Dive in! The Dolphin’s lovely
Welcome to the house of fun! This super-stylish Newbury pub is cool, casual and your flexible foodie friend. Big pants on, let's dive in.
Welcome to the House of Fun! The Dolphin in Newbury is a pub with bags of personality. Elegantly eccentric decor, friendly vibe, art with a subtle sense of humour and a crowd-pleasing menu of food and drink. Owners Ed and Buffy Turner (aka Buffy & Bear), transformed The Dolphin from rundown, old man’s boozer to a hip hangout, snagging a Muddy Award in 2019 for Best Bar. Well deserved it was too.
You’ll find this wow watering hole on Bartholomew Street at the southern end of Newbury town centre, near the Kennet Centre and train station. Although the Kennet Centre is a bit ‘meh’, this is an area on the up and more and more cool independents are popping up. So it’s very much become a must visit.
Relaxing, fun with Insta-worthy decor to die for. Think Shoreditch House meets Miami Beach. I love it and there is a very subtle fishy theme if you can join the arty dots on the walls. The pub is sprawling with five different rooms – six if you include the garden. The front bar area is is dominated by a blinking gorgeous orange velvet sofa, the Bartholomew Bar (a snug) for a quiet drinkie and read of the papers has a ‘get away from it all’ feels.
There is a ‘Games Room’ with vintage pub and board games with more kitsch antique fair finds. Head out towards the rear of the property and you come across The Fish Tank – a room used for business meetings, breakfast for guests staying in one of five rooms and private events.
The restaurant has a hint of Miami beach with palm print soft furnishings, brass palm floor lamps and vintage maps. It opens out to the garden where you can book a quirky beach hut – each one named after the owners’ children – for group get togethers, and there’s a handy outdoor bar. A dull but useful fact is that there is a car park for guests – rarer than rocking horse poop in Newbury.
SCOFF & QUAFF
New Head Chef (Toby), new menu and a clear understanding of what people want. Chef Toby has cooked in London’s top gastropubs and restaurants in Hong Kong (fancy). He combines his knowledge of British and international flavours to create crowd-pleasing dishes, whether you’re in for a light lunch, leisurely dinner or weekend refuel while out shopping.
Seasonal, quality, local ingredients are very much part of The Dolphin’s DNA whether you’re eating or drinking. There’s a good selection of craft lagers, locally brewed beers and wine (I highly recommend the zingy Picpoul) – but it feels more curated with a focus on pairing flavours to food and mood. The cocktail list is also pretty foxy and, if Bloody Marys are our bag, owner Ed’s very own tomato juice Turner Hardy & Co (made on the Isle of Wight) is the magic ingredient.
No pressure to have the traditional three courses. More of a mantra to ‘do you’ and enjoy the ride. Making a beeline for the main event, my carnivorous family opted for pub classics and I went for the twist. Steak, Pork Belly, Burger and a Crab and Crayfish Tail Linguine.
Portion sizes are very good. The steak was delivered to medium rare perfection, served with chunky triple cooked chips, garlic butter and watercress. As far as my eldest was concerned green should never be seen on his plate… and the ‘cress was the only thing left. I didn’t have time to swipe a chip. I really need to teach him the rules.
My crab and crayfish tail linguine was just the taste of the seaside I’ve been craving. Comforting not coma-inducing, thank god. My only complaint? The location. Would views of Tuscany be too much to ask? Yes it would. If I’m being really picky perhaps a bit of colour and kick would have given this dish extra oomph. Throw in a bit of chilli and samphire and it would have absolutely made my day.
No room for pud? Not on our watch. The kids’ meal comes with ice cream, but that got passed onto to someone else as my youngest drooled over the chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and ice cream. We may live to regret this amount of sugar in one hit, but who cares. I think inhaling it in 90 seconds speaks volumes. I’m assured the brownie was gooey and the sauce it was swimming in was heavenly.
I chose a Lemon Posset with freshly made shortbread biscuits. This was a beautifully light pud that scratched that desire for sweetness, without being sickly. I’d love to tell you all about the buttery shortbread, but my thieving teen whipped them off my plate before I got the chance. From the appreciative noises coming from his stuffed mouth, I gather they were excellent.
OUT & ABOUT
If you want to have a mooch around Newbury, the canal is nice spot to watch the narrow boats drift down the river. Word of warning, watch out for the overly enthusiastic swans. Fancy making a day of it? Newbury Racecourse is nearby and there some great indie shops in the town, from Fifi & Moose in Weaver’s Walk, plus Muddy award winners B The Lifestyle Shop, Inn at Home and florist Willow & Blooms are all nearby.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Girls’ Night Outers, family gatherings, general relaxation, design-buffs. This pub gives you a style fix, whether you’re eating or drinking and the garden beach huts are brilliant for a quirky birthday get together. Can’t be figged to stagger home? Book one o the five boutique rooms for a classy sleepover.
Not for: Those looking for a traditional country vibe – you’d be better off slinging your hook somewhere less glam, tbh. But what The Dolphin lacks in countryside views it makes up for with its fun decor, vibe and great food.
££: Really good value. Especially if you go for the set menu, Mon-Wed. A bargainous £14.95 for two courses. Mains flirt around the £14 mark. Snacks and small plates are £8ish and the most expensive steak from the grill is the Cote de Beouf at £26. A simple three-course kids’ menu will set you back £8.
The Dolphin, 113 Bartholomew Street, Newbury Berkshire RG14 5DT. Tel: 01635 930334