Since it was my 23rd birthday on Monday, I knew I wanted to treat myself to a lovely dinner out at a restaurant that I hadn’t tried before. After driving past The Shepherd and Dog numerous times, as well as seeing it featuring on The Only Way is Essex, I thought it was about time I checked it out. Grabbing the other half and some red lippie, we made a reservation for 8.00pm and rubbed our hands together in anticipation.
Presenting itself as a modern gastro-pub, The Shepherd and Dog definitely has that classy and elegance ambiance and décor that has you nodding away in appreciation of the muted mint green and beige colours. With a bar and restaurant area, as well as a variety of sofa booths, tables and chairs and bar stools, there is plenty of choice about where to sit and eat. Right from the off, it is evident that quality of food and experience is of paramount importance, as their menu changes with the seasons so that they can use the freshest and tastiest produce, sourced from across Essex, London and East Anglia.
Even though pub grub may vary in quality, the actual items are normally quite samey, so the same culprits of burgers, sausages and fish featured on The Shepherd and Dog’s menu. What helps define this eatery as a class up is the fact that each traditional dish has been given an incredibly thorough spruce up, with elegant extras and additions in flavour that make the dishes brilliantly unique and unforgettable. For example, they serve their sausages and mash with towering strips of crunchy crackling. The presentation is also stunning and a visual feast for the eyes with a multitude of colours and shapes to whet the appetite before you have even began eating.
For my starters, I chose the soup of the day – the unusual option of curried sweet potato. The curry element was really light and not overpowering in the slightest. It acted to add an extra element of warmth and spice to the sweetness of the vibrant soup that was also the perfect creamy consistency. Served with large cube croutons as well as two generous slices of rustic white bread meant that this starter really hit the nail on the head for fabulous flavours, and I literally spent the whole time I was eating oohing and ahhing over the quality. Dan opted for his favourite prawn cocktail with large slices of brown bread.
For my main course I decided to go for the chicken, or to be exact, the corn fed chicken supreme. Visually it was a pure delight, and the tastes provided a continuation of this. Served with fat sweet potato chips, Chantenay carrots and honey roast parsnips meant that it had a lovely sweet yet crunchy undertone that worked really well with the rich wine flavoured Madeira jus sauce that skated over my plate and chicken. The chicken was presented in a delicate mountain in the centre of my plate, complete with the crispy skin, which gave a great juxtaposition with the juicy and tender white meat beneath. What was great about this dish was that each separate component was cooked to perfection, yet combined, they provided an explosion of exciting flavours and textures that were just simply divine. It was simple, proper food that was presented with creativity, class and that something a little bit special.
Dan order the aptly named ‘The Burger’, complete with streaky bacon, cheese and triple cooked chips that were golden with crispy bubbles on the exterior, yet inside it was all about the fluffiness. Served on a rectangular wooden chopping board, there was not your average circular plate in sight. The portion sizes were also ideal, being large enough to fill you entirely, yet not so much that you felt sickly and overstuffed.
Although Dan bypassed dessert, I couldn’t resist the bread and butter pudding, served with a vanilla studded crème Anglaise. Beautifully spongy and peppered with squidgy raisins it was delicious, and I loved the slightly caramelised taste of the crunchy crusts on top. The perfect conclusion to a simply divine meal.
What I also enjoyed about The Shepherd and Dog is their extensive cocktail menu, for only £7 a drink. There were some really unusual ones on there as well as your classic Cosmos. To start, I sampled a Hazelnut Mojito that used Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur to provide a sweetly nutty punch. Paired with a mojito’s natural refreshing zing, it was a great way to kick start my meal. My second cocktail of the night came in the shape of a Porn Star Martini, served with a side shot of bubbly Prosecco. Vanilla vodka and passion fruit liqueur made up the majority of this fruity little number that was all glamour and fresh flavours to really cleanse the palette. Professionally presented and well executed, it was a lovely change from my usual wine, especially as their selection was so diverse and satisfying!
For my three courses and two cocktails, and Dan’s two courses and a coke, we paid just over £60, which is rather reasonable really. I loved the selection of food and drink that took pub classics and transformed them into sublimely elegant yet decadently stylish dishes that offered a twist on the traditional. The staff were friendly and efficient, providing a fast and polite service. I would most definitely return – mainly because I really want to try their chocolate brownie! Who’s with me!