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By George, that went down well

PUBLISHED: 11:36 11 April 2013 | UPDATED: 11:36 11 April 2013

The bar area

The bar area

Archant

It's a possibly odd place to start, but driving home from The Dundas Arms at Kintbury, husband Steve and I agreed that this is the most fascinating country pub we've ever been to, and that we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

And it is very much a pub, even though you can choose to stay over in exquisite rooms, feast on food that easily matches courses found in top restaurants, and, wait for it, bring your dog for a break as well.

We did all that during an overnight stay, gambling that both the Dundas Arms and we would be able to cope with the company of Bungle, our monstrous-looking but smiley German Shepherd, and George, an inquisitive Lhasa Apso.

Landlord owner Neil Gander and his ‘right-hand woman’ Amanda were not fazed, and with pub dog Poppy, a gorgeous chocolate Labrador, explaining the rules to Bungle and George, we were all soon settled in.

Right from the start I had a feeling that things would go well because within just five minutes Amanda recognised my perfume – it was her favourite too! (Lady readers will understand why this is a brilliant sign). It was to set the standard for a very friendly atmosphere and we found all staff to be exceptionally helpful.

The pub has been refurbished this Autumn and the rooms for staying guests are now to a very high standard. Those used to the best hotels will not be disappointed as the facilities and housekeeping standards could not be criticised. I’ve never stayed in a pub before where luxury dressing gowns and bathroom toiletries are the norm, plus sumptuous bedding, hairdryer, top class tea and coffee making equipment… and let’s not forget the gun cabinet that fascinated Steve.

And there was a cute little bed for George, which after a quick sniff he decided was definitely his, and there is also an outside kennel.

Stay in the lovely ‘stable block’ and you have a patio area beyond your room facing onto the canal and plenty of areas to walk. So it’s easy to get outside with your dog and not have to go through the pub, although dogs are very welcome in the bar.

Not that you need a dog to make the most of The Dundas Arms. Indeed, those without will probably find more time to enjoy the very special dishes prepared by head chef Chris Lee, whose determination to use fresh, local food where ever possible was amply demonstrated by the menu. Take your pick from some pub grub favourites or a more a la carte menu. Game lovers should definitely try this season’s menu as there are some very special choices.

After starting with scallops, Steve did just that, and declared the local partridge, served with bread sauce, root vegetables and sage stock, to be delicious. I decided to take the more ‘pubby’ route with soup to start followed by a burger meal. Yes, I admit it. The menu included stunners like loin of Chiltern Foliat venison, slow roast pork belly or excellent fish choices, but something told me the Dundas Burger was going to be very special indeed, which turned out to be the case. It was served with a smoked cheese topping and an amazing Bloody Mary ketchup.

Full up, we skipped puddings and settled for perfect liqueur coffees instead.

The bar contained a good mix of local folk and visitors like us. Real ales on tap included West Berkshire Good Old Boy and Ramsbury Gold, plus Tutts Clump Farmhouse Cider, so Steve felt obliged to check out one or two. My attention was naturally drawn to the Sipsmith vodka and gin, and wine lovers will find plenty of choices to entertain them as well.

The next morning we had two tasks, which both turned to be enjoyable, walking the dogs and having breakfast. Starting with the food, once again, our meals equalled those found in the best establishments. Little touches, like delicious, hot crusty toast, both brown and white, and a super list of choices leading up to the Full English breakfast ensured we were set up for the day.

We took the dogs for a walk alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal, enjoying the sights of moored barges and the countryside beyond. If we’d have been staying longer this would be a beautiful spot to choose. In particular, anyone seeking a midweek break away from it all (but with a good dose of luxury thrown in) in would be highly satisfied.

We would definitely visit again… and by the way, you don’t need a dog, or even a car for that matter as there’s a little station virtually next door, so The Dundas Arms is accessible for cyclists or walkers. Steve decided that with the main road system so handily placed just 10 minutes away he could see himself going out of his way on business trips to call in again.

Neil and his team should be rightly proud of their new approach, we wish them every success.

ABOUT THE DUNDAS ARMS

Neil Gander runs this 18th century pub which has a bar, restaurant, first class accommodation, facilities for dogs, a lovely beer garden and library in the Grade II Listed Georgian property.

Cirrus Inns, co-founded by Alex Langlands Pearse and former Gordon Ramsey Holdings executive head chef Mark Askew, bought the Dundas Arms in April this year.

Among the treats are fish freshly caught from the Kennet river, and local game dry aged on the premises. They plan to cold-smoke all their smoked meat, fish and cheese on site.

It’s a perfect spot for walking breaks, country sports enthusiasts, canoeists, enjoying stunning scenery and settling back into luxurious accommodation between the outings. A midweek break, combining perhaps a meeting at Newbury Racecourse, is highly recommended.

Christmas and New Year: A splendid Christmas Day lunch menu is planned, beginning with champagne on arrival and offering a wonderful mix of traditional and unique choices, including a vegetarian main course, for £75 per person. The pub will be open on New Year’s Eve for people who would like a meal and a drink without all the usual over-the-top razzamatazz associated with that night. But they are doing a New Years Day ‘hangover menu’ to help with the recovery of those who did party the night away.

Getting there: Very easy to reach from the M4, A4 and A34. Kintbury is on the First Great Western line from Paddington via Reading and Newbury to Bedwyn.

53 Station Road, Kintbury,

Berkshire, RG17 9UT

Tel. 01488 658 263

www.dundasarms.co.uk



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