The Dolphin, award-winning pub

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The Dolphin recently picked up Greene King’s Community Pub of the Year for its excellent range of events and community initiatives, landlady Emma Cox shares her delight

To me the pub trade isn’t just about selling alcohol it’s about being an all-inclusive base where everyone can come together. For celebration, commiserations, for support through the high times and the low times.

I’ve been at The Dolphin working since I was 13 as a cleaner to start off with and my parents became managers when I was 16 so I’ve watched the trade change over the years.

I love Wallingford and we are in a position to give back some of the support we have been shown over the years. When lockdown happened I noticed there was so much more we could do. So many customer didn’t return through fear of covid that we started doing food parcels, prescription runs, phone calls for company, which lead to us getting involved in the different community centres.

The reason I do it is simple. If the shoe was on the other foot or one of my family or friends are in need I’d really hope somebody would be there to help – one of my mottos is ‘it’s nice to be nice!”

I love the kids eat free, my daughter Annie is six. She struggled socially for a long time after lockdown. I think social skills build such a great confidence in our children and that’s so important.

Winning the award is probably one of my greatest career achievements so far! But, it’s not just me. There’s a whole team of amazing people that work at The Dolly who go above and beyond everyday. And we couldn’t do what we do without each other.

2-for-1 pizza at Oakman Inns!

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Love brilliant deals and scrumptious pizza? Visit one of Oakman Inns’ pubs to nab yourself some as part of their two-for-one deals with summer!

Priding themselves on the quality of their pizzas, Oakman Inns invite you to taste the quality through their two-for-one deals. Offered in multiple places, including Berkshire, Surrey, Oxfordshire, and Buckinghamshire, it provides a perfect opportunity for a meal out.

CEO of Oakman Inns, Peter Borg-Neal, commented that ‘eating together is so important’ and, by putting out this offer, friends and families can grow closer through eating together. It also can act as ‘the end of a family day out, the beginning of an evening’s fun or standalone treat’. This offer can pose as a celebration or outing for a range of different things across the summer.

The deal means a group of four could eat our for less than £50, affording four pizzas, two soft drinks and two Peronis.

The restaurants also have lovely locations with their own delightful gardens with weatherproof awnings. The Royal Foresters is especially beautiful, having its own boutique rooms, whilst also being close to major sites of interest such as Windsor Great Park and Ascot Racecourse.

Oakman’s handcrafted, wood-fired pizzas are made to an original Neapolitan recipe, using traditional Italian techniques and ingredients selected for their taste and authenticity. The dough is proved for 48 hours and cooked on the premises by their expert pizzaiolos.

If you love a traditional Italian pizza, these pubs are the best place for you, as they serve handcrafted, wood-fired pizzas made to an original Neapolitan recipe, using traditional Italian techniques. Each ingredient is selected is selected for its taste and authenticity.

Places to enjoy this deal:

Berkshire:
Royal Foresters, Ascot
The Rose Inn, Wokingham

Buckinghamshire:
Akeman Inn, Kingswood, Bicester
Beech House, Amersham
Beech House, Beaconsfield
Cherry Tree, Olney
Betsey Wynne, Swanbourne
Grand Junction, Buckingham
The Polecat, Prestwood

Oxfordshire:
Blue Boar, Witney
Crown & Thistle, Abingdon

Surrey:
The Lost Boy, Farnham

Author: Daisy Harwood

The Three Daggers in Edington

Grace Tracey

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A stay at the dog-friendly The Three Daggers certainly made my tail wag, not to mention that of terrier Roger

Anyone who knows me knows I love dogs. Another thing I love is staying in beautiful B&Bs in the gorgeous countryside (who doesn’t!). So a stay in The Three Daggers, a dog-friendly inn in the middle of Wiltshire’s valleys, was perfect for me!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a dog (yet) – so I borrowed my mum’s rescue terrier mix, Roger, for the trip. I‘d seen the pictures online but the whole property had such charm it simply can’t be captured in an image.

The self-proclaimed “quintessentially British” accommodation certainly lived up to the title. Our room was spacious and luxurious with a massive comfy bed and bathroom fit for a king. There was also a Roger-sized armchair which he soon settled into with his favourite blanket and one of my mum’s shoes.

We were shown Edington Farm Shop, full of local produce and much from their own Priory Farm inclduing their special Three Dagger ales from their micro-brewery. They also had fresh fruit & veg, pies, sausages, some rather lovely dog treats and even local artists’ work.

In the micro-brewery we were told by Jackie the Accommodation Manager, who was very kindly showing us around, they hold small weddings and with this year’s restrictions they have had a lot of interest from couples in using this stunning location for their big day, holding the reception in the upstairs of the restaurant which doubles as a quaint events room.

Just in case a pub, accommodation, brewery and farm shop were not enough for you – they also have a Spa Barn onsite which has an extensive treatment list and also includes a sauna, steam room, outdoor hot tub and a plunge pool! What more could you ask for!

