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Archive for the ‘Restaurant Reviews’ Category

The Albion – Verwood

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Reviewed September 2014

All change at The Albion, Verwood!

The Albion (originally called The Station Inn) with its attached stables was unusually built inside the station yard in the 1860’s.Restaurant-review-Albion-front

After the railway closed in 1964 the road was re-routed through the site of the old demolished station leaving a good sized garden for the pub and the railway arch within the garden – a very handy all weather bbq area!

Mary and Neil have been owners of the Albion Inn for the past nine years and recently have had a ‘shall we or shan’t we?’ decision to make!

Fortunately they made the right one and decided to renovate their pub so Verwood now has a smart newly refurbished watering hole and eatery which now has been re-branded into simply – ‘The ALBION’ – cleverly embracing the concept of ‘Evolution rather than Revolution.’

Restaurant-review-Albion-gardenThe exterior has been transformed by a smart new coat of fashionable grey paint with white woodwork and the modern grey and white colour scheme continues throughout the bars and restaurant which are also complimented by new carpets, furniture and upholstery. The layout is cleverly broken up into three distinct zones – the main dog friendly bar, a beautiful conservatory restaurant and a third comfy lounge area which separates the restaurant  from the bustling bar – perfect for a quieter drink or pre-dinner aperitif!

We arrived on Friday night for an early dinner at 6.30 and the bar was already buzzing which was a good sign. And when my husband was told that one of the real ales on tap was his current favourite Doombar, he was most impressed. (For all those pub-quiz aficionados out there my husband tells me the Doom Bar was a dangerous sand bank at the mouth of the River Camel estuary where many ships have run aground!) He was also impressed by the railway themed decor and many old railway photos dotted around.

Mary & Neil decided to also bring in new management to complete the overhaul – so enter Dave and Donna who both have loads of experience between them including working in other local pubs. Dave has also taken on a new commis chef and a young trainee chef from Poole College so together with the enthusiastic waitresses they make up a very friendly team, (not forgetting Mary of course aka: the human dynamo, who helps out during  busy periods!).

The conservatory Restaurant can hold up to 60 diners at a time and the pretty garden can hold 100 covers for various large functions such as Weddings, Funerals, Christenings and Christmas Parties etc. Plus the superb childrens play area in the garden is always a hit with families.

Restaurant-review-Albion-interiorThe menu which changes about every six weeks has also been totally refurbished by Dave the new chef and his team and is now a mix of traditional pub meals, but with lots of modern menu twists. Choices such as the starters which we chose – Carpaccio of Beef Rocket Salad with Parmesan Shavings or the special of Whitebait with Cucumber Salad. The beef was just nicely seared before it was sliced and was just so succulent whereas the whitebait was beautifully crispy.

A delicately crisp and refreshing Pinot Grigio was selected to accompany my husband’s whitebait.

Again Dave has retained some of the traditional main course pub favourites but mixed it up with some very Restaurant-review-Albion-porkexotic gastro offerings! My husband chose the Chicken ‘Hanging Kebabs’ which was certainly an unusual and eyecatching way of presenting kebabs. There were Salmon and Prawn, Chicken and Beef Kebabs to choose from  which were also accompanied by 3 spicy dips, chips and a salad. I selected the far more exotic and my favourite – Local King Scallops and Tiger Prawns, Samphire Grass and Stir Fried Vegetables. Samphire Grass is another name for Sea Asparagus and is only available in July and August which was fortunate! Hence the need for Dave to change the menu regularly – the specials are changed on a more or less daily basis. Dave sources as much of his ingredients from local suppliers where possible so scallops and seafood from Christchurch and Poole is about as local to Verwood as he can get!

By seven thirty the restaurant was virtually full – good news travels fast we thought. You only have to look at The Albion, Verwood on Trip Advisor to see the recent rave reviews!

A good range of home made puddings and a cheeseboard is also on offer – Bailey’s Cheesecake was a special on our visit but the lighter Eton Mess and the Trifle was about all we could manage followed by a fresh coffee and a couple of chocolates to finish.

Daily boards outside the pub announce regular menu changes and great value 2 for1 lunchtime offers.

The new look Albion has certainly gone down well with the many positive comments – in fact I would say it’s definitely a case of ‘full steam ahead!’ for the future

Drusilla’s Inn in Wigbeth, Horton

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Reviewed October 2012Drusilla's-Inn,-Horton

It’s almost five years since we last reviewed Drusilla’s Inn just outside Horton when Gary and Nicky Watling had just taken over to begin the transformation of the reputation and fortunes of this lovely thatched country pub. Horton is situated on the boundary between the chalk downland of Cranborne Chase and the heathland of the New Forest and Drusillas Inn is a little hidden gem almost equidistant from Verwood and Wimborne found on the Horton Road with views of sheep grazing on rolling fields to the Horton Tower beyond.

