Well heeled Old Boot Inn
A superlative supper at the rejuvenated Old Boot in Stanford Dingley, West Berkshire? Pull up a chair…
If you haven’t swapped town for country already, Stanford Dingley is one of those pretty Berkshire villages where every other house could convince you to escape to the wilderness. There’s a picture perfect church, humpback bridge, rippling river, cute cottages, grand houses, plus not one but TWO pubs. The Old Boot is an 18th century village inn that has recently been transformed from a dated pub to the thriving hotspot it is today. New owners Rebecca and Andre, with Head Chef and partner Shaun Cheyney, have given this place the kiss of life, following a full refurb. A family-friendly traditional pub, yes, but also a prime spot for a pint and a ponder.
The River Pang runs through the middle of this stunning West Berkshire beauty spot, so the Old Boot is popular with cyclists, walkers and their four-legged friends. In fact, you’re just as likely to see a horse outside as you are a dog obediently sat underneath a table (or, ahem, perched on one of the comfy armchairs). You step in from the lane running past the door to a welcoming beamed bar and dining space with a fireplace at either end of the room. It’s cosy and comfortingly traditional.
The décor is modern rustic-chic, with a sage green and cream colour palette and a hint of red alongside scrubbed wooden tables and floorboards, comfy wing backed chairs and exposed wonky beams. Work your way to the back and you find a light, bright conservatory with a more contemporary feel, looking out on to the large attractive garden complete with kids’ wooden play set (huge tick for battle weary parents wanting to enjoy some time out, too).
Amidst the visiting locals propping up the bar, there are couples on date nights, friends catching up over supper and, by day, there’s a steady stream of walkers, cyclists and local families tucking in to the lunch menu. The villagers have been very supportive of the pub’s reincarnation, flocking to acoustic evening and Sunday afternoon BBQs. But there are more Old Boot bashes coming: including an Irish acoustic evening on Sunday 10 June; a Cockney knees up on Wednesday 13 June and Afternoon Tea Party in aid of Cancer Research on Sunday 8 July. Everyone rubbed along nicely together and the service was extremely warm and friendly – I’d happily sink a few glasses of wine of an evening. Which is exactly what I did.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
The modern British menu comes courtesy of Chef Shaun Cheyney, previously of the Pot Kiln in Frilsham. His cooking is inventive and ambitious, with a focus on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients (although everyone says that these days, right?). It’s certainly a cut above classic gastro-pub fare. I chose the twice cooked cheese souffle with wild garlic and roasted pepper salad. It was indulgent, light and quite garlicky. I’ll be warding off vampires and Mr M later, for sure. That said, it was delicious.
Next up, I ordered the lamb with spring veg in a broth. Very tasty, comforting and surprisingly not too heavy. My Muddy mucker, Kelly, devoured the pork tenderloin, crispy pig’s cheek, pork belly, apple, carrot and celeriac. Big thumbs up all round.
Puds you say? Hell yes. We ordered two classics: a rice pudding and a crumble. Before you start muttering about school dinners and ideas they’re more wintery desserts. You’re wrong. Shaun has loaded both dishes with seasonal fruits and a twist. My crumble full of juicy apple and peach was served with cream ice cream and a chewy meringue. YUM! And the clotted cream rice pud, comes with a pile of fresh strawberries and coconut. Both indulgent but don’t sit in your tum like a brick. No need to roll out of the door. Phew!
The lunch menu is a bit more of a traditional pub offering with posh sarnies, a burger and ploughmans to choose from; the Sunday roast is popular and, now the sun is starting to shine most weekends, there are lots of people making good use of the Old Boot’s green space and BBQ menu, sinking a few rosés while the kids run free. I mean seriously, check out that view. The location is peachy.
OUT AND ABOUT
You can hack out on horseback and stop off at the Old Boot (Cullinghood stables are nearby if you don’t have you’re own mane and tail pony pal) and there are loads of walks that lurch between leisurely stroll to robust 5-mile ramble through woodland and country lanes that takes you from Rushall Farm to Bradfield and loops round past the Old Boot and The Bull in Stanford Dingley.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: A family weekend lunch or a group dinner on a Friday or Saturday night. If you’ve got a big rabble, it’s worth noting the conservatory area would work for parties. There’s a lovely, enclosed garden in which to contain exuberant kids.
Not for: A very speedy, light lunch – although they do sandwiches, the food is cooked to order so make the most of the wine list and fireside and enjoy the time to kick back. Foodie and interior hipsters looking for Instagram likes – this is a good quality but unpretentious country pub.
The damage: Very reasonable for cooking this good. Prices for the a la carte and Sunday lunch are similar with starters costing between £7-£9, mains £13-£19 and puds from £6.50. The light lunch and BBQ menus start at £6.
Old Boot Stanford Dingley, Stanford Dingley, Reading RG7 6LT; 0118 974 5191