Roger was in need of exercise by now, so we took a walk around the quiet roads and fields surrounding The Three Daggers as the sun began to descend. The hills and valleys made for a fantastic sunset, and the pinky-purple sky guided us back to the inn.

I’m envious this isn’t my local as it had a lovely warm and welcoming atmosphere – the staff could not have been nicer to Roger (and us of course). We ordered starters and mains and ‘cheers’ed a delightful house red to having a great time so far.

I’m not just saying this because we’ve not been out much since the lockdown, it genuinely was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I enjoyed a creamy baked camembert to start, a delicious veggie pie while my partner (often disappointed by small portion sizes) was pleasantly surprised with his pig terrine starter, steak and chips main. We both opted for the salted caramel cheesecake for pudding as we’d seen it pass on the way to another table earlier and decided sharing one wasn’t an option.

After a heavenly sleep, we were greeted by a basket of warm pastries and other breakfast treats outside our door – I loved the pain au chocolat. A brief walk with Roger in the morning sun and it was time to head back to reality.
If you’re a lover of the countryside and looking to treat yourself – and your pooch – this is an ideal destination!

If you fancy booking a visit for yourself or to find out more about the beautiful venue visit www.threedaggers.co.uk

Beeline to bliss

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Petersham Nurseries – Richmond’s visionary garden center and lifestyle mecca – is one of West London’s greatest treasures and creative success stories.

The family behind the business are celebrating their 15th birthday, looking back on their humble beginnings as a dilapidated local plant shop, and how much has changed. Now with a second branch in Covent Garden, the small empire includes a homeware shop, florist, café, two restaurants and a wine cellar, with visitors come from near and far to discover Richmond’s unique lifestyle destination.

For September, they’re celebrating their birthday by paying homage to the gardener’s best friend, the honeybee, with a one-off masterclass in all things bee-related. In keeping with Petersham’s ethos, this will include a tasting session with Bermondsey Street Bees’ honey sommelier, a gardening session in planting bee-friendly flowers, a delicious lunch, and a ‘preserving with honey’ cookery class with Rachel de Thample.

Petersham's 15th Birthday

To sign up for this, on Thursday, 26th September

Vino veritas

Round & About

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Jessica Elphinstone learns a thing or two about wine at Vagabond,  Fulham’s most underrated date spot

If you detest wine snobbery, and the whole glass-swirling, Merlot-gargling pomp of it all, then I’m totally with you. I spent my entire three years of university drinking £4.99 Gallo rosé, and that sweet, sickly nectar has a special place in my heart. But the wonderful thing about Vagabond is that, despite being a bouji wine bar and boasting over a hundred carefully selected bottles from indie vineyards across the globe, it is somehow also unpretentious.

First of all, the way you order the booze appeals to my inner vending-machine-loving child: Pre-load money onto a credit card, swipe into the recently revamped wine fridges, before clicking on the bottle you’d like and watching with glee as your chosen amount of wine comes pouring out. Taster sizes of 25ml are mostly around a couple of pounds, allowing people to sample a whole range of different wines you wouldn’t normally risk getting a glass of. We taste a tangy Spanish Albarino, a buttery, Meursault-style Reserva Branco from a sustainable smallholding in Alentejano (yes – I stole that from the tasting notes), and a questionable Italian Pecorino from Abruzzo.

Each wine comes with an information slip, onto which you can jot notes like ‘beeswax and tangerine’ or ‘pomegranate and watermelon’ if you so wish. My friend Chloe is a picky soul, and finds GM Henry’s pick, a Condrieu from the Northern Rhône which is one of the most expensive wines, not to her taste. We play games, bringing each other wines with tasting notes of honey, straw and water chestnuts, and try unsuccessfully to guess them. Around us, we see couples (a lot of first dates, apparently) doing the same, laughing and chatting as they pair their Tempranillo with delicious cured meats, artisan cheeses and charred Padron peppers.

Finally, we strike gold, and both fall in love with an Australian Zibibbo from winemaker Brash Higgins. “English Pears and Freesia” writes Chloe dramatically, now slightly less than sober. I imagine that this balance of light-heartedness, mixed with some actual exploration into new realms of wine, is exactly what Vagabond’s founder Stephen Finch imagined when he opened to doors to his first Fulham wine shop in 2010.

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Vagabond

Visit Vagabond Fulham, 18-22 Vanston Place, SW6 1AX
Contact on 0207 381 1717 or visit

Raising spirits!

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Fancy a drink? And a sing-along? Join Putney’s Pub Choir, brainchild of local pianist, vocalist and music tutor Carl Speck

A trip to your local pub, a glass of your favourite tipple and a chance to sing your heart out… what could be better? The Pub Choir is a great way to socialise with friends, enjoy a drink and learn to sing new and familiar songs in the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of a pub.

“The Pub Choir is all about having fun,” Carl tells us. “Anyone can come along, from the most experienced singers to those who usually only sing their hearts out in the shower! We always work on songs that everybody knows – that way, the choir is easily split into two and we enjoy learning some simple harmonies for extra effect.

