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Drusilla’s Inn in Wigbeth, Horton

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!