Dogging in Little Chelsea
Apparently, you are either a dog person or a cat person. I’m absolutely definitely a cat person, without a shadow of doubt. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like dogs, honestly, I do, especially those handsome, bouncy Hungarian Vizsla types or the blue eyed teddybearish Siberian Huskies or perhaps sleek Russian Salukis, and of course their devotion and loyalty is something to be treasured, their protective bark a great security boon too. Man’s best friend and all that, I know, I know. But somehow, don’t they all have those anal cysts that need to be drained and that wet doggy smell and bad breath? They force their owners to carry around scoopers and full-to-the-hilt poo bags, not exactly my accessory of choice, and they leave big wet paw prints on the floor, not to mention the damage their unretractable claws do to your stockings or the muck when they jump up on your pristine white jeans. And then, what on earth do you do with them when you want to scoot off to somewhere exotic? Man, it’s like having a furry and slightly smelly forever toddler! Na, give me the independence of cats, their mystery, their feline elegance, that slightly cruel streak, those slanted eyes and the velvety purr. I hear you shout that moggies shred your upholstery, that their wee is disgustingly pungent, that they are killers of songbirds and in any case, associated with witches and devils. You are right, of course, and that even before you have met my Romy, the ever kittenish looking old lady who believes she is the Queen of Sheba and who occasionally rewards her slaves, us, with the present of some decapitated small mammal and who has a strange proclivity for big strong men in builders’ boots and flirts outrageously with them, only to have them howling in pain after they have taken up her invitation to tickle her tummy and received a vicious recreational clawing by way of thanks.. When the slaves dare to abscond and leave her to be fed by the kindly vet nurse from over the road, she, Romy (not the vet nurse, I hasten to add), shows her displeasure by defecating in our bathtub, just in time for our return home. That’ll teach us! Yes, like all proper women (oh, I do hope the lovely husband reads this….), she has more primadonna moments than are reasonably acceptable but just as we are about to curse her to the high heavens, she employs typical pussycat cuteness manoeuvres which have us trilling with love. So there you have it, now you know which camp I’m in.
The Brown Dog is a gastro pub in Little Chelsea, the most western part of Barnes, hidden away in a tiny side street of this pretty little area with tiny two up two down railway cottages bedecked in summer with abundant flower baskets and window boxes, a proper chocolate box idyll. When it first opened, something like ten years ago, it got lots of press coverage on account of its good cuisine and because, unusually, it positively welcomed dogs. Despite being hard to find, Londoners flocked to this then super fashionable place with its relaxed but civilized vibe and an attractive beer garden out the back. Just like seemingly everyone else, we too made our way there at the time but were affronted by the owner’s arrogant attitude (too much success too soon) and felt sorely mistreated, so I developed an antipathy to the pub and never set foot in it again. After a decade of wrinkling my nose and dissing it at every opportunity, the lovely husband and I almost reluctantly took ourselves off there one damp summer’s evening, when most appropriately, it was raining cats and dogs. Rather than looking forward to what it had in store for us, I was consumed by the slating I was going to give it on this page. Ha, that would teach them to treat us with more respect! Ha, and double ha! Well more fool me! I could not have been more wrong.…
To the left as you enter is the bar area, to the right, the rustic dining room. Four beautiful Victorian fire places grace the pub, light streams in through the huge windows, flowers and cozily lit candles on almost every surface give it an eye pleasing, inviting ambience. Unexpectedly, service was charming, helpful and smiley and as for the food….lordy lord, what have we been missing? It was stupendous! The goats’ cheese and herb ravioli were to die for, homemade, perfectly al dente with a very tasty stuffing, the crab salad with avocado, radish, chilli and lime refreshing and full of flavor, the roast guinea fowl breast, braised gem lettuce, pancetta, peas and mint mouthwateringly yummy and the French beans with garlic and more chilli, crunchy and delicious. What a completely thrilling feast! Mmmmmh, and then to top it all off, the perfectly sinful sticky toffee pudding with honeycomb ice cream. Divine! This thoroughly wonderful meal added up to £70.12 including a large glass of Pinot Grigio, a Pilsner, an Americano and a 10% service charge.
Okay, if I want to be completely honest about the experience, I guess I need to mention that the uncushioned pew church chairs are perhaps a bit hard but when you experience quite such sensory pleasure, all served up in a lovely environment which includes such commendable little touches as proper starched white linen napkins, the slightly sore derriere pales into insignificance.
This, for once, is a quick brown dog that jumps by miles over any lazy urban fox of which, incidentally, there are many here, so close to Richmond Park. Whether you are the owner of a lovable pooch or of a catty bundle of wickedness, you will not regret eating here; it’s the cat’s whiskers or, as we say in these parts, it’s the dog’s bollocks!