Dog-friendly travel, for the perfect stay

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Lunch at the Spring Inn

Saturday lunch at the recently revived dog-friendly Berkshire pub, the Spring Inn.

The traditional week is changing. We’re no longer so fixated with Saturdays being for shopping and Sundays for eating. As a result Saturday lunchtime is getting some much-deserved recognition. Richard Cree checked out the Spring Inn to see what this Berkshire gastropub’s take might beYes, we still all seem to be fixated with rolling out the meat joints on the last (or first) day of the week. But come on. Loosen up a little. Leave traditional at the door and head out for a long, boozy, relaxing Saturday lunch. With no need to worry about work the next day, it’s the perfect way to unwind after a hectic week.

At the Spring Inn, a recently revamped Berkshire travellers’ staging inn turned gastropub, the menu still reflects what punters expect. Thus there’s no sign of heresy like a Saturday roast joint. No, at the Spring Inn the focus is more evolution than revolution. There is little to scare the locals or test the avant grade foodie, but this is nevertheless a great leap forward on the previous incarnation of the Spring Inn.

The new owners have made a brave attempt to do something interesting with the extensive outdoors area, although without some substantial investment this will always feel like a few tables and chairs in a very large car park just off the A4. But on a sunny afternoon, it was pleasant enough to end a long walk to the pub with a drink outside.

Inside, a previously dark and somewhat dreary interior has been livened up with a healthy dollop of off-white paint, some muted grey tartan fabrics, some imaginative lighting and some well-chosen and comfortable furniture. Again there is nothing here that hasn’t succeeded in 100 other rustic chic gastopubs, but that’s because the formula works pretty well.

The area downstairs (there is also an upstairs restaurant) that is open to dogs and their owners is described as the pub, but there is little to separate it from the more formal restaurant across the other side of the open area and it feels more gastro than pub.

Which leads us to the food, where there is something of a contradiction. Describing options such as sandwiches and burgers, suggests a lack of ambition or imagination, and conjures up something more pub than gastro. But if the dishes are simple (and even at its most formal or complex, there’s still a rustic simplicity to the menu) the quality and execution are a pleasant surprise. The kitchen turns out high-grade gastro-pub fare that matches the elegant surroundings well.

With a well-trained, if young, staff the whole experience is so much better than the previous establishments on this site that it’s easy to forget you are in the same building.  From varied starters, including a deliciously clever take on a deep-fried, breaded brie to a crispy duck salad that was beautifully pared with a sweet, sticky dressing to a side of heritage tomatoes and curd cheese (yes, there are plenty of the “on-trend” ingredients here) this was faultless fare worthy of any restaurant.

The wine list offers a good choice by the glass, but could be more interesting, and there are ingredients on the menu that suggest the chef is not one bothered by stressing seasonality (English asparagus and Jersey Royals in September?), but that is picking holes. And after all maybe the name is enough to mean it is always spring here.

After a sensational round of deserts (“he had me at honeycomb cheesecake”)  there weren’t many holes or much space left anywhere. A post-prandial stroll along the nearby canal sealed it. Forget the noisy A4 behind you and put past incarnations of the Spring Inn to one side. This is a local pub well worth leaving the M4 to search out.