31 January 2015
The next big thing to hit Dorset’s shores will be the Seaside Boarding House, which is scheduled to open in mid-February. The eight rooms will cost £200 B&B; the menu is still under wraps, but “will offer something for everyone, from a picnic hamper for the beach, to a casual lunch to a more formal dinner”. At Burton Bradstock and overlooking Lyme Bay, it has already been dubbed “the Groucho on the Sea” as it’s the latest venture by Mary-Lou Sturridge and her business partner Anthony Mackintosh, who founded the members-only Groucho Club in Soho, London, in 1985.
“When I moved here six years ago, there was nowhere to go for a really good meal,” says Sturridge. “That’s no longer the case. We’re lucky to live in such a wild county with lots of smallholders and are blessed with produce.”
Here’s our pick of the best eating the county has to offer:
The Hive Beach cafe, Burton Bradstock
Diners can enjoy exquisite seafood at this cafe overlooking the pebble beach and sea at Chesil bank. Spider crabs caught from the beach below, brown crabs from Lyme Bay, legendary crab sandwiches and hand-dived scallops are served year round, while during summer sun-seekers can grab a local Craig’s Farm Dairy ice-cream sundae at the Beach Hut. The menu changes daily to reflect the fishermen’s catch. In the winter, the seafront terrace is closed off with side screens to create a cosier spot from which to view the Jurassic Coast.
• From £10.95 for grilled Cornish coast sardines to £24.50 for line-caught Portland Bill seabass, 01308 897 070, hivebeachcafe.co.uk
The Bull Hotel, Bridport
The Grade II-listed hotel, with a shabby-chic interior and a courtyard decorated with fairy
lights, offers a varied menu in its main restaurant. As well as local seafood such as pan-fried Lyme Bay tandoori scallops with chickpea and yoghurt (£9.50), there’s spice-crusted rump of Dorset lamb, spinach and coconut milk potatoes and a moilee-tomato sauce for £19. There’s also a more relaxed pizza and cider house, The Stable, at the back of the Bull: the Ford Farm four-cheese special includes Dorset blue, smoked red, goat’s milk cheddar and Wookey Hole aged cheddar (£10). Bridport’s cultural scene has also come alive in the last few years, with the revival of music and arts at the Electric Palace – described by Ian Gillan from Deep Purple as the best small venue in the UK – and a monthly antiques and vintage market.
• Rooms, some featuring vintage rolltop tubs and four-poster beds, from £100 to £240, 01308 422878, thebullhotel.co.uk
The Casterbridge, Dorchester
• 01305 264043, thecasterbridge.co.uk
Eat here while you can, as Russell Brown is closing his 15-cover restaurant (the only place in Dorset with a Michelin star) on 25 April. Brown uses local, seasonal ingredients such as Jurassic Coast rose veal saltimbocca and pan-fried fillet of brill with cauliflower, hazelnut, lemon and English caviar.
• Two-course dinner £38.50, three-course £45, tasting menu for the whole table £65 each. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, 01305 250022 siennarestaurant.co.uk
Hix Oyster & Fish House, Lyme Regis
Mark Hix prides himself on sourcing the best produce served as simply as possible – fish fingers with chips and mushy peas and simple grilled fish on the bone served with hollandaise sauce in this light and airy restaurant with relaxing coastal views. The whole Lyme Bay crab (£14.50) is popular, and there’s a wide variety of oysters, such as Brownsea Island or Portland Pearls at £2.25 each. Fish House Suppers for groups of 10 or more are priced at £45pp per person, and Hix also hosts and organises festivals, such as the Lyme Regis Crab Festival (in September this year.
• Starters around £8.95, mains from £14.95. 01297 446 910 hixoysterandfishhouse.co.uk
The Pig on the Beach, Studland
The charmingly styled hotel restaurant features fish direct from Poole Bay, and ingredients sourced by a team of local foragers and from the impressive walled kitchen garden. Dorset
Crab on toast with pennywort salad and pickled daisies (£8.50), or home smoked pork belly (from its own smoking shed) with Dorset olives, Isle of Wight tomatoes and spring onion (£16) are among the tempting items on a menu that focuses on fish and pork. The hotel is set on the beautiful Studland coastline overlooking King Harry Rocks and Poole Harbour and, if it’s not warm enough to dine lingeringly beside the elegant lawn, then there are cosy fireside seats in the bar that are just as inviting for a post-prandial cocktail.
• Weekend winter room rates start at £139 per night (room only); Shepherd’s huts with log burner and sea views £239, 01929 450288, thepighotel.com
Crab House Café, Wyke Regis, Weymouth
Seafood doesn’t come much fresher than the crabs hooked by the fishermen on Chesil Beach and oysters brought in directly from the boat, than at this fun cafe in its unlikely location at the end of a car park: the blackboard menu is constantly being rubbed out and updated. Head chef Nigel Bloxham’s dedication to locally sourced produce was commended by (former Guardian) food critic Matthew Norman:
“[He] takes local ingredients of top quality, cooks them simply and accurately in its open kitchen, and serves them (via friendly teenagers in aprons) without poncery.”
• Whole crabs from £19.95, six oysters £9.50, average meal £42 for three courses, 01305 788 867, crabhousecafe.co.uk