This Gothic red brick folly was said to have once been the tallest non-religious building in Britain and various descriptions seem to vary between five and seven stories! Its use seems to have been lost in the mists of time but is reputed to have been built as an observatory by Humphrey Sturt in the early 1700’s. Today it discreetly hides mobile phone masts so it still has links with the heavens 300 years later!

Prior to Drusilla’s, Gary and Nicky previously ran a successful Bistro in Ashurst and using this experience their intention at Drusilla’s was to offer simple, freshly made, locally sourced, seasonal food at sensible prices in a relaxed atmosphere. In addition to the meals, all the sauces, purèes, and even the after dinner chocolates are all freshly made!

Since it was such a beautiful warm September day we decided to do a lunch review and to see the pub on one of those rare occasions this year when the sun was shining! The garden at the front is an attractive, cottage style which sets off the thatched pub behind perfectly. My husband was very impressed with the stripey lawn!

Drusilla's round-roomThe pub interior is split into 4 main areas. The main central bar with fires at each end, with the lounge bar leading off to the right followed by the Garden Room beyond which has recently been extended and can now cater for up to ninety. To the left of the main bar is the “Round Room” restaurant with it’s stunning vaulted oast house style roof feature which can cater for forty and has waitress service. All meal prices are the same wherever you choose to eat – nice and simple – we like that!

An excellent selection of local real ales and ciders on tap together with a good choice of wines are available from the bar – my husband chose a pint of golden Westons Cheddar Valley cider which looked a bit murky to me “but it’s supposed to” he explained.

The menu changes depending on the season and what is available from local suppliers and we were still in time to catch the Summer Set Menu and the Summer A La Carte Menu. Since all the food is freshly cooked on the premises, the range of dishes is carefully selected depending what is in season but together with the specials board, there is always plenty of choice. All the sauces are flour free and about 90% of dishes are also gluten free which these days are so important for many diners.

Drusilla's Inn pub-insideFor starters my husband chose the deliciously light, Creamed Ricotta & Chive Mousse from the Set Menu, generously topped with Smoked Salmon, accompanied by a Radish Dressing. Other choices included Duck Parfait with a Local Chutney, Chilled Melon with a Compote of Mulled Berries and Drusilla’s Soup with their Own Baked Bread. A basket of which appeared prior to the starters to tempt the tastebuds!    

I selected from the A La Carte Menu and ordered my favourite – Seared Dived Scallops set on Apple Purèe and Black Pudding which sounded like a tasty combination. Apparently dived scallops are hand selected by the diver rather than by the usual harvesting method of dredging which gives a drier and tastier scallop. Black pudding does seem to be appearing more on menus these days in unexpected combinations which I thoroughly approve of – since I am such a great fan. This was no exception and tasted as good as it looked and sounded!Drusilla's Inn scallops

Main courses next and we swapped menus so my husband was allowed to choose from the A La Carte menu! Choices ranged from Char Grilled Fillet of Beef, Fillet of Sea Bass, Dorset Venison Steak to a delicious sounding Broad Bean and Blue Vinny Tagliatelli. The Venison was finally selected which was glazed with Blue Vinney and set on Celeriac Mash and Cranberry Jus. Mash, like Black Pudding is now combined with all sorts of delicious combinations and celeriac can certainly be recommended.

As can the Char Grilled Dorset Pork set on Mustard and Rosemary Potato and coated with an Apricot Glaze which I chose from the Set Menu. One of four choices including a vegetarian Spiced Five Bean Cassoulet glazed with Goats Cheese and topped with tossed Rocket. Both dishes came with a Melange of perfectly cooked Fresh Seasonal Vegetables.

My husband reckoned that the Drusilla’s Sticky Toffee Pudding from the Summer A La Carte menu draped with Butterscotch and served with Honeycomb Ice Cream was probably one of the most delicious he had tried and he has certainly tried lots! A photo just wouldn’t do it justice he said!

My Fresh Seasonal Fruit Salad with a Light Raspberry Sorbet from fruit-salad - Drusilla's Innthe Set Menu was just as nice but much more restrained I thought.

After our puddings we finally managed to grab a word with Gary who always seems to be rushed off his feet. Despite this he has somehow managed to find the time to come up with an exciting new venture for Drusilla’s which involves designing and building fully insulated, heated Shepherd Huts from scratch complete with all mod-cons and ensuite facilities and will be situated in the paddock at the rear of Drusilla’s to create a unique style of B & B accommodation! Using local workforce and materials, he hopes to have the huts ready for occupation in the newly landscaped Paddock for Spring 2013 together with a small shop selling local produce, a small flock of sheep in a pets corner and is even planning to plant his own orchard! Phew!

Nicky also isn’t one to let the grass grow under her feet either (as it were!) and is gradually expanding her list of popular country pub walks from Drusilla’s including one to Horton Tower  – the latest one being from Verwood and West Moors. Check the website for more details.

