The restaurant originally opened in 2000, but has been in its current ownership (Jon Wise) since 2010. It was named after the 1931 Laurel and Hardy film by its previous owners, one of whom was an actress - the phrase is a reference to Stan and Ollie’s dog in the film, the dog itself named after a nickname for hooch during Prohibition. Head chef Michael Facey counts Scotts amongst his previous cooking experience. The dining room seats up to 50 people at any one time, plus some additional bar seating. The ground floor room is attractive, with wooden floor, a skylight, a piano along one wall and modern art on the walls. Tables are quite crowded together and the place was packed on the night we visited, with jazz playing quietly in the background.
The wine list had around 50 choices, ranging in price from £17 to £75, with an average price of £29. Mark-ups average 3.2 times retail price, which is a little higher than one would expect for a restaurant that seems to market itself as a good value place aimed at locals. Example wines were Chenin Semillon 2011 from Finca Los Prados at £21 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £6, Martin Codaz Albarino 2010 at £30 for a wine that retails at £9, and Croze Hermitage 2008 from Paul Jaboulet at £42 for a wine you can find for £13.
The menu is in firmly British territory, though there are a few twists on classic pub and bistro dishes. A starter of haddock salad (£7.50) had fish that had been cured with sea salt, garlic and thyme, served with bacon and truffle potato salad. The fish was pleasant but the potato was distinctly undercooked in the potato salad, and the promised truffle was subtle to the point of invisibility (11/20). An interesting idea was prawn and salmon Scotch egg (£7.20) served with tartar sauce and a cress and micro herb salad. The egg itself was fine, and the seafood twist on the dish was a clever idea, but the dish was distinctly over-salted, even to my taste (12/20).
Smoked haddock fishcake (£10.50) was served with wilted greens and mustard sauce. This is a simple enough dish but it worked well, the sauce adding a pleasant lift of flavour to the fishcake (comfortably 12/20). A burger (£10.55, toppings extra) was made with Aberdeen Angus beef and had reasonable flavour, though it was a little dry and the bun of the burger was poor. Chips on the side could have been crisper but were entirely acceptable (maybe 12/20), but this was a long way below the standard of the burgers at, say, The Admiral Codrington. On the side, broccoli (£4) was reasonable (12/20) but rustic potatoes (£4), though cooked properly, were wildly salty (11/20).
Desserts were less successful than the previous courses. Chocolate fondant brownie with vanilla ice cream was dry and hard around the outside, with just a hint of a softer centre (10/20). A peach melba in champagne and raspberry jelly sounded lovely and looked nice until I tried to cut into the peach with my spoon: it was rock hard, and something considerably more industrial would have been needed to dent it (10/20). The manager was very nice about it, admitted the problem and let me swap for another dessert. Strawberry, hazelnut and elderflower crumble would have been tricky to pull off because the strawberries lacked the inherent sharpness that is needed in a crumble to balance the dish. However this was not really the issue, as the crumble was barely hot (probably a result of it being rushed as a replacement, to be fair).
The waiters were very pleasant, though rather stretched this evening. The bill, with tap water but a good wine, came to £57 a head even with the desserts not charged for. If we had drunk nothing whatsoever the food would still have been getting on for £30 a head for two courses, and this seemed to me a bit high given the variable quality of what appeared on the plate. Overall, there is a nice atmosphere to the place, and the friendly staff contributed to a decent enough evening, but the food did not really deliver.