It’s not the most adventurous of menus, and wine isn’t served, yet the Riverside Hotel in Evesham, central England, says diners keep coming back for more.
Starters offer a choice of a soup, chicken-liver parfait, crepes or home-made fishcakes. For mains, it’s rib-eye steak, salmon wellington, pizza or pan-fried chicken supreme. Desserts include carrot cake, rice pudding and chocolate biscuits.
The 9.95 pounds ($16) meal is served in china bowls on a silver platter and is available in the dining room or al fresco. There are broccoli-and-carrot biscuits for vegetarians.
“They really seem to enjoy it, although their taste is a bit bland and you really have to go easy on the sugar and salt,” chef Rico Pech, 29, says of his diners. He was born in the Philippines and has come to understand the English palate.
The main thing that distinguishes his customers from you and me is that they have four legs and occasionally bark. Well, some chefs bark but you get the point: This is a gourmet menu for dogs whose owners don’t want their pooches to miss out while they enjoy Pech’s human fare such as Deep Fried King Prawn Wrapped in Filo Pastry with a Sweet Chili Dressing.
“If you go into restaurants in France, they’re very pro-dog and they can eat together with their owners,” says hotel owner Deborah Sinclair. “In the U.K., it’s hard to feel welcome when you take along your pooch. I wanted to do something to change attitudes. Everywhere does children’s menus, so what’s the problem with doggy menus”
She got the idea after a visit to the hotel from Pip and Buddy -- former model Pippa Langhorne and her pooch, who brought the audience to its feet on the TV show “Britain’s Got Talent” when they performed “Pie Jesu” together.
“When I heard Buddy was coming along, I wanted to lay on a culinary delight because that famous little pooch can sing opera,” Sinclair says. “We get the occasional celebrity with a posh pooch and we try to pamper the pooches as well.
“A photographer came along to photograph Buddy and since then the telephone has been going a bit nutty. Now, we’ve got film companies calling and wanting to make a film about us. Everything is snowballing in bizarre ways because of the doggy fine-dining menu.” The Sunday Times is among newspapers that have reported on the pampering for pooches.
Chef Pech makes the doggy meals in his kitchen alongside human fare, preparing elements of dishes in advance -- such as the liver parfait he uses instead of a tomato sauce on his pooch pizzas -- and cooks to order. Who are the fussiest diners?
“The big dogs will eat anything but the smaller ones are very picky, especially when they’re old,” he says. “One owner brought her dogs in last week and I’ve never had such fussy diners.”
Riverside Hotel, The Parks, Offenham Road, Near Evesham, Worcestershire. Information: +44-1386-446200 or http://www.river-side-hotel.co.uk/index.asp
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)