By Jo Cooksey
I really miss pubs; local, heart of the community pubs. I’m from an era that grew up in pubs. Getting served underage was a rite of passage. We socialized with our friends in them, met Mr. Right Now’s in them, went to them on dates, celebrated engagements, weddings, christenings and drowned our sorrows in them. Then the supermarkets introduced cheap booze, the smoking ban came in and the pubs emptied and closed.
According to CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) pubs are still closing at the rate of 29 a week across the UK. However, in the Manchester suburbs at least, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon in the shape of Terroir Pubs. Headed up by Steve Pilling, of the Chop Houses, Damson and Dockyard and restaurant consultant, Angus Cameron Pride, late of Gaucho and Living Ventures.
They have taken on the iconic Dog & Partridge, on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury and sympathetically refurbished it, whilst being very careful not to alienate the existing customers. Angus told us when we visited that, “The pub is very precious to a lot of local people and we want to retain that loyal custom. We don’t want to turn it in to a hipster hangout. Yes, we want to up the offer but not at the expense of the basic dna. You can still come in for a pint and watch the football or read the paper.” The pub has also retained other traditions, such as serving monkey nuts and still welcoming well-behaved dogs, who are given a bowl of water and a handful of treats on arrival.
The Dog & Partridge sits near the crossroads of Wilmslow Road and Barlow Moor Road in Didsbury village. As you step through the front door, the décor and design is very traditional, with mis-matched wooden furniture, a little exposed brick and ‘modern vintage’ paint colours on the walls. The beautiful wooden floor had apparently been painted black but has been carefully and expertly stripped and the warm patina is now on show again. There are a few wall mounted TV screens showing the football but while we were there the sound was turned down and there was a laid-back soundtrack playing.
The aim is to appeal to as many people as possible; those wanting a coffee and pastry in the morning, or a light lunch or just a pint and to watch the match. This is reflected in the menu developed by executive chef, Patrick Mayo, who was previously at Gaucho with Angus. The pastries are supplied the French patisserie next door, the award winning Bisous Bisous. Angus told us that the aim is, wherever possible, to source food and drink locally and you can’t get any more local than next door.
One of the staff, Matt, who is training to be a doctor, took our drinks order whilst we perused the menu. I had a latte, the coffee beans come from a local micro roasting company and are single origin. My companion chose a Bia Brew Kombucha, which is fermented tea with spice such as ginger or fruit such as kiwi or cranberry. Brewed in Ancoats, it has slightly unusual though not unpleasant taste and is very refreshing. Being fermented it is also very good for you. Whilst we chatted to Angus, Matt bought us a bowl of homemade pork scratchings too. Absolute bliss.
Angus gave us a bit of a scoop during our tête-à-tête. Terroir has already found and started work on its second pub, The Stonemason’s in Timperley. Whereas, the Dog and Partridge is a local pub, The Stonemason’s will be more of a dining destination pub. It will offer 96 covers inside and 100 covers on the outside heated terracethat will also boast a pizza oven. This is where Chef Patrick will come into his own and frankly we can’t wait to see the menu. They hope to have it open and serving food in December.
We were hungry and eager to get stuck into the menu so we ordered up. We had been recommended the soup of the day, which was Thai Chicken and Coconut. Oh my, one mouthful and I was transported straight back to Bangkok. It was creamy, spicy and comforting and I need the recipe for this off Patrick. Alongside the soup, we had a grilled cheese sandwich. Proper doorsteps off a cob loaf with lots of oozing cheese and a big dill pickle on the side. That hit the spot. The menu at the Dog & Partridge is small but perfectly formed and to compliment the hot dishes we sampled they also offer sharing boards, comprising of a Deli board and a Cheese Board. You can have individual items for £2.50 each or for £10.50 you can have five items. We went for the Deli Board with Scotch Egg, Ham Hock Terrine, Montanegra Iberica de Bellota, (finest acorn fed Iberica ham) and Dehydrated PX Tomatoes soaked in sherry. All the individual parts to this board were excellent. The outside of the Scotch Egg was beautifully crisp, whilst still yielding to the tooth and encasing a paprika spiced meat. This in turn surrounded a boiled egg, whose yolk was neither too hard nor too runny. The ham hock terrine was soft, with discernable chunks of tender meat and flecked with a sweet piccalilli. The Iberica ham was top notch, mature and the fat melted in the mouth, just as it should. Combined with the sherry soaked sweet tomatoes it was a perfect grazing lunch. Although described as a sharing board, next time I will be keeping it to myself.
I must mention the drink I had with my repast. As well as having the Greene King list of beers, Terroir are also offering beers and ales from Manchester brewers, Alphabet, including their Flat White Breakfast Stout. I am partial to a stout, so long as it’s not too bitter and this was very smooth and very light, made with coffee, oats and milk. Fab choice to accompany a brunch.
In addition to the ales, Angus is very proud of his whisky list and intends to have some tasting evenings. The cocktails are also ‘different’ from the usual offering, in that they don’t use lemons or limes to add the sour notes but a product called verjus. This highly acidic juice, usually made from unripe grapes or crab apples, was originally used in medieval times before being replaced by citrus fruit. The Dog and Partridge use it because of its lack of flavour. So, unlike lemons, which give you a lemon flavour as well as the sourness, verjus just gives the sourness, allowing the other cocktail ingredients to shine through and not be masked.
We could quite happily have spent the entire afternoon in this cosy watering hole, chatting and grazing and are already making plans to return with the parents. Roughly translated, the French noun terroir, pronounced ‘tɛrwar’, refers to the complete local environment needed to organically grow a product. By paying so much attention to the local environment I think Angus and Steve will ‘grow’ a successful pub company, which will be sensitive to its customers’ requirements.
We visited The Dog & Partridge as guests of Terroir Pubs but this review is our honest opinion.