“This is a great way for new singers to have a go at singing in a choir. There is no commitment to come every week which is a real draw for many people. The added bonus is a glass of wine or a pint of beer (or two!) throughout the evening.”

The choir gather at The Duke’s Head in Lower Richmond Road, SW15 1JN, on alternate Tuesdays of every month, 8 -9.30pm, as well as other pubs. All you have to do is turn up, buy a drink and then sing. Each session costs £5. Lyric sheets are provided and Carl will teach three or four songs throughout the evening. With his expert direction, you will also learn the basics of good singing technique, as well as have the chance to sing in two or three-part harmony.

Carl adds: “Towards the end of the evening, a live recording is taken to share with your friends, family and the rest of the world! There is absolutely no need to have any previous singing experience or know how to read music. If you have some musical ability, you can view music for each session on the member’s page a few days before each session – your musical skills will be most welcome to support the rest of the group.

Contact Carl to access the Members’ Page and, if possible, let Carl know you are going in advance, just because this will help him with organising music for everyone. Upcoming datesfor planned gatherings are 15th and 29th October, 12th and 26th November and 10th December.

Find out more

Fox & Pheasant review

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I’m a country bumpkin at heart, and when I moved to Fulham nearly three years ago all my edgy East London pals rolled their eyes and said it was highly predictable, the obvious choice for a Gloucestershire gal like me.

It’s true, there’s something about the leafy streets, parks and plentiful dog owners in SW6 that felt like home. But what I always missed was a cozy country pub, with roaring fires and stuffed foxes, the sort you’d turn up to in wellies after a long walk. That is until my little brother moved up to London a couple of months ago, and sniffed out the Fox and Pheasant. Hidden in a charming little mews called The Billings, a short walk from Fulham Broadway and Stamford Bridge, I’m embarrassed to say I’d walked past the faded Victorian exterior, with its green tiles and hanging baskets, a hundred times without a second glance.

This is probably exactly what James Blunt and wife Sofia Wellesley wanted, when they decided to buy their local boozer and save it from being turned into apartments back. It’s understated, and no expense has been spared in retaining the original charm of the 17th century pub. When I walked in, I was transported with a jolt to my favourite Cotswold pubs, and half expected to recognise the faces at the bar.

We plonk ourselves at the bar for a pint of the Fox and Fez, their house lager, and chat to charming manager Toby. The decor is so quintessentially British it feels a bit like a film set, with vintage wallpaper and original 1930’s oak panels and locals playing darts. The walled garden is divine, with ivy and jasmine and pot-plants galore, and a Wimbledon-style glass roof ready to pull over in case of rain. We sit here for supper, which blows us away with its quality and freshness and attention to detail. You can have your usual pub classics – scotch eggs; burger and chips; honey & mustard chipolatas; a killer roast with all the trimmings on Sundays.

Alternatively you can go off-piste and order soft shell crab tacos with sriracha mayo, or an Ottolenghi-esque roast cauliflower with rocket and dates, sprinkled with dukka grains and toasted almonds. For pudding, don’t miss the sticky toffee pudding soufflé, served with ice cream of the same flavour, which was mind-bogglingly delicious. The Fox and Pheasant is the perfect country escape, while barely having to leave SW6.

Find them

The Fox and Pheasant, 1 Billing Road, Chelsea, SW10 9UJ.

Call 0207 352 2943 or email [email protected]

Dog & Duck: twist on tradition

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Eager to have someone else do the cooking, Karen Neville headed off for a cosy pub meal.

The Dog & Duck in Emmbrook describes itself as stylish and welcoming and after an enjoyable meal there I’d agree and add good food and friendly service to the accolades too.

Having undergone a major refurb just over a year ago, it has been transformed into its current guise but retains much of its heritage, dating back to the 1850s. Traditional features of oak beams, sash windows and antique prints combine with modern elements of light wells and bi-fold doors leading out to the garden.

When we visited it was definitely not weather for sitting outside but it was weather for enjoying a warming lunch. Topping up on festive excess we chose the whisky and chicken liver pate with brioche and brandy cherries and the potted smoked salmon and soda bread for starters. Both were delightfully rich and full of the flavours of the season.

Comfort food beckoned next with chicken, ham and leek pie – deliciously crisp shortcrust pastry, none of the puff that’s all too common in pubs – with creamed mash and broccoli and slow braised “falling apart” ox cheek with beef dripping mash, both mains were like having a hug on a plate as we looked out on the cold sunny day.
As we finished off our New Zealand Featherdrop Sauvignon Blanc which was crisp, fresh and full of zesty flavours, I tucked into the passion fruit posset with pumpkin seeds and shortbread. The light and zingy taste was the perfect ending.

It proved to be a great example of traditional and modern fare matching the look and feel of the pub.

The Dog & Duck, Matthewsgreen Road, Emmbrook, RG41 1JT.

Call 0118 978 0544 or visit www.dogandduckemmbrook.co.uk