Dive in at The Dolphin, Newbury
Shoreditch House meets Miami Beach vibes, Newbury's new pub is cool, quirky place to chill.
If there is one thing I love about my job, it’s seeking out a hot new place to get social. So I give you, The Dolphin in Newbury. Owned by husband and wife team Ed and Buffy Turner (aka Buffy & Bear), The Dolphin has gone from rundown, old man’s boozer to a hip hangout following a whopping £500,000 refurbishment.
The Dolphin is 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 if you’v not ventured down this way, now you have every reason to head there.
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 5 different rooms – 6 if you include the garden. The front bar area is is dominated by a blinking gorge orange velvet sofa, the Bartlowmew 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 dotted around. 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 5 rooms and private events.
The restaurant has a slight Miami beach vibe with palm print soft furnishings, brass palm floor lamps and vintage maps. It opens out to the garden here you can book one of 3 beach huts to your own group get together service from an outdoor bar each one names after the children of the owners.
Scoff & quaff
Let’s dive into the menu, shall we? In addition to the standard bat offering, there’s a good selection of craft lagers, locally brewed beers, wine list, carefully curated with a leaning towards small independent producers. The cocktail list is also pretty foxy and, if Bloody Marys are our bag, Ed’s very own tomato juice Turner Hardy & Co (made on the Isle of Wight) is he magic ingredient.
The food is simple food done well using quality ingredients. It is good to have first class pub grub alongside gastropub offerings in the area. So whether you’re after a drinkie and a bar snack, light lunch or the full 3 courses, you’ll find a good selection here.
To start I chose the Scotch egg with home piccalilli, mackerel pate is like catnip to Mr M, so it was fairly predictable he would opt for that. The most surprising thing, was that the Scotch egg was cold. I was expecting it to be warm with an oozy egg. But no, it was cold, served with a chunky fresh chutney that was sharp, crunchy and delish. Both starters demolished and not a morsel left on the plate. Good start.
The mains, a classic steak with blue cheese sauce and chips and the sea bass with ratatouille from the specials. I was tempted by the burger, but I’m yet to be convinced that a ciabatta bun has any business being coupled up with a burger. Just me? Call me a traditionalist. I’m happy to be convinced and It just gives me the perfect excuse to go again. Our food was full of flavour, perfectly cooked and the ratatouille was exceptional.
What’s for pud? Ah, now I must confess it was a big fat Muddy fail. We were so full, we just couldn’t squeeze in any more, despite the roomy dress option. If I had gone for the full monty, the apple and blackberry crumble had my name written all over it. But the sticky toffee pudding and chocolate brownie with honeycomb ice cream both looked amaaaaaazing.
Special mention to the staff who are warm, welcoming and very patient as I fired endless questions at them. All answered with a smile and humour. They were brilliant.
Out & about
If you want to have a mooch around Newbury, the canal is nice spot to watch the narrow boats drift by. Word of warning, watch out for the overly enthusiastic swans. Fancy making a day of it? Newbury Racecourse is nearby and there some great inde shops in the town from, Fifi & Moose in Weaver’s Walks, plus Muddy award winners B The Lifestyle Shop, Inn at Hom, florist Willow & Blooms and No.96 Gifts and Furnishing.
The Muddy verdict
Good for: Fun nights out with the gang, after workie drinks, brunch with family, lunch with the girls, date nights and the beach huts are brilliant for a quirky birthday get together. Can;t be figged to stagger home, 5 boutique bedrooms should entice you for a classy sleepover.
Not for: Nothing starchy about The Dolphin, so if silver service and pressed linens are how you roll it might not be your bag. Kids are very much welcomed and they’d definitely like food, get a sitter and settle in for a relaxing sesh.
££: Really good value. If you’re used gastropub prices, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you get the bill: starters/small plates start at £3.50 up to £15; mains from £8.50 for a salad, up to £20 for a rib eye steak. But the majority of dishes are under £15. Puds are roughly £4.
The Dolphin, 113 Bartholomew Street, Newbury Berkshire RG14 5DT. Tel: 01635 930334