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The Dog & Fox Gastropub: Wimbledon, London, UK

Joanna Hall

During my my recent trip back to the UK I wanted to catch up with some old friends in my old neighbourhood of Wimbledon Village, and rather than make the trek back to the city late at night, I decided to seek out a place to stay. Back in the days when I lived in the affluent southwest London suburb, which is famous for many things including a grand slam tennis tournament, a huge common, and celebrity residents including the late F1 racing driver, James Hunt, there wasn't much to choose from.

Today, however, one of its iconic watering holes, the Dog & Fox, has been transformed into a boutique hotel and gastropub. I'll go into more detail about the hotel accommodation in an upcoming Luxury Hotel Review, but one of the many features of this new hip place to stay besides a gorgeous and very traditional bar is a great place to eat, whether you're catching up with old friends, as I was, or looking to enjoy a relaxing and casually intimate dining experience as a couple.

The location and decor:

The Dog & Fox sits in the heart of Wimbledon Village on a famous roundabout, with one road leading to the expansive common, another down to the All England Tennis Club, and the third through the village and down the hill to Wimbledon. It's clearly become a hub of social activity, people dropping in after work to enjoy a beer or a barista coffee, to meet friends, or enjoy dinner. As you walk into the bar, you get a strong sense of history. As the story goes, Young's Brewery, which was founded in 1831, took the pub over a few years later to take advantage of passing stage coach traffic.

Today the pub has maintained its traditional heritage, with a decor of practical earth tones, and a mix of lovely retro touches. The huge bar is typical of an English style pub, with muted lighting by way of faux gas lamps, a highly polished wooden bar, tiled floors, and plenty of nooks and crannies from intimate tables for two to large tables and benches. On offer is a full selection of Young's beers including cask ale and the finest of local microbreweries, fine wines, cocktails, and naturally Pimms on tap for the summer and tennis fans.

The restaurant follows a similar style decor wise, with rustic wooden tables and chairs separated by free standing book cases dressed with old books and petite flower arrangements. There are about 220 covers all up so the vibe on a weekend would be busy, but like the bar, along with the bookcases and show furniture, there are plenty of nooks and crannies and side rooms to break things up so it doesn't feel crowded.

The menu:

The head chef at the Dog & Fox is Ben Dalton, who enjoys working with seasonal products. This is a menu which pays homage to traditional pub grub, but takes it up quite a few notches. Offerings include top quality Aberdeen Angus certified steak, which is used in its handmade burgers, also free range wild game from Hampshire, farmhouse cheeses, and fresh home made Yorkshire puddings. There are different menus for lunch, eating at the bar and Sunday lunch, featuring Wimbledon Village's favourite Sunday roast. Menus do change, and portions are generous.

If you're up for a starter, you have options including West Country Crab Cakes with roasted garlic aloe, Duck Liver Paté with toasted beef bread, Haloumi Rocket Salad with organic squash, beetroot, pumpkin seeds, sweet onions and honey mustard dressing, and Panfried Scallops and Pig Cheeks with sherry and roast pepper vinaigrette. There are plates to share such as the Dog & Fox Charcuterie with a chef's selection of British meats and paté with toast and chutney, and hand cut Aberdeen Angus steaks with a choice of sirloin, fillet and rib-eye.

Popular mains include Bangers & Mash with red onion gravy, and Twice Cooked Pork Belly with celeriac purée, braised lentils and Aspall jus. I was torn between a Pale Ale Battered Haddock, with triple cooked chips, crushed minted peas and tartare sauce, or a Corn Fed Chicken with wild truffle and garlic confit, mash, wild mushroom and sage. The chicken won the day, and it was served juicy with the mash beautifully creamy and the confit just garlicky enough. My friends ordered a Slow Roasted Venison Hot Pot and the haddock, and both were equally as delicious. None of us made dessert, but if we had, options would have included a traditional Knickerbocker Glory, which is a trio of ice cream topped with fruits, whipped cream and berry sauce, or a Lemon Sponge Cake drizzled with lemon sauce.

As part of my stay, I returned the next morning for breakfast, and found it was quite busy with a combination of hotel residents and locals. There's a table with cereals, fruits and pastries, and you can order hot food à la carte - go for the full English if you have the appetite, with delicious bacon and tomato rich boston beans.

Check back here soon for our full hotel review on the Dog & Fox, Wimbledon.

The Dog & Fox is located at 24 High Street, Wimbledon, London SW19,

To get to London, fly Cathay Pacific from Sydney to London via Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific Airways is the 2014 Skytrax Airline of the Year and offers flights to over 190 destinations in 42 countries and territories. From Australia the airline has over 70 flights a week to Hong Kong from six major Australian cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns and Perth - with a choice of flying in economy, premium economy or business class. From December 8, 2014 there are also four direct flights a week to Manchester from Hong Kong.

There are four flights daily from Sydney, three flights a day from Melbourne, daily flights from Brisbane, four flights a week from Cairns and Adelaide, and ten flights from Perth. All flights provide connections over the Hong Kong hub to the airline’s worldwide network, including eight European destinations (from March 2015 Zurich will be added, taking the number to nine). From Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific offers 5 daily flights to London, offering a choice of flying in economy, premium economy, business class or first class.

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