31 January 2015
With a coast jumping with seafood, great local produce and a new wave of stylish hotels, chefs and foodies are flocking to Dorset. We round up the very best of the county’s restaurants
Seventeen years after Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall established his River Cottage HQ on the Devon-Dorset border, there’s been a slow but subtle change in the way Dorset is perceived by foodies and chefs. “Dorset has gone from being a sleepy county to a place where people and chefs are gravitating,” says James Golding, chef-director of The Pig on The Beach, which opened in Studland last summer to great acclaim.
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 Casterbridge, Dorchester
Mat Follas, the 2009 winner of BBC MasterChef, has experienced a roaring success since he took over the restaurant at this small hotel in the county town of Dorchester a year ago, after moving from The Wild Garlic in Beaminster, which won over the critics. At the Casterbridge, he cooks only on a Friday and Saturday evening and offers a three course-tasting menu for £29.50 or a six-course menu for £47.50. Dishes might include partridge crown confit with smoked aubergine puree and horseradish pesto. The restaurant is small and cosy, with no pretention, tablecloths or large menus. Follas has also helped launch The Jailhouse Cafe The Verne on Portland, which is run by prisoners on day release and is open to the public.
• 01305 264043, thecasterbridge.co.uk
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