Dining out at The Spotted Dog, Barnston, Dunmow

Stephanie Mackentyre reviews The Spotted Dog just a short drive from Dunmow.

EASY to locate, The Spotted Dog is close to the slip road for Great Dunmow just off the A120, at Barnston, directly opposite its big sister town. Although it’s just a short drive from Dunmow, this pub has a pretty rural setting with plenty of parking and its attractive thatched roof and primrose yellow exterior make it easy to spot on the roadside. From the outside you could be fooled into thinking it’s a recently refurbished country pub. Inside you’ll find its now a welcoming restaurant, with a pleasant ambiance. There are chunky wooden tables and high-backed leather chairs with a mix of dark wood and carpeted floors. White walls with cool, calming green paintwork and traditional black exposed beams all add to its charm. There’s still a small bar area with comfortable seating and a large brick fireplace, but mostly it’s now laid as a restaurant. In the main, tables cater for couples or fours, however, on my visit the tables had been laid together so that they could cater for two large parties. There is a choice of menu with either a la carte or the prix fixe menu on offer – a very reasonable two courses for �9.95 or three courses for �11.95 available. I opted for the prix fixe, which offers three choices for each course, and ordered the deep-fried brie with red current jelly to begin my lunch. To the side of the central fireplace there’s a large wooden book case filled with novels by best-selling authors which adds to the homely feel of the restaurant. Light jazz played overhead and the restaurant’s layout, all on the one floor, makes access for diners uncomplicated. Despite the two large parties dining, service was attentive and prompt. Three large quarters of brie coated in crisp breadcrumbs arrived, served with fresh leaves on white china plates and a red current relish. As well as being swift, the service was friendly and the owner, Anita, spent time talking to me about how she and her husband Simon had taken over The Spotted Dog just over a year ago and they now work together running the kitchen and front of house between them. Next came fillet of salmon with a creamy chive sauce and a fine selection of fresh vegetables including red cabbage, new potatoes, carrots, courgettes, a swede puree and parsnip. The main course really was excellent, the creamy sauce working in harmony with the fresh salmon and those vegetables, well seasoned with fresh black pepper and plentiful too. Finally, for pudding, my eyes rested longingly on the homemade bread and butter pudding, however my quelled appetite couldn’t allow for it so instead I chose to end with a cr�me br�l�e. Served in a ramekin dish with an enticing caramelised sugar cap, it had just enough resistance to provide a satisfying crack when tapped with a spoon – just how I like it.

Table talk

Table Talk with diner Alan Ashton and friends

What do you do? I’m retired now, although I still edit a magazine. I used to be a journalist with BBC national radio working in London.

What did you choose from the menu? Surf and turf salad, saut�ed king prawns, crayfish and beef fillet, mixed with fresh leaves with a balsamic dressing and a curry mayo. For my main course I had the breast of duck marinated in honey, roasted pink, with a honey and soy sauce.

Describe your dining experience in three words: Good, fun company.

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Rate the value for money: Really good, as the dishes are not too expensive.

How did you discover The Spotted Dog?Two of our party had been here before, but thistime we all came as it was a surprise birthdayparty for one of our group.

Would you come again? Yes, we found our meal here to be a very pleasant experience.

What was the best part of your meal? The food in general.

Useful to knowThe total bill came to �13.45 for three courses, with a drink. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and wine editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

3 side orders

Three more country pubs given new life as great eateries 

The Fat GooseHeath roadTendringEssexCO16 0BX01255 87 00 60We say: In less than a year this pub restaurant earned an AA Rosette. Why not go and see the transformation from village pub to welcoming pub restaurant for yourself.

The Woolpack Mill Green RoadFryerningEssexCM4 0HS01277 352189We say: The Woolpack’s exterior is that of a traditional country pub, but  inside is a world of contemporary style, complemented perfectly by a varied menu.

The Peldon RosePeldonColchesterEssexCO5 7QJ01206 735 248We say: Look out for a very tempting modern menu in the charming surroundings of this famous 15th century inn.

Book a table

The Spotted DogBishops GreenBarnstonDunmowCM6 1NF01245 231 598

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