The shepherd & Dog
review date: june 2015
You can’t judge a book by its cover - and the same, it seems goes for gastro pubs and restaurants. Anne Gould visits the Shepherd and Dog in Forward Green near Stowmarket
Forward Green is a village just off the A140 and if you don’t know where it is get hold of a map or Google it now. Promise me, if you like great food, excellent hospitality and a relaxed evening out you are going to want to make a booking at the Shepherd and Dog. From the outside it might not have the sort of quaint chocolate-box exterior or heritage vista of some establishments but inside it is like walking into a different world.
It’s been transformed into a chic restaurant where jazz standards play quietly in the background and there are welcoming comfy chairs and a cocktail/ aperitif menu served with juicy green olives to start the evening. This is a place where you also have the choice which gin or vodka you’d like with your tonic or of course if you’d rather have something more summery there’s the option of Kir Royale.
What struck me most, even before we’d placed an order was the exceptional standard of service on offer here. Earlier in the day when we’d made the booking we were asked about dietary requirements - and on the evening the chef kindly offered to make a one off menu adjustment to the fish dish to cater for my friend’s allergy. This utmost courtesy extended throughout the whole evening so top marks for attentive and charming staff.
On its website the Shepherd and Dog says simply that it specialises in beautiful, seasonal and local food. Whether this is deliberately understated, along with the dark cool lines of the dining room might be a matter of style. However, having eaten there, there could be many other praiseworthy superlatives that could be easily added - it’s that good.
The menu has five starters and main meals with gluten-free, diary-free and vegetarian options available too. There are also helpful wine suggestions alongside as well, for the benefit of those who aren’t driving. As it turned out this was one of those menus where you wanted to choose everything. The starters included Asparagus and Hens Egg, Watercress and Crème Fraiche soup and a Sutton Hoo Chicken leg terrine with Jersey Royals. I however chose a favourite - Smoked Mackerel pate and Cucumber, which was served with crisp bread. This particular pate can sometimes be too salty, too smokey or too sharp but the Shepherd and Dog really got the balance just right.
Meanwhile my friend went for Beetroot and Goats Cheese, which when it arrived was simply a delightful surprise. It was a vivid salad made with homemade goats curd and black quinoa with an apple vinaigrette that tasted good and was pretty enough for a coffee table picture cook book too.
Main courses included Steak - with trendy bone marrow butter, Lamb and Spring Cabbage with turnips, roasted shallot and rosti potato and Peas and Gnocchi with garlic and summer herbs. As fish is my favourite food I went for Market Fish and Crab - a beautifully prepared dish of skate with buttered samphire (which is always a treat) crab crushed potatoes and crab bisque. All I can say is that if I were to return I’d have the same thing - which is perhaps not very adventurous but another way of saying I really liked it.
Julie meanwhile chose a Pan Seared Pork Cutlet with a Parmesan and Barley Risotto with broad beans and herb dressing - and her verdict was equally enthusiastic. A word must also go to the side dishes - home cut chips, cabbage, lemon and rosemary roasted new potatoes, carrots and green leaf salad. We shared a portion of roasted carrots with carrot top pesto and congratulations must go to the chef for transforming a very common ingredient into something moreish and memorable.
For pudding lovers a word of warning - by this time we were full and neither of us felt able to do justice to dessert. However the Shepherd and Dog does mini versions of desserts - which we shared and meant we got to taste all three options; Dark Chocolate and Coffee, Rhubarb and Oats and Strawberry and White Chocolate.
So where to start? I am not a pudding lover and almost always opt for cheese but these puddings were exceptional in particular because they weren’t oversweet. They were all beautifully presented, intricate and a delight but we both agreed that the one, which stood out a mile, was the rhubarb which came in a tiny jar and included a beautiful and delicate milk panna cotta.
A word for the untried cheese menu - the Shepherd and Dog has obviously gone to a great deal of care to select local artisan cheeses - you have three selections each from blue, soft or hard varieties. So if cheese is your thing, it’s maybe worth skipping your starter to have room to indulge at the end of your meal. The Shepherd and Dog also does afternoon teas, weekend breakfasts plus there’s a traditional fish supper every Thursday.
It’s a restaurant my friend and I were so impressed with that we both made immediate recommendations to ‘food lovers’ that we know. So if you have not been there already maybe the time has come to try it out.
The Shepherd & Dog
Forward Green, Suffolk. IP14 5HN