12 Sep 2008

Hare of the Dog

I KNEW someone who swerved off the road, almost colliding with a lorry, when they caught sight of a ‘Little Chef’. Something about the Daily Mirror red (and white) icon: a fat, naked ghost, waddling with a cloche, violently nudged her sense of nostalgia. Of course whilst I too endeavour to sate hunger whenever it surfaces, I tend to be a little more selective then most, preferring to savour something interesting and vaguely nutritious rather than waste my life in a wretched overpriced fry shed. But in severe moments, well, one eats whatever is to hand. En-route to the vineyard which supplied Marco Pierre White the wines for his Great British Feast finale, the contents of my car complained about having vacant bellies. I pulled into the nearest pub, the 'Hare & Hounds', on the Marlow road. Even though it was peak time, the car park was inauspiciously empty. Inside, beams, flagstones and a line up of real ales clashed with decorative details, like this smoked glass partition. It featured a post-modern etching of Snoopy.
The menu was verbose, but limited, littered with mission statements, which I am usually wary of. In my experience, it is accurate to actually read the opposite. Saccharine platitudes also abounded, hence the prescription for appetisers: ‘perfect with wine and with company’. The clichés continued into the dishes. Chicken Kiev lives here, nextdoor to Scampi.
Whilst the wine list was as gay and colourful as a Blue Peter presenter, I chose a half of more wordplay. Home brewed Hare of the Dog was (milkless) tea coloured and clenchingly bitter.
As time was limited, I ordered from the main menu, resisting the lure of Chef’s Specials board, ‘where our kitchen team show off its collective creative genius...’ (rather than try and rid itself of things passing their sell by dates).
'Sweet Brown' Potted Shrimps with homemade bread were tasty, albeit lacking the lavish, cosseting golden butteriness of Marco Pierre White’s. Then again, they cost precisely 50p less than the Yew Tree Inn’s supplement on that dish.
To follow, the Fish Pie of Salmon, Smoked Haddock and Prawn topped with Cheese Mash was a continent, not a dish. Thank goodness I hadn’t taken advantage of ‘A Little Bit on the Side’, even if the vegetables were sewn out back. Although a little fluid in places, it was basically a darn serviceable pie for £9.50. One of the prawns was such giant, I suspect it had endured a longer lifespan than me.
A trip to the unisex loos (gratuitous considering there are two separate cabins) left me in an embarrassing state. Vigorous taps sprayed my crotch. I returned to the dining room harbouring a wet patch. The staff chuckled: that in-joke must be the redeeming feature of working here. I checked the clock (probably from Past Times, I’ve seen it many times before), thanked serendipity for the lack of Little Chef’s, and continued to the vineyard.
Hare & Hounds - Henley Rd., Marlow. SL7 2DF. T. 01628 483343
Also pictured: 'Style, Fun, Comfort' and Apache Golf Sale, Marlow town centre.