15th, Apr 2010
Excellent food, good value and service, nice atmosphere every time we have been.
19th, Nov 2009
Another example of a BistroPub conversion, the Dunkirk is a clean foot in a dirty boot.
Excellent food and a sensitively refurbished dining area are overshadowed by compromise; it doesn't know whether to be an ambitious bistro, or a locals' pub and until it gets its identity crisis sorted out it will not succeed as either. Even the name provides a difficulty; "Ms. Man-dye" is a complex arrangement of the owners' initials; but even the biggest fan (and there will be some who don't judge the book by its cover) will struggle to remember the name.
The restaurant 'entrance' is actually locked forcing diners through a smoke-filled bar and into the 'lounge area', losing the impact of an otherwise respectable dining room.
That said, the food was excellent, with an interesting, adventurous menu.
However it was difficult to make fair judgements in quantifiable ways; the 'value' of the food itself was undermined by over-priced supermarket wine; the energised 'ambience' of the dining room was undermined by first impressions of the bar area and the 'service' was undermined by having to attract the attention of busy bar staff, who were incongruous in the setting of a restaurant with serious ambitions.
It is possible to have a restaurant and a bar, but today's diners demand that the lines are drawn more clearly if we are to avoid feeling that we have simply experienced an expensive bar meal.
The Dunkirk Inn began life in the mid 19th century as a row of traditional stone built cottages. In 1912 the cottages were converted into a public house, called The Junction and in 1983 it was renamed to preserve the memory of the little-known hamlet in which it stands. A traditional free house, The Dunkirk was taken over by Christine Lidster in 2003 and she gave it a new lease of life. refurbishing and restoring it to its original charm and character, with 18th century elegance.
New owners Mike and Sue Manning have taken a distinctive further step, but it may not be far enough. Ms Lidster's desire to retain tradition could well be repeating itself.