watercress (which is really peppery).
Your top cookery tip?
My best tip is don’t rush and allow yourself plenty of time. And always work with the best ingredients; a silk purse can’t be made from a sow’s ear.
Who has influenced you most?
Without doubt my Mum has been my most positive influence and inspiration but on the cooking front then my time with Tom Aikens at Blakes Hotel was where I learned the most. He’s a rare talent for sure.
Your must-have kitchen gadget?
Who would you like to cook for?
I’m football mad and have always been a fan of David Beckham, so when I got to cook for him and Victoria at Blakes Hotel, that was fun. Really and truly I’d most like to cook for my team QPR.
Where: The Dog Inn at Wingham
Canterbury Road, Wingham CT3 1BB
What: historic inn with eight bedrooms and a steak restaurant
When: Breakfast from 8am, lunch 12-2.30pm (all day at weekends), dinner 6pm-10pm, afternoon teas from 12pm
How much: Kentish blue cheese and shallot tart £6, Black Angus beef short ribs £18, fillet steak £6 per cm,apple and crumble tart £7