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The Dog & Duck, Emmbrook

Gawd knows we love a revamped pub, so it's hello and make mine 3 courses at The Dog & Duck.

THE LOWDOWN

Mention the word suburb and you imagine a sprawl of cookie cutter new builds, a cluster of good schools and the perfect middle ground for families wanting a dash of town and a dollop of country. Emmbrook is just that, although I think it was once a village judging by the handful of period properties. But it was here that I discovered The Dog and Duck – a super-stylish 17th century red brick, off the beaten track pub. A hidden gem, that screams Muddy.

Brakspear Brewery bought this place in 1857 and the locals have been lapping it up ever since. More importantly it has recently undergone a humungous facelift, keeping many of its original features but throwing in contemporary and vintage touches. This is more than a lick of paint. This full on refurb – and it’s quite foxy.

THE VIBE

Friendly and relaxed, I’d say. A gaggle of ladies were having lunch and a few Friday wines to see in the weekend and a couple of fellas were grabbing a bite between work calls and tapping away on their laptops. It has an ‘everyone’s welcome’ vibe whether you’re flying solo (*ahem* like me), out with the kids or meeting up with the gang.

The Dog and Duck in many ways is your classic country pub. Exposed brick, oak beams, parquet floor… Yatzi! Bi-folding doors and a roof lantern flood the dining room with light (plus gives you eyes in the back of your head, if the kids if you’ve booted the kids out into the garden). But it’s the cool curiosity shop feel that I loved – but there’s a fine line between stylish curation and total madness.

By sticking to the same colour palette on the walls, upholstery and mix and match furniture, it all hangs together. It’s not try hard, it’s just really stylish. I would be doing a little dance if this was my local.

SCOFF AND QUAFF

Yum! The menu is long and varied which made choosing incredibly difficult. I could have pretty much eaten everything. Decisions decisions. So I hit Fishy Friday head on and maxed out on an Omega 3 and batter. There’s balance for you.

First up, salt and pepper squid lime and aioli. There’s a danger with squid that it can so easily end up tasteless or rubbery. The batter was light, aioli was the right side of garlicy. So I’m not going to melting any faces at school pick up. Phew.

Next up, Oxford Gold battered fish and chips. A pub classic, so always good to road test. Not over greasy. I never like the idea of mushy peas but the consistency was OK. Portion sizes are generous, so you’re to going to leave hungry. In fact I couldn’t finish the whole plate. Unusual, I know.

Pud? Well I always protest my inability to hit 3 courses, but today my friends, I’m sacrificing myself to the cause. Apple and berry crumble with custard definitely caught my eye, but I plumped for the slightly lighter lemon and meringue tart with fresh raspberry puree. My saving grace was the blissfully neat portion. Do not read small. It was just enough.

Basically, there’s nothing fancy-pants about this food. It’s simple, unpretentious pub fayre, with lots of the meat and veg – ideal for a Sunday lunch and girly lunches. Also worth noting, they cater for all. A man came him looking for gluten free lunch, and whadda y’know, they have a GF menu and a fully loaded burger turned up to suit his requirements.  Kids are equally well served with pizza, pasta, burger, fish goujons all available.

OUT AND ABOUT

Nearby Cantley Fields Park is worth a stroll or a kick about with the kids to work up an appetite or to try and relieve the strain on your waistband. You’ll also see one of the county’s biggest fireworks display here. If you can persevere with the current traffic going into the town centre, have a mooch around Wokingham. It has a lovely selection of indie shops, cafe and bars. Or pop over to Holme Grange Craft Village where you’ll find everything from a boutique hair salon and traditional sweet shop to a Lego play centre and a cracking gift shop.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Sunday lunchers, girly get togethers, after work drinkers and casual date nights. It’s cosy enough to hunker down with a glass of red in the winter, and, I’d enjoy sinking a few rosés here when the sun shines.

Nor for: It’s not a gastropub by any stretch so if you’re looking for grand foodie creds, move along. The garden’s a tad bijou. Yes you can boot out the kids, but it’s not designed for littlies to run around like loons nor does it have a play area to keep them contained.

The damage: Reasonable. Starters and puddings are around £6.50, mains from £11-£21, and kids 3-course meal for £7.95.

Dog and Duck Emmbrook, Matthewsgreen Road, Emmbrook, Berkshire RG41 1JT. Tel: 0118 978 0544. 

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