Restaurant review - The Dog Inn, Over Peover, Knutsford
PUBLISHED: 00:15 08 August 2013
You'd have to be barking mad to leave a legal career to run pubs, wouldn't you? Maybe not, because former barrister, John Chaplin, and his team at the Dog Inn in Over Peover are doing just fine
You could say that John Chaplin, general manager of the historic Dog Inn in Over Peover, has been called to the Bar for the second time.
After 20 years working as a barrister in Manchester, he decided on a dramatic change of career in 2007 and switched his calling to the bar at the Corn Mill in Llangollen as deputy manager. Underneath his wig and gown the lawyer had been nursing a passion for cooking and hospitality for some time.
We first encountered the Dog more than 25 years ago and then, as now, this was both a traditional village pub catering for local regulars and a destination with a reputation for good food for visitors from much further afield. Clearly then, Kalton & Barlow, the Cheshire pub group that made its mark with the Swan at Tarporley, the Crown, Goostrey and The Boat, Erbistock, needed to apply a sensitive touch when refurbishing their latest acquisition.
The Dog was built in 1805 by Baronet Thomas Wetenhall, and once comprised three cottages - a grocer’s shop, shoemaker and small farmstead - but it was not until 1860 that it became a public house, known then as the New Inn. Subsequent incarnations saw the inn named the Dog and Rot and, in the 1960s, the Gay Dog. We took the back road from Chelford to revisit the Dog early on a Saturday evening and encountered not one, but two steam traction engines trundling along the way. Sure enough, they turned up at the pub where a third, resplendent in 1914-18 War Department grey was parked up at the front (not to mention the vintage tractors in the car park).
Happily, Kalton & Brown have got it right. They spent time earlier this year lovingly restoring fixtures and fittings and opening up fireplaces and brickwork, as well as adding textures and fabrics (and incredible loos!) to create a sense of history and a series of well-appointed warm and comfortable spaces. We found a tall table and stools by the fireplace (on which stood a jar of doggy treats) in the very attractive, welcoming bar and as early as 6.30pm, the place was becoming very busy indeed.
Anyone familiar with the menu at the Crown will recognise the Dog’s bill of fare, but no matter, for K&B’s executive chef Mathew Parker’s clever takes on classic English dishes based on seasonal local produce have been very well-received in the past, not least by this reviewer. Hence, despite its mammoth proportions - and the menu does warn you - I couldn’t resist starting with the ‘Giant Scotch Egg and Brown Sauce (big!), for £6.95. It is a magnificent beast, perfectly spiced sausage meat enveloping an egg with a runny yolk, all encased in a crispy coating - but in truth it is too big and seriously prejudices (there’s a word for m’learned friends, m’lud) one’s main course options, even though the menu offers some in smaller portions.
Mrs K began more sensibly with delightfully presented pakora soft shell crab ‘popcorn’ (£7.95), delicious morsels of well flavoured crab, dusted with subtle curry spices, deep fried and served with lemon and chive mayonnaise in a porcelain spoon.
That meant she had room to go for the grilled lamb cutlets arranged around rosemary polenta chips with spiced tomato and yoghurt dips (£14.95). The cutlets delivered great flavour if carrying more fat than she would have preferred; the polenta chips were sublime. I chose whole plaice (£13.95) as a supposed lighter option - but it was a whopper! - moist and coming easily off the bone. New potatoes, sugar snap peas and caper butter accompanied leaving the side order of seasonal vegetables (£2.75) -buttered fine beans, mangetouts and carrots - largely redundant.
The Dog Inn, Wellbank Lane, Over Peover, Knutsford, WA16 8UP. Tel 01625 861421.