Sunday, 10 June 2007
The Dog & Bell
The Dog & Bell is something of a Deptford/South East London CAMRA institution, so it is surprising how many people in the area have never been there, or have heard of it but don't know where it is. That being said, the pub is very well hidden. I had lived in Greenwich for about 8 years before I visited - although I'd heard many good reports and was keen to try it out. I actually stumbled on it while cycling along the Thames path one Sunday afternoon - it's tucked away on Prince Street, sandwiched between the high brick walls of Convoy's Wharf and a housing estate. You have to know where you are going in order to find it - there's no sign of it as you walk down Watergate Street, until you are almost on top of it.
Its location is probably both a blessing and a curse. For regulars it means that the pub is usually quite quiet, there are plenty of seats to choose from and it's got a real feeling of a 'local' (in the nicest possible sense!). But I'm sure it's something of a curse for the owners, I imagine they struggle to make a living, although the fact that it has survived here so long suggests it's not impossible.
When I first moved to Deptford, it became my local - not the closest pub to my house, but the closest with real ale and certainly the closest with a genial atmosphere! Since it was taken over a couple of years ago by Adam and Annamolia, little has changed. They still offer three guest beers as well as London Pride and Fullers ESB, a wide selection of bottled beers (including things like raspberry-flavoured if you are so inclined) and they still offer a range of good food.
In fact when I say little has changed, the main difference is in the menu. They used to offer pub staples (some combination of meat/fish, chips/potatoes, salad/veg) at ridiculously low prices. Now they offer a mixture of pub staples and more unusual options at reasonable prices (around £7 per main course). Favourites are the freshly-made fish and chips (the fish really does melt in the mouth); chicken curry which is served with rice, poppadom and pickles (they also do a chick pea version for vegetarians) and Flash 'Arry likes the ham, egg and chips. These are all regulars on the menu; there are occasional specials such as belly pork, fishcakes and so on.
The food is consistently high quality, but I have one MAJOR gripe. Where are the vegetables?! On average we eat here about once every three weeks - but we would come more often if there were more vegetables or salad on the menu. For instance the chana masala (chick pea curry) is just that. Chick peas in (an albeit delicious) curry sauce. Yes, I know it contains a large amount of fresh coriander, but the addition of a few vegetables could only enhance the dish - likewise for the chicken curry. And how much trouble would it be to offer peas with the fish and chips?
I'd love to see a regular salad special, or something just a teensy bit more healthy on the menu - that's what it would take for us to visit more often. As it is, I fear we may start splitting our local nights out between the D&B and the Royal Albert, which has a better range of food.
Having said all that, the Dog & Bell still can't be beaten for its real ales. In terms of variety, quality and price, I know of no other pub in London that comes close.