Sunday 22 March 2009

The Spotted Dog, Smarts Hill, Penshurst, Kent

A concrete terrace, with harsh steel railings, mars the pretty white clapboard facade of this fifteenth century inn. Still, the front terrace catches the sun, is decorated with hanging baskets of flowers and the wooden tables are flanked by comfortable benches. Inside, the Spotted Dog's low ceilings and well-preserved wooden beams, fireplaces and other period features make for a cosy and amenable pub, which pulls in plenty of prosperous locals. Outside the back, more tables are spread over two levels perched on a hillside, with an expansive view across the partially-wooded valley to the rooftops of quaint Penshurst village. Manned by efficient, but sometimes curt, staff, the bar stocks local beers from the Westerham brewery, as well as international lagers, plus the pale Chiddingstone cider, which is refreshing, heady and dry.

Plentiful meat
The menu is mostly conventional pub grub, such as a stilton ploughmans or sausages and mash and Sunday roasts (about £12). The food comes out hot, but suspiciously quickly, and the plentiful meat in the roasts is rather thinly sliced. The lean beef comes with a big crispy Yorkshire pudding, but the lamb can be fatty and the flavour weak. Still, it is served with crispy, tasty roast potatoes, gravy and a side order of al dente mashed turnip, cauliflower cheese, broccoli and carrots, but sometimes without the promised mint sauce. The kids meals include some anemic-looking ham (£5) topped with fried egg and accompanied by plump, squidgy chips and a token salad. Alternatively, children can have a half-portion of an adult roast for £6. Despite the medicore food, the Spotted Dog is worth a visit for the ambiance and the view. 7/10