Dorset is a jewel in the country’s gastronomic treasure chest.
From celebrity owned and run restaurants to acclaimed dining pubs, the county appears to have it all when it comes to eating out.
Many boast of using local ingredients with some even having their own walled gardens providing a rich picking of herbs, vegetables and fruit as well as those offering freshly caught fish from the morning’s catch.
Dorset boasts much to attract the visitor as well as providing a stunning area in which to live from its world heritage Jurassic coast line to the quintessential English thatched cottage.
Not forgetting its literary connections with Thomas Hardy who featured much of the county in his books.
And then, of course, there is the seaside resort of Weymouth which will see the eyes of the world focused upon it when it hosts the water sport events for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Dorset’s food and drink is renowned and each year various outlets receive awards in the annual Taste of the West competition.
Set up in 1991, Taste of the West aims to help small and medium sized food and drink businesses in the region to flourish.
And there are also two Michelin starred eateries in the county as well as a plethora of celebrities from chef Lesley Waters, who hosts cookery days at her home in Evershot, to TV Masterchef winner Mat Follas, who has a restaurant in Beaminster.
Tom Munro, Dorset AONB manager, said: “Two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) cover over half of Dorset, and within these nationally-important areas there is an amazing variety of landscapes.
“Chalk downland and escarpments, heathlands, clay vales, wooded hills, river valleys and limestone plateaus make up this stunning part of England.
“Within this range of landscapes are a range of farms and farm types, and consequently a great variety of excellent local produce.
“Dorset Blue Vinney and Dorset Down sheep carry the county name, but there’s also fine beef, poultry, vegetables and much more. Added to this is Dorset’s excellent coastline offering a wealth of fish and shellfish - our inshore waters give up some of the country’s best lobsters and scallops, and excellent fin fish.
“The local food accreditation scheme Direct from Dorset (DFD) recognises good quality local food, where the ingredients are actually sourced from the Dorset landscape which their production helps to enhance.”
The Good Food Guide South West Regional winner was the Mill Tea and Dining Room in Lyme Regis.
Owner Eleanor Bursey was so thrilled to be named the winner, she thanked all those who nominated, saying: “We could kiss the whole town.”
Housed in a listed mill building on the bank of the river Lym, it is in the oldest recorded part of the town.
Elizabeth Carter, consultant editor of The Good Food Guide, said: “With its wow factor setting matched by a team who put their heart and soul into the Mill, it is hard not to fall in love with this adorable riverside eatery. It is well worth a detour, with Anthony McNamara’s proud-to-be British food the icing on the cake.”
Top 10 – or really 13 - as we couldn’t just feature one Silver Taste of the West Award winner in the dining restaurant or pub category as there were three in Dorset winning the accolade plus the Mill named above.
1. Sienna Restaurant – opened in April 2003 by chef Russell Brown and Elena Brown, it was awarded a Michelin Star in January 2010 and also holds three AA rosettes and is Good Food Guide listed.
Sienna Restaurant, 36, High West Street, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1UP. T: 01305 250022.
2. Summer Lodge – chef Steven Titman has developed a cuisine of international fame meeting – and the hotel says exceeding – the exacting standards of the Relais & Chateaux’s gastronomic standards. Eric Zwiebel, cellar master, won the Best Sommelier of the World competition in 2007. Voted number 1 in Dorset, number 2 in the South West and number 27 in Britain in the Sunday Times Food List – Top 200 Restaurants in Britain 2010.
Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Evershot, Dorset, DT2 OJR. T: 01935 482000.
3. Wild Garlic – the home of BBC MasterChef 2009 Mat Follas. He was awarded the trophy by presenters John Torode and Gregg Wallace with John saying: “Mat came in here and absolutely wowed us with food which was extraordinary in both presentation and flavour.” Gregg added: There is now no doubting the absolute originality and brilliance of Mat. The guy is cooking his own style. He is absolutely superb.”
The Wild Garlic, 4 The Square, Beaminster, Dorset, DT8 3AS T: 01308 861446.
4. Hix Oyster & Fish House – overlooks Lyme Regis harbour with stunning panoramic views across the Jurassic coast. Celebrated chef and food writer Mark Hix is lauded as one of London’s most eminent restaurateurs. Hix Oyster & Fish House supports sustainable fishing.
Hix Oyster & Fish House, Cobb Road, Lyme Regis, Dorset, DT7 3JP T: 01297 446910.
5. The Three Horseshoes – new entry in the 2012 edition of the Michelin Guide. Its citation reads: "It’s simply all about the food at the ‘shoes. They make their own breads, ice creams, chutneys and pickles; try the wild boar Scotch egg or veal and bone marrow burger.” Also a Taste of the West Gold Award Winner.
The Three Horseshoes, Powerstock, near Bridport, Dorset, DT6 3TF, T: 01308 485328
6. The White House Hotel, Charmouth – herbs, fruit and vegetables are grown in the hotel’s own walled garden as well as free range chickens. The restaurant has won a number of Taste of the West awards including Gold in 2011.
White House Hotel, 2 Hillside, The Street, Charmouth, Dorset, DT6 6PJ T: 01297 560411
7. The Eastbury Hotel – winner of a Taste of the West gold award for the second consecutive year in 2011, this hotel boasts a restaurant with local produce the theme.
The Eastbury Hotel, Long Street, Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 3BY T: 01935 813131.
8. The Riverside Restaurant – a specialist in fish dishes boasting a menu with fish and shellfish from local waters. A gold Taste of the West winner and it keeps a sustainability log at reception.
The Riverside Restaurant, West Bay, Bridport, Dorset, DT6 4EZ T: 01308 422011.
9. The New Inn – lauded as a dining pub it is a 17 th century thatched village inn surrounded by countryside. Head chef George Marsh uses local suppliers and fresh ingredients from the Inn’s own garden. Plans for next year include making a smoke house and rearing hens. Another Gold Winner in the Taste of the West awards.
The New Inn, Stoke Abbott, Beaminster, Dorset, DT8 3JW, T: 01308 868333.
10. Alexandra Hotel and Restaurant – overlooks the famous Cobb Harbour and across the World Heritage Site coastline of Lyme Bay. Features in the Good Hotel Guide as well as a restaurant silver award winner with Taste of the West , it has also won a Conde Nast Johansens Award in 2011.
Alexandra Hotel and Restaurant, Pound Street, Lyme Regis, Dorset, T: 01297 442010.
The George Inn, Main Street, Chideock, Dorset, DT6 6JD 01297 489419.
The Stapleton Arms, Church Hill, Buckhorn Weston, Dorset, SP8 5HS T: 01963 370396.