Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Pointing Dog

PLEASE NOTE: I have been back to the Pointing Dog on several occasions since writing this post and its contents are no longer valid. I have had a number of disappointing experiences with the food and service - so much so that I now only refer to the pub as the disapPointing Dog - I'll remove this note if I feel it ever picks up again.

I’ve had a bone to pick with my local area (Cheadle Hulme) for quite some time, namely the lack of decent places to eat. However, if you hear me bitching in the future, don’t get all hot under the collar, just politely remind me that I am barking up the wrong tree – for now we have a pawfect new gastropub!

The old Smithy pub on Grove Lane had gone to the dogs and was a little ruff around the edges. At least, that was the case, until the owners of Manchester’s Grinch Wine Bar and the Felicini Italian Restaurants spent in excess of £1.5 million on its refurb - giving it a new leash of life - rebranding as the Pointing Dog.

The branding is indeed excellent; Kirk & Co Creative Graphic Designers have done a great job on the Pointing Dog logo that by can be seen on the sign outside; the classy website ( as well as the funky foldout menus, printed on sober brown packaging paper.

Samuel Pepys described the pub as the ‘Heart of England’ but good English pubs have been declining in numbers over the past few years. Often being closed completely or replaced with ‘generic boozers’, lacking in heart or soul. This is not the case with the Pointing Dog – for the area (Cheadle Hulme) the venue is refreshingly different. The décor has a rustic edge with an overall contemporary feel. This is achieved through a harmonious use of natural and ‘industrial’ materials. Perhaps, best seen in the picture of the bar area, which shows: the earthy ‘vegetable crate’ light fittings, wooden furniture and tiled stone floor - contrasting with the bar: fronted with galvanized, studded steel and bejeweled with sleek, shiny steel taps and spotlights.

My wife and I had popped into the bar a few nights prior to my lunch visit and were impressed with the selection of beverages on offer. They serve, some quality draught and cask ales, beers and ciders. A different guest ale from local producers, the Dunham Massey Brewing Co will be available at all times. We also noticed a selection of ‘Summer Cocktails & Pitchers’ that I’m sure, will go down well on a sunny day, when the floor to ceiling doors are swung open, allowing the inside to flow seamlessly into the terrace and al fresco dining spaces of the 1.4 acre landscaped site - ‘Truly British’ Bombay Sapphire Gin, Pressed Apple Juice & Elderflower, particularly catching my eye.

Inside, the dining areas include: to the rear of the venue, a large and spacious canteen style area and a smaller, more intimate, room; adjacent to the side bar, some higher stools and tables fringed by the well stocked wine racks; the more comfortable and informal front lounge, with a mixture of seating, including comfy settees upholstered in various muted hues and to the right, as you go in, a spacious bar area, which can also be used for informal dining. Fans of the old Smithy may lament the removal of the large screen TVs, pool table and other gaming equipment – but this is not the old Smithy, it’s the Pointing Dog and for me, gladly so.

I chose to enjoy my lunch in the smaller and cozier of the two rear dining rooms. The concord between countrified and contemporary continuing with the presence of wicker chairs and a log burning stove; set against a stylish light, airy room with elegant table settings and quality cutlery. The prominent features of a steel framed entresol; large sliding door and vibrant splash of colour form the beautiful arrangement of flowers in a sleek modern vase, give the room its modern, sophisticated character.

I opted for the two course set lunch. Intrigued, I also went for the side dish called ‘Bag of Bread & Butter’ and it did exactly what is said on the tin bag - another great example of the delightfully modish Pointing Dog branding. Inside the bag, a warm French baguette, considerately part sliced for ease of tearing. Although fresh and tasty I was a little disappointed as I had, optimistically hoped for a small selection of artisan breads; even something as simple as a slice of white, brown and a flavoured.

The lunch menu features a wide variety of dishes and global culinary influences. Sparking my appetite, the Chilli Squid Taco; Chicken & Ham Hock Pot Pie and the 28 day aged Beef steaks all sounded marvelous.  One negative being, that the menu seemed a little light on vegetarian options – the evening menu just offering a choice of salads! – It is, however, important to consider that this is their first week of opening; I’m sure the menu will change to respond to feedback from customers, hopefully with local products, seasonality and vegetarians being more widely considered. 

To start, I opted for Creamed Mushrooms on Toast Sauté Button Mushrooms with Porcini Cream & Tarragon, served on Toasted Rosemary Foccacia. Classic flavour combinations; fresh mushrooms; well cooked and seasoned. The bread was light and flavoursome with an almost brioche like texture - A highly recommended dish.

For my main course, I chose the Fish & Chips Beer Battered Haddock, Crushed Peas, Homemade Tartare Sauce & Chip Shop Chips. Good fish and chips are not necessarily easy to get right; pleasingly, I could not fault these! Crisp golden batter; a slice of lemon; tasty tartare sauce; excellent chips – crisp outside with a fluffy centre and peas, crushed with mint leaves to a pleasing consistency. Wonderful!

I also want to add, that, for me the service throughout was faultless. Noticing that I was taking pictures, as I was leaving, one of the owners, restaurateur (and now publican) Ged Lynch came over and introduced himself - A friendly man and proven businessman; he and the Pointing Dog are welcome additions for the more discerning hungry and thirsty people of Cheadle Hulme.

My final thought, the dog is considered man’s best friend and some may consider the pub to be the English man’s best friend. Both should be welcoming, friendly and reliable - The Pointing Dog is all these things, and more; for it will do one more thing that a pet dog can’t do… and that is good you a cracking good meal!  No dog’s dinners here just a great venue that, locally, is leading the way in top notch pub grub!



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