BUSY times in Didsbury Village. Already blessed with the likes of Hispi, Solita, Casa Italia, Bisou BIsou and Spanish newcomer Tinto in the former Chalk site, it has suddenly found itself home to a spanking new boozer.
Well, maybe not so new. The Dog and Partridge has been a fixture on Wilmslow Road seemingly forever and was definitely in need of some love an attention. It’s got that big time from its new operators – Steve Pilling, former owner of city centre’s Chophouses and Damson in Heaton Moor and MediaCity, together with restaurant consultant Angus Pride, once of Living Ventures, Gaucho and boutique bowling chain All Star Lanes.
The pair have swiftly transformed the D&P from shabby old-fashioned local into the first of their planned ‘Terroir Pubs’, ultra-smart but, on the evidence of its first weekend, creating a strong neighborhood feel … and that includes lots of women, children and dogs, quite a change from its previous incarnation. Good to see an elderly local in the corner nursing a pint and Sunday rag, not a hipster in sight.
One fixture that does remain is the Green King beers on draught. Not an inspiring array, but the fridges are full of interesting craft bottles and cans from elsewhere and the wine list, focusing on the Old World – and so so living up to the slightly poncey Terroir tag – is well chosen and affordable. With input from experienced Wine Director Steven Hyare they can offer specials that surprise such as the Greek Savatiano Old Vines white by the glass. It’s the base grape for Retsina (ouch), but in the hands of the Domaine Papagiannikos it has mineral richness and honeyed length.
Angus explains their drinks policy: “What we are talking about when we call it a Terroir Pub is we have products which reflect the environment in which they are grown or produced as a signifier of quality. We’ve got a selection of whisky that reflects that and gins with botanicals foraged in the areas where they are made.”
So is this likely to scare off the locals? "We’ve got regulars that come in every single day at the same time of day and want the same thing but we also have to open it up to new audiences and create a new generation of pub where it’s not just guys nursing half a pint. Somewhere with creative cocktails, fine wines, coffee in the morning, but still dressed up in this really warm atmosphere with no pretense.”
Food is a work on progress. The kitchen is tiny, but delivering simple homemade snacks. On my visit there was choice of red pepper soup with sourdough or a smoked mackerel and cream cheese sandwich. Cheese platters are promised and single batch coffees (from 10am each day, attracting a different crowd.
It being Sunday, screens around the pub were treating us to another moribund zombie display from England’ footballers; I was more interested in admiring the fruits of the swift five week refurb. Black paint has been scrubbed off the floors to reveal the original oak grain, the old upholstery has been replaced and contemporary copper lights introduced. It all feels more opened out but lots of original features remain, including the cosy snug.
Bar manager Liam told me the place had been rammed since the Friday opening. I can see why. Angus and Steve plan for the D&P to be the first of many under Pilling and Pride’s Terroir Pubs banner. The local is not dead, it is adapting to the times and the terroir.
Dog & Partridge, 665-667 Wilmslow Rd, Manchester M20 6RA. 0161 445 5322.