WITH the New Forest home to thousands of dogs and their owners, a watering hole that suits both visitors and their canine companions is always appreciated. Here Basil the Australian labradoodle – with a little help from his mum Karen Lindsey – takes paws to give his East End Arms review.
I caught the tail end (excuse the pun) of my mum’s conversation where I’m sure she mentioned “dire straits” when describing the venue we were about to visit.
Now even I, of limited understanding of the human vocabulary, know that this surely can only mean one thing – a bad situation!
With much trepidation, I peered out of the window from the boot of our car and as soon as we arrived in the parish of East Boldre, a hop, skip and a ‘roo jump from Lymington, faith was restored. I shouldn’t have worried, Mum only takes me to nice places.
The welcome that awaited us at the East End Arms was a pretty-looking pub – completing the countryside setting were its long-eared, swishy-tailed, four legged donkey friends who gathered lazily outside the front door.
After bidding g’day, we strolled into the small but perfectly formed public bar. I immediately felt right at home. Dire straits? What could Mum have possibly been thinking?
“Hello Basil,” a lady called and promptly appeared from behind the bar to greet me. Her name was Danielle (Dee to her close friends). “She rules the roost – apart from the donkeys,” said a customer with a wink.
“Take a seat wherever you like,” said Dee, gesturing towards the three no-nonsense tables within the cosy pub complete with open fire, logs and dartboard.
Mum squeezed herself onto a comfy bench, quickly followed by yours truly. No rules here for not being able to jump up and sit next to your human parents (HPs)!
Dee joined us and after taking our drinks order explained that if I’d like a special biscuit, there were some available at the bar. Intrigued to find out more, Dad went on walkabout and found a note and a box-full of packets located close to the notice board, which was strewn with pictures of the locals, poems, newspaper cuttings, charity notices and humorous rules of the inn).
Dad popped £1 into the honesty box and returned with a bag of Charlie’s Tasty Treats that definitely lived up to its name.
Taking a good glug of his drink, Dad proclaimed it was one of the finest pints of Ringwood Best that he had tasted in a long time. Mum nodded in agreement that her glass of sparkling rosé from the Wiston Estate was pretty spot on too.
It wasn’t long before the pub, outside benches and beer garden started to fill up with cyclists, walkers (along with their pooches) and locals, a couple of which asked whether they could join us at our table. My HPs nodded encouragingly and continued to consider the menu.
After ordering Thai-style fishcakes – adapted with a cod and cheese version for Mum, my HPs happily chatted away with locals Keith and Glen. Dad shifted along the bench to let Glen take up his usual position in the pub.
It was evident why sitting in his usual spot was so important – pooches like routine and clearly the routine for every dog that entered was to jump up next to Glen and enjoy a scrubby lug whilst he reached up to the shelf to retrieve a doggy treat.
Deep in conversation, Mum absentmindedly poured some food into my bowl just as starters arrived. Glen was explaining that the pub, named after the village, was purchased in 1990 by John Illsley, bass guitarist of Dire Straits.
“Ah,” I thought, eavesdropping whilst crunching on my kibble. “The penny, or in my case the Australian dollar, had finally dropped!”
Pretty soon each bar stool and the seats at all of the tables were taken and regular pooches, Mondo the cheeky cockapoo and his Jack Russell chum, all added to the bubbly atmosphere.
As quick as I could say “twisting by the waterhole”, my HPs’ main courses were served: matured sirloin steak and fillet of salmon with all the trimmings! I smacked my lips, hoping a titbit or two would come my way.
Fair dinkum, it must have been the scrummy smell that enticed Bob the pub dog to make an appearance whilst my Mum and Dad scoffed their lunches. Keith joined them with his oven roast poussin, happy to proclaim that he had “never had a bad meal here yet”.
Praise indeed, as I’ve a feeling that Keith has had many meals here over the years. I left my HPs to it and jumped down to greet Bob – he was a pal from the off!
Bob and I re-joined the table with the conversation still in full flow, covering many topics including the beauty of the recently-built new chestnut fence, the local origins of the strawberries, crab and salads and, most importantly, the characters who frequented the pub including the neighbour who was normally accompanied by his own pet lamb!
“Dogs – sometimes there are more of them than there are humans in the bar,” said Glen with a smile, clearly pleased given his chosen duty of scrubbing lugs of Bob, Mondo, Baxter the chocolate Lab, and Chilli the cocker spaniel.
All this conversation made me dog tired so I laid on my Mum’s lap whilst she restored her energy by devouring some honeycomb ice cream whilst Dad plumped for the apple tart – no surprises there!
Stretching back with full tums, Mum examined her watch and was surprised to learn that it had been some three hours since we first walked through the door. “Goodness, how time flies when you’re having fun, eh Basil?” said Mum stifling a yawn, whilst scratching my belly.
We reluctantly said our goodbyes – one final nose rub with my pal Bob and a parting sniff shared with the donkeys.
So, I hold my paws up. I got hold of the wrong end of the stick where the mention of “dire straits” was concerned! The East End Arms is definitely a good situation.
I had such a bonzer time I’ll be returning very soon in the hope of receiving yet another scrubbed lug and some more of Charlie’s very special biscuits.
A final word from Mum: The East End Arms is a traditional country pub that sits within a beautiful setting of the New Forest. It’s simply a good, honest, no-frills pub that welcomes pooches (and their guardians) with open arms. Grab a seat, engage with the locals – no standing or sitting on ceremony here – and enjoy the delicious home cooked food whilst supping a fine range of wines and local brewed ales. The most perfect way to spend an afternoon or an evening with your faithful hound perched on the bench by your side.
To find out more visit www.eastendarms.co.uk or call 01590 626223.
For more dog’s-eye-view visits and a directory of dog-welcoming UK hotels and pubs/restaurants with rooms go to www.travelwithbasil.com.