Coffees arrived with a couple of Gary’s delicious Home Made Chocolates and after hearing about the up and coming French themed Beaujolais Nouveau evening on the 3rd Thursday in November, the regular music nights and all the other exciting current events, we wondered if there was anything left for Gary and Nicky to come up with in the next five years! But whatever happens, thanks to Gary and Nicky, Drusilla’s is certainly now back on the map!

The Drovers Inn in Gussage all Saints

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Reviewed May 2012

The-Drovers-Inn-beer-gardenGussage all Saints lies in a vale on Cranborne Chase, 8 miles North-East of Blandford Forum and 10 miles North of Wimborne Minster. Many similar medieval villages nearby such as Knowlton, Bowerswain and Brockington have long since vanished – Knowlton was wiped out by the Black Death in 1485, but Gussage All Saints has survived and flourishes.

Fortunately for the locals and for those who enjoy hiking or cycling along Ackling Dyke, the Roman Road linking Badbury Rings with Sarum, the inn has also survived. The Drovers Inn was rescued from closure in 2000 by Ringwood Brewery and has cellars reputedly haunted by a highwayman! Marston’s recent purchase of Ringwood Brewery hasn’t harmed the selection of beer one little bit with at least four Ringwood beers on tap togetherThe-Drovers-Inn with guest beers, cider, lager and a good selection of wines and sprits on offer. The Drovers is a dog and family friendly pub and Jason, the owner for the past ten years, is very proud of the beautiful views over the rolling hills of the Chase from the peaceful beer garden at the front of the pub.

Speaking of gardens, Jason is so passionate about using really local and fresh ingredients, (Butchers from Whiteparish, fish from Allenbrook Trout Farm and a Poole Fishmongers, and game from Local Estates, Farms and Gamekeepers etc), that he has planted his own kitchen garden and orchard at the pub!

Jason is also fanatical about cooking without microwaves whenever possible and uses traditional pans and ovens to bring out the full flavour of the ingredients.

Various awards are proudly hung in the bar such as “Beautiful Beer-Gold Award”, the “Cask Marque Certificate of Excellence” and “BeDrovers-inglenookst Dorset Country Pub of the Year 2006”. Enough said!

The pub interior is classic traditional ”olde worlde” style complete with a roaring log fire in the beautiful inglenook for cold winter evenings, flagstone floors and an eclectic mix of oak furniture – absolutely perfect for such an ancient village. Next comes the important bit – the food!

The main menu which changes regularly includes starters such as the intriguing sounding Mussels and Dorset Pancetta cooked in Thyme and Cider. Whereas main courses feature the ultimate meal for two steak-lovers to share – The Drovers Chop which is a 1kg Dorset Aged Porterhouse Beef Steak with all the accompaniments! Other choices include Dorset Guinea Fowl, Moor Crichel Pork Chop and many other local dishes which come with local side dishes like Dorset Miniature Leaves and Dorset Blue Vinney etc. And then there are the specials!   

Drovers-blackboardFreshly Baked Crusty Bread with Dipping Oils and a selection of Olives duly arrived whilst we studied the menu. All the bread and pasta dough is made on the premises and Jason is happy to help with any specific dietary requirements.

The Drovers is very proud of its selection of proper home-made food for children prepared from fresh ingredients just like grown-up food and even pureed homemade baby food for the smallest of Drovers! The Drovers is very flexible and is happy to  supply any combination of meals such as two starters and chips for example and smaller portions if required.

For starters my husband chose the delicious crispy Deep Fried Whitebait served with a fresh Dorset leaf salad and garnished with a chunky, real, homemade tartare sauce! My choice of the Sauted King Prawns in Garlic Butter was just enough to wet my appetite for the next course!Sauteed-King-Prawns

My main course selection was from the Specials and I chose the succulent Roast Shoulder of Dorset Lamb served with Roast Potatoes, Parsnips and Seasonal Vegetables. My husband meanwhile was intrigued by the Allenbrook Artic Char from the main menu which was served with Brown Shrimps, Capers and Parsley which arrived on a bed of beautifully cooked crispy chips. An excellent alternative to salmon.

The Arctic Char farmed at Allenbrook Trout Farm resembles a salmon in appearance but with a milder more delicate taste not dissimilar to trout and is gradually becoming a popular alternative to the increasingly scarce wild salmon.

Fish is generally featured more during the summer months whereas a varying selection of inventive game dishes are offered during the winter season. These can include rabbit, hare, venison, pheasant and even squirrel satay has appeared on occasion!

Finally, with just enough room left for a taste of Jason’s melt in the mouth homemade pastry, we sampled portions of homemade Plum Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream and Lemon Tart with cream!

If the excellent cuisine and ale is still not enough to attract you, then they have Live Bands on the last Friday of each month, Beer Festivals, Curry nights, Poachers Nights, Game nights (to celebrate the end of the game Season) and even a Safari night is planned for the future with Jason creating dishes from Ostrich or Water Buffalo for instance!

Jason very much looks forward to welcoming many of our readers to the Drovers soon – see the website for more details.